Sergei Fedorov’s smile was so wide, you could almost see it from 400 kilometres away.
“It is so great to be back here, to see everyone,” he said Friday, before continuing to talk for about three straight minutes. At the end of it, he laughed.
“Sorry I am saying so much, but there are so many thoughts.”
Fedorov was back in Detroit last week to be inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame. He becomes eligible for the Hockey Hall of Fame next fall, so who knows? Another trip is possible.
But as for a longer, more permanent return, the answer is “maybe,” although it would be a few years from now.
Fedorov has two years remaining on his contract as general manager of CSKA Moscow in the KHL. The “Red Army” (as we knew them in North America) was the dominant force in Russian hockey through the Soviet era, culminating its run with 13 championships in a row from 1977 to 1989.
The fall of the Iron Curtain brought a fall in its influence, as the organization floundered and ceased to be an on-ice success. That continued after the formation of the KHL, since CSKA Moscow is the owner of just two playoff wins in six seasons.
Things are changing, however. CSKA currently stands No. 1 in the KHL, with 132 points in 56 games. (Regulation wins are worth three points.) Fedorov hired John Torchetti — now back with the AHL’s Iowa Wild — as coach last season, a move that stabilized things and set a foundation for the future.
Torchetti, via text, said he liked working with Fedorov.
“He was a great general manager, understood how to build a team and what type of players were needed at the trading deadline to help you improve towards the playoffs. He understood from a players’ perspective the ups and downs of a season… he understands the business from player and management sides, and stays calm and cool in every situation.
“Hope he gets the chance, because he has worked for it.”
The chance? Are we talking as an NHL GM, potentially?
“The blind answer is yes, I would like to do it,” Fedorov says. “But it is still some time away.”
As mentioned, he has term remaining on his contract and he stresses he has not talked to any NHL team about it. There is also unfinished business in Russia, including a championship and a stabilized KHL. (He believes a stronger partnership with the NHL is essential and does not like to interfere in North American contract disputes.)
Most importantly, he recognizes an NHL GM job is not one step away.
“It would be inappropriate for me to come right to that position. I would need to be an assistant, to learn. The job is different in the NHL than it is in the KHL. But, there is still some time before this can happen. We will see if the stars align,” he laughs.
Five years ago, Sergei Fedorov left the United States for Russia. He keeps a house in Michigan, but few people thought that would ever really be home again.
Maybe, just maybe, it will be.
1. Hockey Canada and USA Hockey will meet this week to discuss parameters for the Under-23 Team at the 2016 World Cup. Part of the conversation: does there need to be any kind of “quota” to ensure a fair representation from both countries?
The idea’s been raised, but should it simply be a “survival of the fittest,” best players selected no matter what the ratio?
2. AHL Utica coach Travis Green said he doesn’t get too excited watching games, “but I jumped out of my chair” when Alex Biega scored to make it 3-1 Vancouver over Minnesota on Monday.
That was the winner in a huge Canucks victory on a night when Kevin Bieksa, Alex Edler and Chris Tanev could not play. Biega’s goal came on a slap shot, which Green told him to work on last summer because it and his snapper were “not good enough” to be useful at the NHL level.
“It’s about 5-8 m.p.h. harder now,” says Green.
Biega’s had a long road to get here, having a plate inserted in his nose after a puck hit him last season and after getting 30 or so stitches on his face this year after being cut by a skate.
3. There are several GMs concerned the players will not use their five per cent escalator to raise the salary cap next season. That’s going to make the trade market even tighter.
4. The clock is ticking on Calgary forward Curtis Glencross. For the season, he is fourth among Flames’ forwards at 16:52 per game, but that changed once he returned from injury last week. His highest total since is 15:42, but three games were below 14 minutes.
Glencross has no-trade protection, but that hasn’t stopped the likes of Boston, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay (possibly) and Winnipeg from sniffing around at various points this season. No one is talking, but it doesn’t seem like contract talks are gaining traction. It is believed Glencross prefers Anaheim, but it would surprise no one if he works with the Flames to widen that list.
5. For all the Jaromir Jagr rumours, Montreal seems like a bad fit. After Carey Price, the Canadiens’ best weapon is speed. Jagr will slow them down. In a past conversation with GM Marc Bergevin, we talked about pace.
“It is the first thing I look at,” he said regarding evaluating potential trade partners. One depth forward who might interest him: Buffalo’s Torrey Mitchell. He can skate and won’t be an expensive buy.
6. When last season ended, Bergevin had high praise for Lars Eller. He pointed out how the Canadiens were wiped out by Ottawa after he was injured in 2013, then went to the Eastern Conference final with the centre healthy in 2014 — one point behind P.K. Subban for the team’s playoff scoring lead.
“I have a saying,” Bergevin said. “There are players who get you in and players who get you through. Lars gets you through. When the chips are down, and the games are big, Lars is at his best.”
Montreal is searching for size, especially up front. He’s a bigger player. Said one exec, “I have no idea why they would want to trade Lars Eller.”
