YIKES! Voynov thought about bolting for KHL in the middle of THIS SEASON

It turns out the very thing many (thought to be paranoid) Kings fans had feared could happen, actually almost happened. At least, he thought about it.

Voynov’s patience pays off big for Kings – ESPN Los Angeles

Three weeks before the trade that sent shock waves through the NHL and turned this season around for the Los Angeles Kings [...], Dean Lombardi sat down with rookie defenseman Slava Voynov [...] and broke the news that he was sending him back to the minor leagues.

[...]

It was heartbreaking news for Voynov, who had already spent three full seasons with the Monarchs and was the final cut coming out of training camp last fall. He came up for five games in October [and] was brought back in November [...] and thought he would stick around for good, but then came the devastating news from Lombardi.

Voynov, 22, said he thought about giving up on his dreams of playing full-time in the NHL and returning to his native Russia, where he could become just as rich and famous playing in the Kontinental Hockey League.

But with the demotion came assurance from Lombardi that Voynov [...] would soon be back.

“When I got sent down, I thought about the KHL because, you know, I’m mad and sad,” Voynov said Friday afternoon [...]. “My friends told me not to think about it, just wait and trust yourself and Lombardi.”

I LOVE YOUR FRIENDS.

Voynov followed their advice and returned to Manchester, where he continued to play like a man among boys. Meanwhile, the Kings went 2-5-2 without Voynov in the lineup [...]. Lombardi [...] pulled the trigger on the league’s biggest trade-deadline move, sending defenseman Jack Johnson to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for high-scoring winger Jeff Carter.

“I wouldn’t have been able to make that deal for Carter, moving a defenseman like Jack Johnson, without [Voynov] allowing me to do that,” Lombardi told SI.com last month. “As much as we needed Carter, I wasn’t going to leave my back end exposed, and I had in the back of my mind that this kid was ready.”

The maneuver paid off like triple 7s on a slot machine, as the Kings went 13-5-3 down the stretch with both Carter and Voynov in the lineup and secured the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference.

And 26-7-3, if you include the crazy 13-2 playoff run. Is that the best streak in team history? I’ll have to look it up, and then slip it in the post later to make you all think you’re losing your mind when it appears out of nowhere.

“What an experience,” Voynov said. “I’ve been dreaming of this season since I was 2 years old. I’m so excited.”

One way to measure Voynov’s value to the team is in the plus-minus category. Johnson was a minus-12 in 61 regular-season games with the Kings this season,

And that was good for JJ.

Voynov was a plus-12 in 54. He sits at plus-2 in the postseason with a goal and two assists. More important, counting the regular season and playoffs, the Kings are 43-18-8 with Voynov in the lineup, and 10-11-7 with him either scratched or in Manchester.

By design, Kings coach Darryl Sutter has paired Voynov with the most experienced blueliner on the team, Willie Mitchell.

“I’m the guy who’s supposed to be there, on most nights, to settle things down, cover up for him, but he’s a good young player,” Mitchell said. “Sometimes, he’s covering my butt out there.”

Like he did at least once in Game One, blocking a shot after Mitchell got burned.

[...] The sky’s now the limit for Voynov. He’s signed through next season at $787,500 a year and then will become a restricted free agent.

 

  3 comments for “YIKES! Voynov thought about bolting for KHL in the middle of THIS SEASON

  1. Garrett79
    June 2, 2012 at 12:03 AM

    “And 26-7-3, if you include the crazy 13-2 playoff run. Is that the best
    streak in team history? I’ll have to look it up, and then slip it in the
    post later to make you all think you’re losing your mind when it
    appears out of nowhere. ”

    If you count from March 11, it’s 24-4-3 (which is statistically better than the 26-7-3 and works out to about a 134-point season if extrapolated to an 82-game season; it also gives the guys a few more games after the trade deadline to form a bit of chemistry and figure out what they really had there).

    I actually researched this yesterday, meticulously going through every season in team history because I was wondering if they have ever had a run as good as this 13-2 stretch in the playoffs.

    The answer is no.

    This is, hands down, the best run in team history.

    But surprisingly, there have been a few regular season stretches that weren’t far off. They started the 1974-75 season 15-2-9 and didn’t lose consecutive games until just before Christmas. Later that same season they put together a 13-1-3 streak. The only other streaks comparable to those are a 10-1-1 run to open the 1980-81 season and an 11-1-3 streak last January and February.

    There have been a few shorter streaks that were pretty good too. They went 9-0-2 from February 28 to March 24, 1974. There was an 8-game winning streak from February 15 to March 9, 1992, the longest in team history until they won 9 in a row two years ago (actually part of a 13-2-1 streak from January 14 to March 2, 2010). And finally, they went 13-2-5-2 from February 22, 2001 to the end of the season on April 7, a run that preceded the second-best Kings playoff drive in franchise history before this year.

    I posted this originally at my own sad attempt at a Kings blog, kingsinhockeywood.blogspot.com.

  2. Tyfighter77
    June 2, 2012 at 7:43 AM

    I recently gained some perspective on Russian players and the KHL.  My wife, as I’ve mentioned, is from Slava’s home city of Chelyabinsk, where he started out his pro career playing for Traktor.  Traktor hasn’t traditionally been a great team (in spite of a great run this season) and hockey doesn’t seem to be as popular in Chelyabinsk as you might expect.  At least, few of my Russian relatives seem to be to interested in it.  But Traktor’s record isn’t the only reason.

    Along with democracy came a much worse hockey league, a league that used to be a matter of national pride, and it has left a bitter aftertaste.  A sentiment expressed the other day by my mother-in-law but likely shared by many Russians, says a lot in a few words: “America buys away all our great hockey players.” (Read that with a grave finality to get the tone right).

    Well, North America, but anyway. 

    Its easy to think of Russian players going back to the KHL as quitters or traitors, but don’t forget that they probably already heard those things from their own countrymen for choosing to come here in the first place.  They choose to come here because everyone knows this is the greatest league in the world, and the Cup is the most glorious prize.  But if all Russian and Eastern European players went back to the KHL, lets face it, they give the NHL a run for its money – if not right away, then eventually.  And I think this is something that every player native to that region has to have in the back of their minds, and it’s a decision they must surely have to revisit from time to time.  Coming to America is great, of course, but lets not forget that patriotism is a thing – everybody wants hockey to thrive in their home country (hence the Olympics), and living in the same hemisphere as your friends and family is no small thing.

    I’m grateful to VV for deciding to stay in America and play for the Kings – I frankly don’t think we’d be enjoying hockey tonight if he didn’t – but I would not condemn him for ‘bolting’ back to play in his home country.   I might judge DL though. (Not really because obviously DL wouldn’t be DL if that had happened).

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