KHL: The high and low of the autumn side
If I could mention the politics in the KHL organization, first of all, I’d say that they have as you know made some moves forward, especially expanding towards the east and cutting off those teams who cannot meet desired standards.
Let’s see if there will be another Chinese team, or if they will add something in Japan and/or South Korea. However, I think it was a good move to involve Kunlun Red Star, even if some marketing before the first season was done in a rush and couldn’t gather the big crowds.
And, we have to remember that building up a hockey tradition takes time, but there is certainly potential, especially if we look at how many people there are in China.
I just hope that the business section of the Kunlun organization becomes aware that creating a successful sports team requires patience and that they understand it is not only about money — it is also certainly about creating an atmosphere among the players that they really want to win the games and not just see the time in Beijing as a pure adventure.
That is something to think about for Japan and South Korea if they truly have plans to jump on board the KHL ship.
We’ve seen teams been cut off from the league: the Croatian side Medveṧčak turned back to the EBEL and Novokuznetsk were sent down to the second tier.
Yet, there are more teams to toss overboard when this season is over, but which teams it is hard to say for certain. I suspect though strongly that Yugra and Lada are walking the plank for example. I think the KHL wants more teams who have a real chance to win and a true desire to do so as well, not just to be an “alibi team.”
Well, there have been some highs and lows of the autumn season:
It is too obvious to mention the top teams this season, certainly, the superior SKA St. Petersburg who reached a new record of 20 consecutive wins from the start of the season, which is impressive indeed.
CSKA, AK Bars Kazan and Jokerit are quite obvious as well, but in all fairness, it has been a delight to watch these teams in this half of the season.
But, less obvious when we look at the western conference, and therefore a greater and happier surprise, are Severstal Cherepovets and Spartak Moscow who are in the race for real for the playoff spots.
It would be a great boost for both organizations and their fans for the future if they were to make it to the knockout stage.
Same with Neftekhimik on the eastern side who can most likely count themselves in the playoffs already, and who knows, they might end up higher than the big brother Ak Bars Kazan?
Neftekhimik would have met Metallurg Magnitogorsk if the playoffs were held today, and I don’t think Magnitogorsk would survive the first round at all.
The Kazakh team Barys Astana has also been a gem to watch on the ice and no wonder that they are rolling on the ice and can for sure disturb any team when they have Nigel Dawes with the most goals and Kevin Dalman in the top five of defenders this season.
Not to forget Linden Vey at Barys Astana who has the most assists so far.
There have also been some disappointments as well among the teams: two of them are from the western conference, Slovan Bratislava and Dinamo Riga, and then we have Kunlun Red Star from the Eastern conference.
Slovan Bratislava and Dinamo Riga are unfortunately embarrassing themselves this season, with no chance to compete for real, not for a playoff spot, not even in a single game against any team.
From the last season I thought and hoped that Kunlun would take a step further, but the game on the ice has not followed according to the plans and hopes. It will be very tough to reach the playoffs for them.
Perhaps we should put Magnitogorsk also in the category of low, but they should try to rebuild the team as many, among them Mozyakin even if he keeps scoring, of course, are not getting younger.
Chris Lee is back, a well-experienced player but I am not sure what impact he is going to make this season.
If we look at the players, one who singlehandedly has been sticking out this season is, of course, Jokerit’s Ryan Zapolski, who broke Tim Thomas’ club record from 2004-05 for consecutive shutouts and stopped at 245 minutes and 36 seconds.
That record made some noise back in Zapolski’s homelands in the USA, and he should be a very strong candidate for the American Olympic team in South Korea.
It has been quite an eventful season so far and I hope there will be more noteworthy events when we turn soon enough towards the last bit of the campaign.
Surprise me, I’d say.
If you tell people where to go, but not how to get there, you’ll be amazed at the results.
–George S. Patton, American Soldier of the United States Army, 1885-1945.
Ryan Zapolski is not drafted by any NHL team but receiving awards for his excellent services between the pipes and keeping the net shut is nothing new to him, as he received the award as the ECHL rookie of the year back in the days: