Traktor Chelyabinsk in 2018-19

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…

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Off to the Races

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How it all finished up last time…  (Image Source)

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.

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Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg in 2018-19

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!

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Women’s Hockey Update: August 28th, 2018

Agidel Ufa players and coaches receive their gold medals as 2017-18 Champions of Russia in a ceremony on Tuesday.

We have hockey games to talk about! Both Russian women’s national teams (Senior and Under-18) played their first tournaments of 2018-19 late last week, and, well, fortunes were mixed.  Read on, for full recaps of those tournaments, major transfer news from the Women’s Hockey League, a sneak preview of the teams that will take part in the amateur national championship, and some other notes!

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Metallurg Magnitogorsk in 2018-19

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!

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Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk in 2018-19

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.

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Salavat Yulaev Ufa in 2018-19

Salavat Yulaev Ufa always seem to enter the season with a solidly-stocked roster full of skilled and entertaining players, set at least to contend to add a second Gagarin Cup to the one they picked up in 2010-11.  But something always seems to go wrong.  Last season, an astute-looking coaching hire in experienced Finn Erkka Westerlund did not work out as planned at all (an early bad sign was the falling-out between team captain Denis Kulyash and the coach, which led to Kulyash’s departure), among other things.  In the end, Salavat Yulaev won the Chernyshev Division, and got two rounds into the playoffs — but that was only thanks to a tremendous late run (and a weak division), and they nearly missed the post-season altogether.  Will the team from the capital of Bashkortostan break through in 2018-19, or is more disappointment in store?  Read on…

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Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod in 2018-19

“The end of an era” may be a cliche, but it was one that applies when we speak of Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod in 2018-19: for the first time since 2012, it will not be Pēteris Skudra behind the bench as Head Coach when Torpedo enter the new season.  Skudra led the team to a fifth straight playoff berth in 2017-18, but behind the scenes the club was struggling financially, falling nearly half a billion rubles into debt; by all accounts, Torpedo nearly folded this off-season.  Things seem (and I emphasize “seem”) to be a little more stable now, but the situation bears some watching.  And one effect of it has been Skudra’s exit from the team, along with a number of players.  In fact, not only is there a new coach in David Nemirovsky, but large sections of the roster have been rebuilt.  And just to heighten the sense of a new age dawning, Torpedo have moved from the West Conference to the East, where they last played in 2012-13 — the year before Skudra arrived.  Read on.

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Women’s Hockey Update: August 20th, 2018

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Forward Valeriya Pavlova at work as the Russian women’s national team prepares for its first international tournament of 2018-19.  (Image Source)

Time — indeed, well past time — for an update on what has been happening in Russian women’s hockey this month!  We are within a few days of the first national team games of the new season, we have a Women’s Hockey League schedule to consider, and there are some other bits of news as well.  So read on!

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Avangard Omsk Oblast in 2018-19

Something went wrong for Avangard Omsk in 2017-18.  A tremendous start was followed by a long slow slide down the standings, and in the end the team scrambled into the playoffs only on the last day of the season and were eliminated in the first round (in overtime of Game 7, mind you, but still).  Some of the reasons for the slump may have lain behind the scenes; in any case, the result was changes in the front office (Maxim Sushinsky arrived as President) and behind the bench (the big-news hiring of Bob Hartley this summer).  And the team began an ambitious retooling of the playing roster this summer, looking to give their famous new coach a championship-contending lineup.  But just when things were looking very good indeed, along came a severe crisis involving the team’s home arena, and now all that fine off-season work risks being undone.  Read on…

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