After back-to-back seasons of playoff success, missing the cut this year was a big disappointment for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Nikita Kucherov has offered his opinion for why the team fell short, and he is especially critical of his teammates.
In an interview with Sovietsky Sport that was translated from Russian, and further reported on by Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times, Kucherov said “some guys overstayed in team.”
“They’ve got their money and stopped working,” he added.
He went on.
“You can see it in their stats and way of play. When we played together and I made a pass, they even were not expecting this. That’s why this season was hard for me despite good stats.”
Smith spoke with Kucherov’s agent Dan Milstein, who said the comments came out of frustration.
Smith writes that “Milstein said Kucherov respects GM Steve Yzerman, coach Jon Cooper, but said not everyone on the team was ‘on board’ with winning this season, which ended with no playoffs.”
Kucherov made sure to say in his interview with Sovietsky Sport that he enjoyed playing with captain Steven Stamkos, who missed most of the season with a knee injury. Kucherov says after the Stamkos injury, “coaches started shuffling lines. Partners were changing like in a kaleidoscope. It was very hard to get used to it, because guys didn’t play at Stamkos level.”
He said he also enjoyed playing with Jonathan Drouin, “but coach didn’t put us together again for some reason.”
Kucherov set career highs with 40 goals and 85 points this season. He signed a three-year contract in October that pays him $4.6 million per season.
Kucherov is currently preparing to play for Russia at the upcoming world championship in Paris, France and Cologne, Germany.
Milstein told Smith that the comments don’t mean Kucherov is looking to move on from the Lightning. He said that Kucherov has recently bought a house in the Tampa area and that “he hopes to play for one team. Like his GM.”