When Dany Heatley arrived he was a blossoming star in the NHL with ample emotional baggage as a result of an off-ice incident resulting in the death of his friend and teammate.
We greeted him with open arms and were willing to give him a fresh start despite the horrific incident which pales in comparison to a small ruffling of feathers between a coach and player.
How is Filatov's arrival any different than Dany's?
To me, the difference is negligible. If we could embrace Dany by overlooking his faults and the uncertainties surrounding the health of his knee and an eye injury that sustained injury while playing in Switzerland, why are we treating Nikita any differently on the basis that he arrives as a media described malcontent with high end skill?
Is it because of his nationality? Has Ottawa become that disillusioned with foreigners (and newcomers) that we must poke and prod to see if this new kid in town is for real or just another incident waiting to happen?
Dany was able to duck a lot of questions because of criminal proceedings and had the PR backing to alleviate most concerns. I for one remember writing an email to the Team 1200 which was read on air listing the reasons I was happy Marian was gone and Dany was in. Not one of those reasons included his dark past.
I was able to overlook his past for his hockey abilities and the promise he brought to a contending team. I for one have always believed in cheering for the logo, not the nameplate. If Dany could make this team better, which he did, then who was I to judge his past when it had no bearing on his on-ice skills and ability to legitimize and improve the franchise? Nikita is no different to me. In fact, it may be a brighter scenario since a once fan favourite was not shipped out of town in exchange for his services. He comes as advertised as a high end player with the capacity for greatness and considering the lack of scoring depth I don't see why there is reason to belittle his arrival.
True, he is not going to win a Selke Trophy anytime soon but you don't train a thoroughbred to be a prop for tourists on a beach in Cancun. We know what we're getting and if everyone who enters the organization is subject to such unjust scrutiny for lack of abilities which were never as advertised, then I don't know what to say.
We’re acting like scorned lovers here. I sincerely hope the Ottawa faithful don't act this way on first dates. Just because a girl has a shitty dating history doesn't mean she won't find the right situation to be adored without that taint of past relationships.
Instead of praising Filatov for: a) leaving a family vacation in the Dominican Republic to attend development camp in which his presence was not required; or b) deftly navigating his way through media questions like he’s stickhandling through pylons the local media has been suspicious. Those in the know should recognize this familiar line of questioning as the Kovalev bait and lure method. It’s an Ottawa classic.
Thankfully, the way he delicately handled his first media scrum facing a line of fire only a Canadian hockey market can provide he didn’t bite at Don Brennan’s questions pertaining to the “state of his defensive game” or whether he “idolized Kovalev growing up”. Filatov said all the right things and even managed to generate some laughs. It’s for this reason that I believe that sometimes a hockey market is just what a high end player like Filatov needs to recharge or reaffirm his motivation to succeed. Maybe Filatov is the kind of player who needs to be put in the limelight before he can thrive under the microscope?
Some people crave that kind of attention. Look at all the big games pitched in Yankee Stadium (insert Colon jokes) and Fenway Park (Colon went 4-2 with his short stint with the Sox) over the years and maybe this is just what he needed. A change of scenery worked great for Chris Pronger in St. Louis and it has already looked promising for Craig Anderson. So I ask, why not Nikita?
I guess the public jury is still soured by Kovalev and who can blame them? He was by all accounts a terrible signing who fetched little to nothing in return by the time he was dumped. Let's not paint all Russians with the same brush - just because they share a similar heritage and offensive skill set does not immediately equate a disaster in the making.
We have players who can check, scrap and play defence. In fact you could say we have an overwhelming glut of players capable of fulfilling those roles. What we do not have is an abundance of Nikita Filatov's. We don't have (m)any young, NHL ready forwards with the pedigree of Nikita and I for one am truly excited about the potential he brings to the rink. He may not score 40 goals, he may not score 30 but then again he may score 50. Jason Spezza has worked miracles with lesser players (Bobby Butler, Colin Greening most recently). With that in mind I don't think it's unreasonable to assume he’ll be given every opportunity to thrive. And thrive he just may, if we don't run him out of town before he's had the opportunity to prove his worth.
As a rebuilding team that has a dearth of top six talent at the NHL-level, Ottawa can afford to give Filatov the opportunity with to play with some fast and skilled forwards without fear of seeing his ice-time diminish if he makes a mistake. Like he said in his first interview, the KHL provided him with the consistent ice-time that he needed to get his confidence back. With the Senators short on goal scoring he has as good a chance as any to see plenty of ice time to regain that swagger here. Maybe he was rushed in Columbus, maybe there was too much pressure and the coach accelerated frustration when the results didn't come as quickly as many thought. In Ottawa he will be given the chance to learn and by attending development camp, it shows he's willing to start from scratch.
