Barys Astana in 2016-17
“Score lots, but give up lots too” has long been the modus operandi of the KHL’s lone Kazakh team. 2015-16 was no different; Barys tied for the fifth-most goals scored in the league, but gave up the second-most, and so missed the playoffs for the first time in the team’s history, albeit by only a single point. Read on, to see if they can get back to the post-season in 2016-17.
Barys Astana in 2015-16: 21 W — 8 OT/SO W — 6 OT/SO L — 25 L
5th in Chernyshyov Div., 9th in East Conf., 17th in KHL. Missed Playoffs.
Head Coach: Andrei Nazarov.
In: G Henrik Karlsson (Jokerit Helsinki); G Vitaly Kolesnik (Lokomotiv Yaroslavl); D Cam Barker (Slovan Bratislava); F Alexei Antsiferov (Beibarys Atyrau [KAZ]); F Nikita Ivanov (Saryarka Karaganda [VHL]); F Ivan Kuchin (Arlan Kokshetau [KAZ]); F Vladimir Markelov (Arlan Kokshetau [KAZ]); F Yevgeny Rymarev (Torpedo Ust-Kamenogorsk [VHL]); F Alexander Shin (Torpedo Ust-Kamenogorsk [VHL])
Out: G Alexei Ivanov (Torpedo Ust-Kamenogorsk [VHL]); G Ján Laco (Piráti Chomutov [CZE]); D Mike Lundin (Unknown); F Vadim Krasnoslobodtsev (Admiral Vladivostok); F Konstantin Rudenko (Unknown); F Martin St. Pierre (Unknown)
I swear, if Barys ever got a star goalie they could win the Gagarin Cup, and Karlsson and Kolesnik will be the latest to give it a try in the Kazakh capital. They should compete with each other for the task of replacing Laco, who posted a below-average .914 sv% in 43 games last year (returnees Pavel Poluektov and Dmitry Malgin should take the third and fourth slots on the depth chart). There wasn’t much to separate Karlsson (.924 sv% in 2015-16) and Kolesnik (.919) last season, and it will be vital for coach Nazarov to make the right choice there.
There has been only one addition to Barys’ defence corps this summer, but the acquisition of Barker is a big one, fully in keeping with the team’s offence-first ethos. Barker, the former third-overall Chicago draft pick who washed out of the NHL, led KHL rearguards in scoring last season with a line of 5 gp, 9-31-40 for Slovan. It was a breakout season for the 30-year-old Canadian, and Barys will need another one from him to replace the departed Lundin and his 33 points in 60 games.
Second in KHL defence scoring last season, on the strength of number of goals, was another Barys blueliner, the evergreen Kevin Dallman (60 gp, 8-32-40 at age 34). He has the most career points of any KHL defenceman (312 in 402 regular season games), and while time is against him now, he and Barker should provide a lethal one-two punch in terms of playmaking from the back. The actual defending will be left to the likes of Vyacheslav Tryasunov and Roman Savchenko, although the latter is capable if chipping in some points too (52 gp, 9-8-17 in 2015-16).
For years now, Barys up front have relied on Brandon Bochenski, Nigel Dawes, and Dustin Boyd, and the trio, all naturalized Kazakh citizens now, did not let the side down in 2015-16. Bochenski (60 gp, 20-41-61) was third in KHL points, while Dawes (55 gp, 31-22-53) was second in goals. Boyd meanwhile chipped in 20-21-41 in 51 games, which is excellent as well. There are some useful complementary scorers behind them, particularly Maxim Khudyakov (34 gp, 8-13-21) and Roman Starchenko (41 gp, 16-9-25), but Barys will likely go as the big three go again in 2016-17. Krasnoslobodtsev has long been a handy journeyman forward, and will be missed, while the newly arrived forwards will look to provide depth on the roster and not much more.
Coach Nazarov is a controversial figure in the KHL, due to his volatile temper, but he has done good work at Barys and similar-calibre teams before. His 2016-17 Barys squad will once again score a lot of goals while giving them up too, but should, barring injuries to the big guns, be able to muster a serious playoff challenge. And look out if all finally goes as desired with the goaltending.
Next up: Kunlun Red Star Beijing.