Believe it or not, another Russian national has expressed ambivalence towards returning to the NHL stemming from comforts enjoyed in the Motherland.
First there was Alex Ovechkin threatening to stay in the KHL should NHL owners follow through and roll back the salaries of its players. Then there was Sergei Kostitsyn’s acknowledgment that he would not mind the lockout wiping out the entire 2012/13 season, if it meant he could definitively know where he would be spending the remainder of the year.
This time, it’s a member of your Ottawa Senators who is raising some eyebrows. Pick up your pitchforks and torches folks.
From an article that originally appeared Saturday on Yahoo! detailing how Evgeni Malkin had embraced playing at home in Russia; comes these few comments from Sergei Gonchar.
Playing over here, it's much more enjoyable now than it was," said Gonchar, a 17-year NHL veteran, who spent 2004-05 with Magnitogorsk when it was a member of the old Russian Superleague. To be honest with you, I'm enjoying it here. For me, it goes either way [if the entire NHL season is canceled]. I like it here. I enjoy my teammates. We have a great team. So I don't care.
Maybe for the sake of PR, you should Sergei; if only because for some sects of North American hockey fans, ripping on the Ruskies and/or "Eurotrash" (h/t Mad Mike) is such low hanging fruit. It’s akin to slapping a Senators logo all over Brad Fritsch and not expecting some really tired and stale golf jokes to be directed the franchise’s way. These kinds of comments will always be miscontrued to some degree.
Sadly, controversy sells in the newspaper industry and conveniently the Gonchar quote that concludes the Yahoo! article was left out of this piece in the Ottawa Sun…
"When you think about it, playing with the best player in the world, it's always enjoyable," he said. "It doesn't matter where you're playing."
Oh, the fine print.
Of course, if the season starts, there’s no guarantee Gonchar would finish the season in Ottawa. With his no-movement clause (NMC) set to expire by the New Year – the Senators will have a window of opportunity in which to trade Gonchar from January 1st to the NHL trade deadline; and he has to provide Sens management with a list of ten teams that he would accept a trade to – Ottawa could conceivably trade him.
Corey Pronman’s Top 50 U-23 Prospects
The Hockey Prospectus/ESPN Insider scribe has penned ranking. To be considered for his piece, the criteria for players was limited to players with more than 25 GP this past season or 50 NHL games are deemed eligible. A player also had to be 22 or under as of September 15, 2012.
Two members of the Senators made the list and to no one’s surprise, Erik Karlsson headlined the duo coming in as Pronman’s seventh-highest rated player and third-highest ranked defenceman – trailing only LA’s Drew Doughty (5) and St.Louis’ Alex Pietrangelo (6).
The reigning Norris Trophy winner is as elite a talent from the back end as they come and had an unusual offensive season for a U-22 defenseman. While I don't see him as a high-end defensive player, he isn't a slouch in that area either. With his mobility and hockey brain, he should be able to be a consistent above-average defensive player in his prime, and combining that with his offense makes for a scary player to deal with.
Jared Cowen bookended the list at number 50.
Cowen logged a large amount of minutes in his rookie season although he was still somewhat sheltered which isn't an issue considering his age. His combination of size to go along with a fine all-around skill set are indicators that he should be a tough minutes player pretty soon.
For an organization that boasts a deep variety of forward prospects, the presence of Cowen and Karlsson is a good reminder that among prospects actualized and contributing in the NHL – the Senators strength at present is defence.