As we know, Nikita Filatov will be playing for CSKA Moscow for the balance of the 2009-2010 season. And many good bloggers and journalists have had their say, offering words of wisdom on the matter. Before offering my less worthy thoughts, I'd like to suggest that DBJ readers take a look at the following:
- Light The Lamp: Failure To Launch
- HockeyBuzz (Eric Smith): Filatov Flies The Coup! Where's His Next Trip Too?
- Columbus Dispatch (Michael Arace): This loan has high rate of interest
- Syracuse.com (Lindsay Kramer): Even in leaving Columbus, Filatov still hurts the Syracuse Crunch
- Tea with Mrs. McGill: Farewell Filatov
- The Cannon: Filatov Commentary
There are other commentaries, granted, but this grouping appears to have covered the waterfront on the many issues involved. (Also, Rick Gethin of The Hockey Writers is working on something. He does good work; I can't wait to read his piece when it's ready. [UPDATE: Here's the post.])
As for my take, I've already offered some of it through my narrative of my Twitter dialogue with Filatov interviewer Dmitry Chesnokov. I also heavily implied my feelings in my satirical piece on having loaned my Filatov-signed puck to my bedroom door for use as a doorstop. But to be clear, here are my quick thoughts:
- Contrary to what some think, Filatov should have been drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets. With that much skill, it would be illogical to pass on him because he wasn't known for playing stellar defense. The upside was much bigger than the downside.
- Filatov's August interview with SovSport was asinine. As a result of the interview (and maybe other agent-team dialogue, who knows?), he forced his way onto the Blue Jackets before he was ready. The Jackets should have caught on that they were dealing with a prima donna right there, if not sooner.
- When it became apparent that Filatov was not making the adjustment to the Hitch-hockey style of NHL play, management (Scott Howson, I presume) should have sat down with him and his agent and had a realistic discussion of the issues involved. Maybe this happened, maybe it didn't. Regardless, the options on the table should have been 1) Back to Syracuse where he probably belonged, 2) Gut it out with the CBJ and accept the smaller role on the 4th line, 3) Pursue a trade or 4) Other options. Such a move would have been a sign of respect for a player who's not making it like they would wish. Filatov makes it sound like he was the one to initiate the dialogue.
- Filatov's interview with Chesnokov was largely useless, other than to suggest that he and Hitchcock didn't see eye to eye. Big surprise there, I tell you!
- Hitchcock is a system coach. He coaches a certain way of playing hockey that appeals to some, doesn't appeal to others and makes his team competitive. He's not a young coach, and he has a resume that most in the NHL would envy. To think that he should change his well-established style to suit the needs of Filatov is ridiculous.
- Hitchcock's job is winning, especially when we as Columbus Blue Jackets fans have heard loud and clear since the beginning of last season that it's playoffs or bust for the Boys in Union Blue. As such, player development is only relevant when the player is already helping your team win. Filatov was not, which brings me to...
- In the same vein, the NHL talent development system intends for good but not NHL-quality players to play in the minors. In this case, it would be the American Hockey League's Syracuse Crunch. Just sayin'.
- I've been a snot-nosed, petulant 19-year-old before. I can understand that he feels that he is entitled to his stardom now. I also have been spanked by the realities of life and am now a better man for it. Not quite like getting checked into the glass by a stooge who's twice your size, but you get my drift...
- Relatively speaking, Filatov now holds the cards if he can satisfy himself with KHL glory instead of NHL stardom. He can ride out his Blue Jackets contract in Russia and sign with a team over there as he wishes. (Oh yeah, no income tax in Russia. Cha-ching!) If the Jackets give up trying to return him to the roster, he can pretty much tell Howson where he's willing to accept a trade.
- The Jackets are damned lucky that they have stunk up the joint for so many years. Losing a few top-tier draftees (Brule, LeClaire and now potentially Filatov) is countered by the incredible draft successes that they still have on the roster (Nash, Brassard, Voracek). Columbus will be just fine, regardless of whatever happens with Filatov.
- FanHouse says it best, in that Filatov should be considered trade bait and nothing more. His value will be highest after the World Junior Championships (where he presumably will be able to show off his skill), and I would hope that the Jackets would hold him until at least the conclusion of that tournament.
- My quick thought on a very acceptable landing point in the NHL is Atlanta. The Thrashers are desperate to keep Ilya Kovalchuk on the roster and already have added Russian Nik Antropov to help improve Kovalchuk's disposition toward the team. In the SovSport interview, Filatov mentions that he worked out over the summer with Kovalchuk and considers the man a legend. I'd guess that Filatov would jump at the chance to play with his buddy in the big leagues. But what can Atlanta offer the Jackets, you ask? I dunno...Evander Kane? Draft picks, if nothing else?
- I know it's stupid to go counter to Michael Arace, a man who has forgotten more about the Blue Jackets and the NHL than I probably ever will know, but I just do not see Filatov coming back to Columbus as long as Ken Hitchcock is coaching. Hopefully the Jackets feel that way, too, and make a trade before some ugly training camp soap opera kicks in. Get Filatov off the roster, get some talent or draft picks as compensatoin, and move on.
- Perhaps most importantly, Scott Howson and Ken Hitchcock need to be singing out of the same hymnal. The Blue Jackets are already a budget team and not a salary cap team, operating nearly $10 million below the cap. They can't afford to make costly mistakes. Filatov, as it currently stands, was only $850,000 (that now is being assumed by CKSA Moscow and will be removed from the cap - a blessing for the team's bottom line). So rather than have a financial disaster on their hands (Well, they have Freddy Modin, but that's another post), Howson and Hitchcock can use Filatov as a learning lesson for building their professional relationship...and prevent future such occurrences from happening.
- Regardless of what Filatov says, he sure as heck didn't look ready for the NHL.