Thursday, December 21, 2006

A Glimpse Into The Mind of Alexei Mikhnov?

I think the Oilers are mishandling Mikhnov, and I couldn't help but think of him when I read this Russian interview of Alexei Kaigorodov. I'm not sure whether or not MacT has really worked with the guy, but what I do know is that the coaching staff hasn't seen enough of him at the NHL level to come to any sort of concrete conclusions.

Sep 05, 2006 Alexei Mikhnov - Signed - One-year contract
Oct 23, 2006 - First Game - ES: 3:25 PP: 0:56 (One Shift)
Nov 04, 2006 Alexei Mikhnov - Sent to Minors - WBS
Dec 03, 2006 Alexei Mikhnov - Called up from Minors - WBS
Dec 14, 2006 - Second Game - ES: 7:46 PP: 1:36 (One Shift)
Dec 20, 2006 Alexei Mikhnov - Sent to Minors - WBS

Alexei Kaigorodov: "I will not return to Ottawa!"

The Magnitogorsk forward became the first NHL player to return to Russia this season. In his six matches with Ottawa, he recorded just 30 minutes of total ice time.

After his first game with Magnitogorsk, Kaigorodov sat down to do this interview with SE.

Practically before the start of the Russian League season your plans for this immediate season were unclear. Nevertheless, you had chosen to sign a contract with Ottawa. When you arrived to Canada, did they really help you?

There can be no claims of Ottawa not helping me the best that they could. I am thankful my departure from Magnitogorsk had happened without a scandal, for that was very important to them.

Did you have a sense that hockey was not just a sport to Canadians, it was a religion?

Certainly! Even in the pre-season the arenas were always full! They all understand the game, they live the game. A funny story: only five days since I arrived in Ottawa, a taxi driver recognized me and began to talk hockey with me! It was surprising!

How hard was it to get used to the new country, culture and language?

Not a real life changing problem. I had lived in a hotel everyday and was driven by a team-mate back and forth. (Volchekov) It was hard to adjust to the time zones, but I was quick to adjust to it.

What were your general impressions from training camp?

There, certainly, everything is different: new exercises, new style, and so on. During training camp there we were all divided into two teams, including those who had come from the AHL team. These teams went on and off the ice after each other. It was, in one word, interesting.

Some Europeans don't feel comfortable across the ocean. Were you able to adjust to the NHL style from what you are used to?

Certainly. We'd enter these games with smaller pass and higher speeds. But I consider myself adapted. In any case, I could not tell which is a higher calibre of hockey - NHL or here.

Are you happy with how you were treated by Ottawa?

To tell the truth, I expected greater. Probably the fault of everyone for the unsuccessful season so far - the team went to last place in the division, from losing five out of six home games. Everyone has the right to want better, in fact the Senators have many talented players: there are average players and stars like Alfredsson, Spezza, and Heatley. But for some reason we were unable to win. In general, I noticed that general managers trust players with high salaries even if nothing is guaranteed. The obvious example is their goaltender, Gerber. He has been proven to be terrible in the first six matches. Eventually they tried the other goalie and they won a game, but in the following game they again put in the Swiss goalie and lost. Ottawa is confusing, they put in the young goalie and win, then put the Swiss one back in and lose again.

After the first game in the season, you were the thirteenth forward, people were not worried. But then there was a feeling that this was "not so"?

The first game, especially the end, was not indicative of my skill. And in the first game against Montreal everything was okay: the fourth line had outperformed and won this game. The next day, when we had arrived home, the video coach had shown me a video replay of the game and the how my line was doing. I tried to change what he had recommended, but I was growing more frustrated with the less and less icetime I had recieved. It ended when we played against Boston, which I had only two shifts in the first period then none at all. Most frustrating was how the head coach had never approached me to explain at all why this was the case.

Did you analyze your own play? "Maybe that wasn't so good"?

There was nothing to analyze! What serious analysis could be made with the little icetime given to me? By the way, I was talking with both Evgeni Malkin and Stas Tchistov. Malkin told me that his coach talks to him after every play and draws out what he means, then after the game goes through the video with him. I appear to be invisible! Though my teammates very much supported me, the language barrier was impossible. We communicated fine, but not with the coaches.

And how do you feel about the team's decision to exile you?

After one of the practices, my agent had told me that the general manager had wanted to see me. The conversation from the very beginning was strange - we discussed how in the Summer I said I would not go to any AHL club. Then my agent called me everyday I was in Ottawa, and he assured me that I could return to Russia if I did not make the club. So the conversations were unclear and unpleasant. I then said through my agent (I was already in Moscow and we discussed this over the telephone) that I did not agree with going to the farm team.

And how did the General Manager react?

He said I did not understand the game. I argued "and who was supposed to help me understand?" My agent agreed with me that I simply was not given the chance. Then the manager tried to find other arguments. The farm team was necessary to help me understand the game. But why should we trust him? If they did not let me play now, what would happen when the Senators began to win (on what hope?). Would they let me interfere with the winning lines? In one word, we were decieved. The desire to go through this is not with me.

Anything else? Did they help you leave?

Yes. The team had helped me order tickets. I solved some issues with the bank, it was all quickly done. We shall see, today I have the deadline to decide on the AHL club, but the day after tomorrow I will have already left.

Did you leave Canada with a bad taste?

Yes, how do I explain this ... I was not given the chance and I felt that if I "did not pull my weight" there would have been some other question given against me. But I believe I could have played in the NHL. It was confusing: why would they bring me over, promise I could return home if I did not make the team, then banish me for doing so? I do not think it's possible to return to the NHL for two, three, four years...

So you will be finishing the season in Magnitogorsk?

Certainly. I have returned to help Metallurg this season. But what about the following season? I have a two-year contract with the Senators, but if it is the same coach I doubt I shall return. I will probably seek a trade to another club.

Or if the Senators coach is replaced?

Well, maybe, we'll see. (laughs)

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