The Max Line
   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. Yeah, he's the same dude we knew back in the 80th. 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. I claim the opposite. His teams always had remarkable talent, but 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 Soviet 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 later.

KORKY DISAPPEARED

   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.

LET GO DA BOTTLE, DUDE!!!

   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 same reasons.

DIMITRO JOINS THE ARMY?

   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.

NATIONAL TEAM REGULARS POLISH STALLS IN THE PRESS BOX

   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.

QUOTES

   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 theirs,"
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 is behind me. That shall elevate my motivation and I'd beat him,"
   Amusing, isn't it?

EEEEEEEEEEEEEE-MAIL

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.

-- Max Dostoevsky
Hope you've enjoyed this installment of The Max Line, first in almost two years. Fortunately now we're here to stay for good. Any comments and questions are welcomed at: max_line@russianhockeyinsider.com
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