Category Archives: KHL
Sometimes, I get it entirely wrong. “Definitely a team to keep an eye on,” I wrote in my 2018-19 preview of Sibir Novosibirsk Oblast, after suggesting that Sibir might even be a possible division winner. Well, that looks a ludicrously sunny prognostication indeed right now. The team from central Siberia — 0-6, with no points, and having been outscored 25-9 — will go down in the books as the first KHL team of this season to change coaches. Gone is Vladimir Yurzinov, Jr. (“I think Yurzinov is exactly the right guy to look after this roster as it heads into the next stage of the rebuilding process,” said I, blithely), and his replacement will be ex-Admiral head coach Alexander Andriyevsky. Read on, for what went awry, and what happens now.
Eras have ended at SKA St. Petersburg, after a 2017-18 campaign in which they lost just five times in regulation during the regular season but were unceremoniously dumped from the playoffs at the semifinal stage by CSKA Moscow. Gone is coach Oleg Znarok, replaced both for club and country by Ilya Vorobyov. Gone is Ilya Kovalchuk, who last season became the first player not named Radulov or Mozyakin to win the KHL scoring title. And gone are a number of other well-known names from this immensely powerful team, as the KHL heads towards the imposition of a hard salary cap. But this is still SKA St. Petersburg, and there are some big names among the incoming players as well… read on. Read the rest of this entry
CSKA Moscow, the Central Red Army team of years gone by, were, as usual, very very good in 2017-18. CSKA and SKA St. Petersburg were in a class by themselves during the regular season, and it was the former that earned the last laugh when the two titans met in the West Conference Final. But, once again, CSKA’s season ended in disappointment, as what looked a prime opportunity to finally pick up a first Gagarin Cup was spurned via a five-game loss to Ak Bars Kazan in the Final. Can CSKA finally get things right in the end in 2018-19? Read on.
Ak Bars Kazan, the team from the capital Tatarstan, became the KHL’s first three-time Gagarin Cup champions last season, and it was generally considered something of an upset; most people, myself included, expected the trophy to go to CSKA Moscow or SKA St. Petersburg. But we must take our hats off to Ak Bars, who were 2017-18 champions entirely on merit. They won the East Conference despite a slew of injuries throughout the season, and lost just three games in the four playoff rounds. And they may just be primed for an encore — in an early-season crisis in goal can be overcome. Read on…
Lokomotiv’s 2017-18 campaign was very much, in its final result, what we have come to expect from the well-run, reliable, Yaroslavl team. A top-four place in the conference, a playoff round won — nothing wrong with that at all for a club that, while it (usually) falls short of giants like SKA and CSKA, can nonetheless claim an annual spot among the West’s better teams. But change is in the wind, and youth will most definitely be served on the Lokomotiv team that takes the ice in 2018-19. Read on…
It was an amazing story that Traktor wrote in 2017-18; they were the KHL’s best team down the stretch, nearly unbeatable for a time, and finished up in the Conference Final. And along the post-season way they introduced us to one of the most exciting young talents in Russian hockey today. But the coach (Anvar Gatiyatulin) and the goalie (Pavel Francouz) most responsible for last season’s successes are gone now — so what does 2018-19 hold in store? Read on…
By this time tomorrow, the first game of the 2018-19 Kontinental Hockey League season will be in the books: 2017-18 regular-season champions SKA St. Petersburg travel to the capital of Tatarstan to take on Gagarin Cup holders Ak Bars Kazan at 5:00 pm local time on Saturday. And with that, the 11th season of the KHL will be underway. Read on, for a few brief thoughts.
To appreciate the 2018-19 edition of Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg properly, you must understand just how bad this team used to be. In the three seasons from 2010 to 2013, they played 160 KHL games, and won 26 of them in regulation (plus another 18 in OT or the shootout). The nadir was 2012-13, when Avtomobilist, then teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, scrounged players from here, there, and everywhere and went 8-44 on the season. Well, the club from the eastern slopes of the Ural Mountains is a long, long, loooooooong, way from those days now… read on!
It was something of a “meh” season by Metallurg Magnitogorsk’s high standards. The team known as “Magnitka” came into 2017-18 having reached the finals in three of the previous four seasons, winning two of those. But last season a rough run through October led to the firing of coach Ilya Vorobyov (and eventually to this summer’s hiring of Josef Jandač), and though Metallurg’s second half was very good, their campaign ended in five games to Ak Bars Kazan the second round of the playoffs. The result: some very significant overhauling of the roster, and some questions about who will line up alongside the KHL’s best-ever player. Read on!
For Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk — the “little” team from Tatarstan forever overshadowed by regional big brothers Ak Bars Kazan — a season in which they finished comfortably sixth in the East and won a playoff game against an eventual Conference finalist would be filed under “quite satisfactory indeed.” However, in 2017-18 that result felt like something of a disappointment; until a late stumble, Neftekhimik were, amazingly, battling for first place in the East Conference, and thinking quite realistic thoughts of going further than the first post-season round. Disappointing ending aside, it was a tremendous season for the Nizhnekamsk side, and the trick now will be to make those the norm rather than the exception. Read on.