7. Now, how about Jiri Sekac? Several teams were interested in the Czech winger, who came to the NHL as a free agent last summer. He was a healthy scratch for the second game in a row on Monday. Would Bergevin re-visit those clubs who lost out to Montreal?
8. P.K. Subban played 35:21 last Saturday, most by any player in the NHL this season, as injuries and penalties gutted the Montreal blueline that night.
He followed with 28:10 Monday in Detroit, and made a terrific play that showed how far his game has come. On a four-on-four late in the second period, the Canadiens were trapped by the Red Wings for almost 30 seconds. He ends up on the ice for 1:24, Andrei Markov 1:18 and David Desharnais for one-minute flat.
Subban rags it into the Detroit zone, not shooting or passing, but waiting, keeping it on his stick. Desharnais changes, Markov changes, then Subban changes as he circles back and gives it to Alexei Emelin. Montreal keeps possession with three fresh skaters. Really smart play.
9. With the expectation Malcolm Subban starts in Edmonton on Wednesday, the rumour-mongering jumps into overdrive. Whatever the case, an exec who really likes Subban strongly cautioned that he is not ready for the NHL yet.
“He needs more AHL time. Some people think that is an insult, but it isn’t,” he said.
It is also believed the Oilers will meet this week with Boston University’s Matt O’Connor.
10. It's a big week in San Jose, with the outdoor game at Levi’s Stadium. After 11 years of covering them in frigid locales, I’d like one in California (hint, hint, hint).
Sharks coach Todd McLellan boldly stood up Tuesday and proclaimed, “We are a playoff team.” That’s exactly the message he should send, but are they? Sharks GM Doug Wilson doesn’t tip his hand, but he’s on-record as saying he won’t mortgage the future for short-term bursts.
With rumours he’d move Antti Niemi or depth forwards to make room for young players, you wonder if this inconsistent group has it within itself to figure out what’s wrong. They have some puzzling results against the league’s worst teams.
11. Minnesota’s Chuck Fletcher indicated last weekend he will wait until the end of the season to discuss a contract with Devan Dubnyk.
“We’re just going to let him play right now,” the Wild’s GM said. “No need to worry about anything else.”
Dubnyk’s been excellent, and the team is now running around less in their own zone than they were earlier in the year.
12. In a league where contenders are looking for defence, there’s interest in Toronto’s Roman Polak. The Los Angeles Kings, who have discussed Dion Phaneuf, are in on this too, but they are not alone. It probably comes down to a.) price and b.) how a potential trade partner feels about term.
Polak has one more year left on his contract at $2.75 million. Even in a tight cap world, there are teams who prefer multiple years if giving up an asset.
13. Among the defensive rentals, Zbynek Michalek missed Arizona’s 5-1 loss to Colorado on Monday with a lower body injury. St. Louis and Tampa are among the teams believed to have looked at him, although Lightning GM Steve Yzerman told reporters he’s not sure about the rental market.
Dallas acquired one former Sabre in Jhonas Enroth and inquired on another, Andrej Sekera (although he and Lindy Ruff didn’t always see eye-to-eye in Buffalo). The Blackhawks are in a tight squeeze, but some opponents think they may try to see if Sekera fits. Mike Green? If you’re Washington in a wide-open East, don’t you keep him and take a shot?
That’s a good blueline, and the Capitals have considered the possibility of adding depth there.
14. A rental player who’s really come on the past few weeks is Jeff Petry.
“Much more decisive and assertive,” one GM said.
If that becomes a permanent piece of his game, he’ll be a valuable pickup.
15. Columbus has a mix of defencemen with and without term. The Blue Jackets aren’t interested in a complete remodelling, but are willing to listen to ideas — as long as they don’t involve Ryan Murray or David Savard. Cody Goloubef is an inexpensive right-shot option.
16. We’ve waited for a move from Anaheim for a while, and injuries to Matt Beleskey and Sami Vatanen exacerbate the situation. Failure is not an option for the Ducks. It’s a dangerous time, because when a GM really needs to do something, his brethren might throw anvils instead of life jackets.
In the middle of all this, Ryan Getzlaf missed two games last week. Prediction: Bob Murray never lets him play another All-Star Game.
17. I was talking to a GM this week who said he believes if Edmonton gets one of the centres at the top of the draft, the likelihood is even less that the Oilers trade either Jordan Eberle or Taylor Hall. (I’m under the impression Ryan Nugent-Hopkins isn’t going anywhere no matter the circumstances.)
Anything can happen, so you never know, but apparently, the team doesn't see the value of moving good, developing players instead of trying to add others around them. When I asked what happens if they got a lower pick, he replied that he thought it was still unlikely, because the Oilers feel they don’t have the depth to make such a trade without creating more holes.
18. That means a quiet deadline for Edmonton (aside from Petry). What that also could mean is a quieter off-season, with less turnover than they’ve had. Only seven players from the 2012-13 lockout season are still on their roster. It is hard to continually start over.
