Asked your's truly to then Belarus National team coach Glen Hanlon in 2008.
Hanlon smiled and diplomatically answered '' We're not there yet ''
I sometimes wonder though , if, looking back on it now, Glen's perspective has shifted on the program he left in 2009 to now head the Slovakia National team.
Especially considering the way he left.
In 2009 the BHF ( Belarus Hockey Federation ) decided to part ways with Hanlon in what was considered '' internal matters '', Hanlon simply announced to the press he had resigned .
Hanlon had raised a team from the obscurity of bottom divisional rankings to 8th worlwide. A rise that fans, players and media largely attributed to Hanlon's chemistry with the National Team's veteran core.
A resignation they all took as a sign that Hanlon had had enough of the internal politics within the federation.
Hanlon was replaced by Mikhail Zakharov who also left the program after an injury riddled team underperformed in Vancouver.
Zakharov said to the press at the time.
'' Despite the fact we had allot of injuries, our defence didn't play up to par and we looked lost out there ''
One thing is for sure, it hasn't been an easy road to the NHL for the Belorussian exports.
Following the public spat that trailed the relationship the Kostitsyn's had with Mikhail Grabovski, the headlines inevitably followed prospect Mikhail Stefanovich, highly touted with the Maple Leafs who eventually left North America to a lucrative contract in the KHL after ending up in the ECHL despite a prolific junior career in the Q.
The stories look the same for Sergei Kukushin, Konstantin Zakharov and players like Konstantin Koltsov and Vladimir Denisov, all picks who saw mild interest from their draft teams before falling through to the KHL.
An ex Montreal scout.
'' People often don't understand the mentality of players from poor Russian sphere countries like Belarus.
These guys know that they'll make money from about 21 to 35 years old if they are lucky, and spending 3 years in the AHL is almost like throwing a million or 2 out the window for them they estimate they can make in the KHL. In a country where a doctors monthly salary is 400 to 1000$ A mill is allot of money. ''
'' Take the example of Konstantin Koltsov, even Andrei Kostitsyn threatened to leave Montreal if they decided to send him to the minors in 2007 ''
'' When you evaluate the contract situation of Andrei Kostitsyn, Sergei Kostitsyn and players like Ruslan Salei who will be 39 come 2012. Maybe the Belarus thing was more of a temporary swell, the way Latvia was with Irbe and Ozolinsh. ''
People look at KHL money and talk like it's easy for players to jump on that...if you look at the Nabokov example, they signed him to a huge contract then tore it up after he struggled for a bit so he was left holding the back...heading back to NA and trying to get good money at a point where most clubs are either at their spending limit or against the cap.
Except for Radulov and a few others, there are not a ton of players that could be NHL regulars(not talking bottom 6 guys or #5-6 d-men) currently in the KHL. Russia is also filled with mafia and not the safest place to be, I'm sure the guys playing over there making big bucks have to pay protection money to the mafia.