The Max Line Returns

By Max Dostoevsky

Few years passed by, the game itself evaluated. Some say hockey took a
step forward, some suggest a step back. But legendary Viktor Tikhonov
couldn’t care less! The 72-year old Master hasn’t changed a bit.

Neither his approach towards the game, nor his coaching tricks. He’s the same guy we knew back in the 80’s. And his team still projects that
same attractive style of play, without having as much of success thought.

Many people suggest that Tikhonov used to be a great coach. However, while teams always had remarkable talent, he had nothing to do
developing it. Tikhonov relied on already born stars – using the Army
to draft anyone from wherever he wanted for his CSKA.

While USSR National
team under his sight, in spite of all the assembled talent, often was cut
loosing at the World tourneys and Olympics against the Czechs, the Fins and
the Swedes privated of a core of their best players that either battled in
NHL play-offs, or were seen as the traitors in their own country for leaving
to play in North America. And what about all those lost Canada Cups?

How bad
has to be the coach of a team as great as the Soviet Union had in 1987
(People who saw Sergei Makarov play in mid 80th may have a reason to yap:
Wayne who?) waste three goal lead in the decisive contest!? A lot of good
has been rightfully said about Viktor Vasilievich, but a lot of negative
haven’t been mentioned. Lousy defense, lack of grit and character, inability
to modify strategy during the game were characteristic to his teams as well
as flashy attacking flair and high individual skills of his players.

Nevertheless nowadays Tikhonov’s is a fading shadow of a once powerful
hockey man. He still manages to assemble offensive talent into his teams
thought. Unable to afford and most important to share the space on the
bus with good experienced players, Tikhonov attracts young bunch of
wunderkinds such as Nikolai Zherdev, Alex Drozdetsky, Anton Kostitsyn,
Sergei Mozyakin, Alexei Shkotov, Alex Polushin and few others. He attempts
to teach those gifted kids his game, the one his team still is able to
prosper at (albeit, not often). The pure offence-oriented game.

– Let’s get our sabres high and rush forward without looking back!!!

That’s the way Tikhonov’s teams played before and play still.

Czech National goalie Dusan Salficky had no idea what he was getting
himself into when he signed with once powerful Moscow club. In his first
couple of starts Salficky had to face 94 shots! 44 in a 3-1 win against
Wings and 50 against the defending champs Lokomotiv – a game that CSKA had
won as well 4-3 shocking the hockey people in Russia. Since than Red Army
Club got a bit better defensively – but all the credit goes to Tikhonov
junior. One must know that Vasily Tikhonov worked several seasons in Finland
(where he learned a lot from Vladimir Yurzinov), followed by NHL experience
as an assistant coach in Winnipeg-Phoenix franchise.

As his CSKA is doomed to battle for survival in Superleague this season,
Tikhonov-father claims to be building a great team for the future. Team that
will resurrect Russian hockey. However, one may ask how he’ll manage to do
so, since most of CSKA leading players are doomed to end-up in NHL sooner or


While signing a two-year deal with Kazan’s Ak Bars, San Jose Sharks’ Alex
Korolyuk claimed that he’ll never play for the Sharks as long as Darryl
Sutter coaches them. It looked like Korolyuk was going to remain in
Russia for the whole season, unless San Jose trades his rights to another
NHL team that will have to waive him after the contract signing. So Ak Bars
management had to be stunned when Korolyuk disappeared without
notice just a few days after (SJ’s) GM Dian Lombardi promised to solve his
case and even called Korky – “a pretty good player,”.

Couple of days passed by. Alex finally called Kazan from across the Ocean
(Gee! How he got there?), claiming he left to be near his wife who’s about
to give birth to their child. All that to say – don’t be surprised if
Korky ends-up in the NHL in a few days. And since he last played for Ak Bars
just a few hours before the NHL season begun, Korky will not have to go
through waiver draft.


Recently in North America Theo Fleury’s troubles with substance-abuse
program created variety of buzz in the media. Meantime in Russia such
incidents pass by – basically unnoticed. Of late SKA’s Evgeny Gribko and
Igor Nikulin, as well as Spartak’s Pavel Agarkov have been fired from their
clubs for not going quite easy on the bottle. Some shout that Calgary
Flames’ draft pick, 23-year old Dmitry Kirilenko of Soviet Wings spends a
lot of time in the press box for the same reasons.


In not so distant past Toronto Maple Leafs (wait for it) fan’s favorite,
Dmitri Khristich may soon sign with SKA Saint-Petersburg. The 33-year old
veteran of 12 NHL seasons didn’t have any offers from the bigs after his
stats declined for third season in a row.


Yaroslavl’s Ivan Nepryaev and Alex Suglobov were among the best players
for Russian National side at the Czeske Pojstovna Cup early in September.
These days both spend a lot of time together… in press box. Loko’s head
coach Vladimir Vujtek says he’s unable to dress the dynamic duo due to
ridiculous 2+3 rule that obligates RSL teams to dress two U-20 and three
U-18 players.


Severstal’s 6″3, 220 pds. defender Alex Yudin is labeled by Russian Press
as the best tough-guy in RSL.

Here’s couple of intriguing quotes from his interviews:

1) “Today many teams in RSL have Czech players… Well, see those supposedly
skilled Czechs… I never saw one who wouldn’t spear you while battling for
the puck near the boards or in corners of the ice. I believe for
every Czech on opposition’s team RSL clubs shall have a tough-guy on

2) About what will happen if he would fight Panther’s Peter Worrell who’s
seen as one of NHL’s top guns in Russia:
– “He has very few chances against me. He doesn’t know me at all, while I
know everything about. Than if I’d fight him I’ll fell that the whole
country stands behind me. That shall elevate my motivation and I’d beat

Amusing, isn’t it?

E-MAIL Questions

Mike Johnson: Hi, I’m just curious what’s going on with Alexander Semin in
Lada. I have been watching him since the start of the season (statistically
speaking) and I’m curious why he’s been so unproductive. What line is he
playing on and is he getting quality ice time?

Max: No need to be concerned with Semin’s ice time. He’s playing regularly
on a team that rolls all of it’s 4 units. Semin usually’s dressed on second
or third lines. Early in the season he was one of Lada’s best forwards. He
played aggressively and generated a good amount of scoring opportunities.
Since than he slowed a bit and therefore now he’s getting less special teams
time. Still he’s playing around 12-15 minutes per game. Don’t forget that
he’s being coached by Peter Vorobiev – Russian analogue to Jasques Lemairre.
Vorobiev takes a defense first approach – it’s tough for youngsters to
improve their individual skills while playing in such system. On the bright
side Semin gets more accustomed to the team concept.