Friday, 30 March 2012

Possible KHL Expansion

With the KHL Playoffs underway and several teams already having been eliminated, you're probably aware that HBIC hasn't brought out the updates for the KHL yet. I haven't had much time to review everything, but I will post some sort update eventually once I get a chance to sort everything. The big news from Friday, however, had nothing to do with any player, team, or playoff series currently featured in the KHL. It seems that the KHL has been contacted by another non-KHL, European-based team that is interested in joining Asia's best hockey league for the 2012-13 season and beyond. This is the second straight season in which the KHL has announced an applicant for their league while the playoffs have been happening - something we in North America wouldn't even consider happening in a league here.

HC Slovan, a team based in Bratislava, Slovakia, has submitted an application to join the KHL for the start of next season. The hockey team was founded in 1921 in Bratislava after a soccer club under the same name had bee formed in 1919, and has become one of the most dominant teams in Slovakia after the fall of Czechoslovakia. Since 1994 when Czechoslovakia broke apart, the team has won seven Slovak championships - nearly one in every two years - and also has a Czechslovakian championship to their credit in 1979. Before that, the team won three straight Spengler Cups from 1972 to 1974, and has recently won the 2003-04 IIHF Continental Cup. The team is storied, but their recent history proves that they are one of the better teams in European league play.

The team has produced a number of stars, some of which played in the NHL:
  • Petr Buzek - defenceman who played for Dallas, Atlanta, and Calgary.
  • Zdeno Ciger - forward who played for New Jersey, Edmonton, the NY Rangers, and Tampa Bay.
  • Robert Dome - forward who briefly appeared with Pittsburgh and Calgary.
  • Jaroslav Halak - current St. Louis Blues goaltender.
  • Miroslav Satan - forward who played for Edmonton, Buffalo, the NY Islanders, Pittsburgh, and Boston.
  • Josef Stumpel - forward who played for Los Angeles, Boston, and Florida.
  • Lubomir Visnovsky - current Anaheim Ducks defenceman.
Miroslav Satan is currently the captain for HC Slovan, so another former NHL player will have the opportunity to suit up in the KHL next year if Satan returns to Slovan. Satan led the team in scoring despite appearing in only 54 games this season. He notched 28 goals and added 37 helpers while also finishing second in penalty minutes with 133! I'm not saying that Satan underachieved in the NHL, but he appears to be heads-and-shoulders better than anyone else on his team based on his point total, PIM total, and the number of games he played this season. If it makes any difference, Satan was third in league scoring this season, two points back of HK 36 Skalica's Rene Skoliak, but 25 points back of HK 36 Skalica's Zigmund Palffy who appeared in the same number of games as Satan. Wow.

The team finished in third-place in the Slovak Extraliga standings this season with a 32-16-7 record. They missed top spot by a mere eight points, so the race to the finish in the Slovak Extraliga appeared to be down to the wire this season. The playoffs, however, will feature the top-seeded HC Kosice and the soon-to-be-KHL-bound HC SLovan in the Slovak Extraliga Final this year. The first game of the final goes April 8, so the eventual Slovak Extraliga Champion could be off to compete in the KHL next year!

Of course, nothing is written in stone yet as a KHL committee will travel to the Slovak capital to carry out an inspection of HC Slovan’s infrastructure before making a decision regarding the club's participation in the KHL next season. We've seen the KHL turn down teams before, so there is no guarantee that HC Slovan will get in. However, you'd have to think that their success and history would be a major reason why they have a good chance to get in, especially if they are joining as the Slovakian champions.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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