Does anyone else think this can be SKA's year? They have good players again, they have brought in Mattias Weinhandl and Tony Martensson who will put up big numbers as well. They brought in a very good goaltender in Evgeny Nabokov, and their defense is pretty slick.
So here are my thoughts on this off-season and upcoming year for SKA.
The bosses team.. SKA is ran by KHL President Alexander Medvedev. (Well the GM is Andrei Tochitsky) I like to think of this club as the New York Rangers of the KHL. Money is not an issue at all with this club, the use their cheque books a lot hoping to buy a Gagarin Cup. But they dominate the regular season, but have a lack-luster disappointing performance in the playoffs.
In the 2008-09 season they finished 8th in the regular season, which is an alright year with 100 points. They had a decent roster, but bowed out to Spartak Moscow in the first round 3:0.
In the 2009-10 season they were the second best club during the regular season, they put up 122 points only behind Ufa who had 129 points. Now this was what they wanted, one of the if no the richest club playing like their payroll should be. Only one problem, Dinamo Riga sent them packing back home in the first round. Riga, finished them up quickly taking the series 3:1.
Back to the drawing board, again. Iím sure it wasnít easy to go home again after the first round, but hey they lasted one more game! But there arenít any moral victories, as Iím sure it wasnít easy to see Ak Bars Kazan take home that Gagarin Cup for the second year in a row.
Both SKA and Medvedev have been pretty loud this off-season. Mainly, Medvedev he obviously has been a big part of the Kovalchuk story. He wanted to go after Ilya Kovalchuk, he had talked to Ilya and his wife. He apparently offered Ilya a boatload of cash to come over to SKA. He has offered Ilya, numerous deals of millions of dollars a year. No NHL club would be able to match them since of the NHL player salary limit. He recently has offered Ilya a few deals, he offered a 3 year deal worth 42 million. He also has said that he can match the New Jersey Devils offer of 17 years worth 102 million dollars, it wasnít clear if Medvedev was joking or not.
Awhile ago Ilya Kovalchukís mom came out and said she wants her son to stay in North America and play in the NHL since itís the best league in the world. Now I think Medvedev should have never said this, I donít think dissing the mother of the player you are desperately trying to land is a good idea..
ďListen to a woman and do completely the opposite,Ē Medvedev told Kovalchuk, as per Yahoo Sportsí Dmitry Medvedev.
Iíd have to admit that it would be neat to see a player of Ilyaís skill leave the NHL and go to the KHL. But I just canít settle on one side, sitting on the fence big time. I think he will remain in the NHL, even though his deal with the Devils got rejected, the NHLPA is grieving it. Iím sure they will adjust it if the arbitraitor declines it as well. But wouldnít that be interesting, if he went to SKA if the deal got declined again! :O
Enough about Kovalchuk, he isnít the only NHLíer SKA has gone after. They have signed former Shark goaltender Evgeny Nabokov to a 4 year deal worth 28 million. Itís safe to say that he wasnít going to get that in the National Hockey League, since a lot of clubs believed that he quit in the Olympics. But this is good for SKA, they get a very good goaltender. They shouldnít have to worry about goaltending at all, as long as they actually play some defense in front of him.
They recently signed offensive defenseman Denis Grebeshkov to a 2 year deal, Denis didnít receive any offers from NHL clubs that he deemed as suitable. So he decided to return back to Russia, he had some injury issues last year but should be good-to-go for SKA. When Medvedev was asked if he would be the highest paid defenseman on SKA, he said ďNo.Ē. He also said that they expected him to return to Yaroslavl but he wanted to join SKA so they immediately signed him. He should be another good player for SKA, I think his offensive style will be very lethal in the KHL.
They have also sent a few players packing, forwards Oleg Saprykin, Alex Korolyuk, Nils Ekman and Konstantin Gorovikob, and defenseman Joel Kwiatkowski, and Darius Kasparaitus, and goaltender Robert Esche.
They have brought in fowards Mattias Weinhandl, Tony Martensson, Konstantin Panov, and Dmitri ****ikov, defenseman Vitaly Visnevski, Denis Denisov, Dmitri Vorobiev, and Igor Golovkov, and goaltender Jakub Stepanek.
Iím a big fan of bringing in Tony Martensson and Mattias Weinhandl, the two Swedes will help out the offense big time. Both of them have had a lot of success in the KHL. SKA will definitely not regret bringing them in. Defenseman, Denisov, and Vorobiev are two good additions as well. Dmitri Vorobiev, had a rough start to his KHL career, but I believe he will be able to flourish with SKA, him and Denisov should have career years with this club. They both will learn a lot from Sergei Zubov, canít get a better mentor than him. Jakub Stepanek has put up some good numbers in the Czech Republic, he will have a tough time battling with Maksim Sokolov who has KHL experience and has put up some nice goaltender numbers.
They have re-signed team captain Maxim Sushinsky, Alex Yashin and Petr Cajanek. Maxim Sushinsky is just a phenomenal player, I just love watching him play. Iím going to focus on Alexei Yashin, there was some chit-chat of him returning to the New York Islanders. But I recently wrote an article about Yashin, I said he would be silly not to return to SKA. Since they have improved their roster substancially and he isnít getting any younger it wouldnít be worth it to try and adjust back to the NHL game plus the Islanders wonít be going anywhere at least for a few more years. Alexei, and SKA have another good chance to win the Gagarin Cup again.
I have to admit it, SKA has a pretty nice roster. They should have no problem dominating the regular season, as long as they play hard. They just need to keep their heads on straight, and battle hard in the playoffs you play hard all year to get to that point. Thatís not the time to take a easy, itís the time to work even harder. I wish SKA and their fans some playoff luck and success this year!