By all accounts he’s no longer looking for a fresh start. He’s already found it.
Well said Tim. I think Filatov is going to have a comfortable amount of rope to find his game, on CBJ he was a #6 overall and he's coming into Ottawa as a 66th overall. By now no one's under any illusions this is a playoff team, a 20 goal season could lead the team (this is sad but true). I"m confident this is going to be a better situation for him, and if not any downside is highly, highly unlikely.
Great post! How funny that I end up looking to blogs for more balanced looks at the Sens. I don’t always agree with viewpoints on these things but it’s a lot better than a lot of the unimaginative garbage that a lot of people who are being PAID to ask this kid questions come up with. God, “did you look up to Alex Kovalev as a kid?” I think that’s one of the biggest reaches I’ve heard the always lazy Don Brennan go for yet. Newsprint is going into the turlet and that dude is at the forefront of showing why. THE TURLET. As a fan of the Senators I too welcome more the possibilities than the past. Here’s to a very exciting 2011-2012!
I'm fine with him. But I've always been fine with him. If Brian Lee is an acceptable project, why not Filatov?
That was a pretty good read and I agree with you on all but one point. There is a fundamental difference between Heatley's off-ice problems in Atlanta and Filatov's on-ice problems in Columbus. It is quite possible that Filatov was mishandled in Columbus, but we don't know what was said behind closed doors. It is equally possible that he was lazy/unmotivated to become a productive NHL player.
My approach to him is cautiously optimistic. I am all for judiging him on what he does in Ottawa next season and don't really care about his past. This could turn out to be a brilliant move by Murray if Filatov is successful, or at worst it could be a wash since we only gave up a 3rd round pick to get him. So far he has said all the right things and I can't wait to see him on Spezza's wing.
BRILLIANT post. Exactly what i would think the majority of SENS fans are thinking re: Filatov. I for one am insanely excited to see him next year on the top line with Spezza and Butler/Alfie. I personally am of the opinion that we need to give up on the Spezza/Michalek experiment, because from day 1 its been apparent to me that they have no chemistry together. Nikita offers us some high end skating, stickhandling and shooting, exactly what we need to pair Jason Spezza with.
As far as his character goes, the kid cut short his family vacation in the dominican republic to fly up to canada for 2-3 days of a rookie development camp. He has no gear, has to borrow anything he can find, and ends up on the ice with skates two sizes too big for his feet. And yet by all accounts he looked smooth, engaged and powerful loping around the ice. Nuff said.
I for one have given up reading the Ottawa Sun as it is a rag that employs the bottom feeders of the journalistic world. The absolute gall that Brennan has in trying to bait this kid on his first day in Ottawa is repugnant and I'll be complaining to the editor in short order. (Not that it'll go anywhere, but hey, sometimes you just have to)
My hat is off to you Tim, bring on more well thought out and well written posts.
Enjoy the long weekend!
@whew_boy Thanks for reading the site. Glad you enjoy it.
@slavitch The change in developmental paths for Brian Lee is one of my favorite stories on the Senators in the past couple of seasons.
@Barnsley_Pal Of course, I agree with you too. That's why I said, "the horrific incident which pales in comparison to a small ruffling of feathers between a coach and player." Now we don't know what went on behind closed doors in Columbus and it would be wrong to speculate one way or another since we'll never be privy to that information. The point is, they both came with a few dings and scratches and that's where the comparisons end.
@tsnfanI think you just nailed it, maybe even inadvertently, but when was the last time Senators fans got to use the term "insanely excited" in the same breathe? This is going to be fun.
@tsnfan Tempted to start a 6th Sens pool that collects wagers on how games into the season Filatov gets before the Sun starts referring to him as "La Femme Nikita" .
@Tim6thSens For sure, I hear what you're saying. To clarify my point a little more: although Heatley's off-ice issues are much more serious in the grand scheme, for the most part they had little to do with his play on the ice. On the other hand, Filatov has issues with commitment and work ethic. Those are much more seious for a hockey player, and I think some speculation/hesitation on the part of the media is justified. Regardless, I am more than willing to give him the time he needs to see if he can live up to his potential.
@Tim6thSens @tsnfan Interestingly was ranked as the #3 prospect by the ISS' final draft rankings in 2008 http://www.hockeysfuture.com/articles/10401/iss_top302008_prospects_final/
@Tim6thSens That's a good point about Kovalev. I think you could add LeClaire and his injuries to the list as well. Of course, he made it pretty clear early on that he would never get over the injury bug.
@Barnsley_Pal All I was getting at is that Sens fans have proven in the past that they are willing to overlook past misdeeds (on ice or off ice), no matter how serious, and embrace the player. Kovalev falls into the same boat, we gave him the benefit of the doubt that off-season and waited to see which Kovelev showed up first before slamming the decision.