19. Two weeks ago, I worked Pittsburgh-Edmonton. The Oilers shielded the Oscar Klefbom/Justin Schultz defensive pair. Head coach Todd Nelson and assistant Craig Ramsay tried to keep them away from Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, especially in the defensive zone.
That has changed. They’ve started to play big minutes against good lines. Klefbom played 25-flat in Winnipeg and 26:25 in Montreal. Schultz was at 27:58 against Les Canadiens. They had an ugly afternoon against Ottawa, but the Oilers (and their fans) are praying this is something that can work long-term.
20. As critical as it is to get Schultz going, he is second after Nail Yakupov. The winger has three goals and six points in his past five games, basically 33 per cent of his offensive production for the season. The morning of that Pittsburgh game, he skated with Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Todd Nelson walked into the dressing room afterward, asking Yakupov what he thought. He said he was developing good chemistry with Derek Roy and preferred to stay there, so the coach acquiesced.
21. There were a lot of interesting things about that. First, Nelson came into the room, which a lot of coaches don’t like to do. Second, Yakupov was given a voice. Asked about it later, Nelson told a story of how Yakupov gave away a puck during one game. He asked the player about it, and Yakupov said, “I know, I can’t give it away.”
Later Nelson went back to him and explained it wasn’t a scolding, but an attempt to understand how he processed the play so the coach could get an idea how he thinks the game. Nelson is trying to reach Yakupov just as Ralph Krueger and Dallas Eakins did; the Oilers are exhausting every possible approach.
22. There are wildly divergent opinions on whether or not Florida is serious about Phil Kessel. Some yes, more no, but remember one thing: the Panthers took a very hard line with Vancouver during the Roberto Luongo negotiations. They refused to part with their best prospects, and would not make the deal until it was on their terms.
Toronto should expect no different treatment. By the way, Kessel has eight he can be traded to. Dion Phaneuf has 10 and Tyler Bozak has 12. Those can be altered, if the player wishes to do so.
23. Olli Jokinen’s best financial offer last summer was from Edmonton, but after recent winters in Calgary and Winnipeg, his family preferred a warmer locale. Getting traded to Toronto when it was minus-40 with the wind chill probably contributed to his negative mood.
24. Dallas GM Jim Nill would not comment, but it’s believed the Stars considered a Phaneuf acquisition before deciding against it. It’s a personal belief, but at some point this team is going to go after a horse on the blueline in the mold of a Johnny Boychuk or Brent Seabrook.
25. Nill did discuss whether or not the Enroth acquisition was a sign the team is unhappy with Kari Lehtonen.
“I’ve really liked his past 10-20 games,” he said. “He’s going through a change. We’re trying to improve defensively and you go from 40-45 shots against per game to 25… two or three Grade A chances, from a whole lot more. Dominik Hasek went through that in Detroit. All of a sudden, you are only giving up one chance and it’s a breakaway or a one-timer. It’s a mind-set you have to prepare for.”
Dallas went through a phase where shots against were dropping, but the last four games the Stars are allowing an average of 37. Enroth will push Lehtonen. He’s a fiercely competitive guy.
26. I also liked Nill’s attitude with regard to Tyler Seguin’s injury. I began to tell him how unfortunate it was, but he cut me off and said, “It gives someone else a chance to step up.”
Just like some of Vancouver’s more unheralded/unknown defencemen against Minnesota, you’ve got to make a name for yourself in these moments.
27. Damien Cox reported Saturday Bryan Murray feels good enough to stay on in a prominent role with the Senators. That’s great news, something everyone wants to hear. He will go for more tests after the trade deadline, and, after that, it will be a conversation about whether or not he remains GM or in more of a consulting role.
28. Marc Methot’s family tried hard to stay away from conversations about his contract talks.
“They just wanted me to be happy,” Methot laughed, before adding, “but they were pumped when I told them it was done.”
Methot said his confidence grew as talks resumed between Murray and agent Mike Liut, with things closing after Saturday’s 7-2 win over Edmonton. Methot added it could have been announced Sunday, but he and the team agreed it wasn’t the right time after the news of Steve Montador’s passing. Very nice touch of respect.
29. Did he ever think he was gone? “Yeah I did have to prepare for that,” Methot said, adding the injuries keeping him out of the lineup only made his mood worse.
“Once I got healthy and started playing better, my optimism grew.”
Erik Karlsson was a major factor.
“He was pushing me pretty hard. The chemistry, I like playing with him. I don’t know if I will still be his partner in two years, but you think in the now.”
Methot said Karlsson met with Murray during the process, so there was probably some salesmanship going on.
30. So far this season, we’ve seen three occasions in which were penalties were overturned after the officials got together to discuss them. In October, Jarret Stoll was pulled out of the penalty box when another ref said Brandon Sutter tripped over his own feet.
Andrei Markov had a high-sticking penalty overturned once they decided the puck hit Olli Jokinen, and not the Montrealer’s stick.
It happened again on Sunday when Sidney Crosby was correctly set free. We’re going to see more of this. Now that teams know it can happen, they’re going to want it and, as one official said, “It’s just common sense.”