Monday, 20 July 2020

Some KHL News

For as long as I can remember, seeing Alexei Kovalev dazzle crowds with his moves and frustrate coaches with his play meant that there was some form of entertainment on the ice. Seeing him dressed in a suit with his usual #27 on his back and sleeves is still something I'm getting used to as Kovalev transitions into the coaching world following his playing days. While it seems weird that a player who often drove coaches mad with his play would want to move into that world, there's no denying that Kovalev saw the game in a unique way that might be able to help him transfer some of his talent to the next generations of players. Today, he'll get that chance after a big announcement in the KHL!

Today, Kunlun Red Star announced that Alexei Kovalev would take over the head coaching duties for the club after serving as an assistant coach for the last two seasons! Kunlun has missed the playoffs in both 2017-18 and 2018-19 under a combination of Mike Keenan, Bob Carpenter, Jussi Tapola, and Curt Fraser, so having a fifth head coach in three seasons isn't ideal, but Kovalev does has familiarity with the players and systems being used in by Red Star which may help. Kunlun was a respectable 26-28-8 under Curt Fraser last season before the season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it appeared they may have missed the playoffs based on projections as well.

If you're wondering why Curt Fraser was let go by Kunlun following his work with the club that saw them improve under his watch, it seems that it wasn't due to his work with the club or its record. It should be noted that Fraser is a diabetic, and he opted not to rejoin the team amid the coronavirus pandemic despite Red Star's growing optimism with him at the helm. For someone who is passionate about coaching, it can't be easy resigning from a position where he was starting to find his footing.

However, that task will now fall to Kovalev who worked under Fraser as an assistant coach, and I suspect we'll see Fraser's systems being used by the neophyte Russian head coach. I do believe we'll see Kovalev's Red Star team emphasize some additional offensive creativity in the same vein that Kovalev used to dazzle crowds with his offensive skills, but it will be up to the Russian offensive dynamo to see that the Red Star find their way back into the Gagarin Cup Playoffs.

One just hopes that Dave Elston's joke in the following cartoon doesn't carry into Kovalev's coaching style.

From the Chinese entry in the KHL to the Latvian entry, it seems that Dinamo Riga has decided to ditch their traditional, time-honoured logo for something more sleek and modern. While the Riga KHL entry has only existed since 2008, it carried forward the script "D" of the club that played in Soviet Hockey Championship - the predecessor of the Russian Super League - and the IHL from 1946-1995, so it appears someone decided that it was time for an update as we see on the right. Honestly, I'm not convinced it's better in any way than the old logo, but it is new so that's something, I guess.

The other piece of news from Dinamo Riga today is that former NHL netminder Peteris "Peter" Skudra will take over as the head coach of the Riga squad! Skudra replaces Ģirts Ankipans who led the squad to a rather brutal 17-38-7 record this season in what would have been their sixth-straight season of missing the Gagarin Cup Playoffs. Ankipans replaced Sandis Ozolinsh as the head coach of the Riga team in 2017. Skudra, a Latvian as both Ankipans and Ozolinsh are, joins the club after having coached Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod for five seasons and making a brief head coaching appearance with Traktor Chelyabinsk in 2019.

In his five seasons with Torpedo, Skudra never won less than 29 games, but only advanced past the first round of the Gagarin Cup Playoffs once where Torpedo fell in the second round of the playoffs in 2015-16. Playing in the Tarasov Division that season with perennial powerhouses CSKA Moscow, Yaroslavl Lokomotiv, and Dynamo Moscow, Torpedo finished in fifth-place with 100 points, but qualified for the playoffs as seventh-seeded team, meeting the 108-point Jokerit team in the opening round. Torpedo would win all three games at home to take the series in six games.

By adding Skudra, Riga is getting a goaltender whose coaching skills have been honed in the KHL already, and that should make help them as they have assembled a fairly young squad of Latvian-born players thus far. With Skudra being more of a household name, there's hope they can attract some solid scoring to the Latvian capital, but we'll have to see if money plays into some of those decisions. Either way, having Skudra as their head coach certainly won't hurt Dinamo's chances at breaking that playoff drought they're currently in.

A sniper, a goalie, a new logo, China, and Latvia added together result in two new head coaches for two teams in the KHL. Sometimes, KHL math seems harder than it actually is.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

No comments: