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Another Shipachyov Piece: European spice edition.

It takes a good deal of something to set me in motion, forgive me, it's been along time since I wrote something. I don't have my old tumblr email either, so its going here.

The more and more I think on it, I really think this is good for the Canadiens. I really think out of the crop coming over, Shipachyov is the mostly likely to blow up in the teams faces.

Here, I do think. Is where we will see the difference between copy-cat teams and teams that actually have much more indepth research/scouting of players. Or insider signing if you are a good team.

I hope he gets paid big and does well though. I seriously love him and Dadonov. I really REALLY cannot stress how fun they’ve made the pass seasons, and Panarin would never have made it to the NHL without them, I don’t think. Like Steve Moses, I just don’t think he’s got certain assets that help him in the NHL.


-Me in an Eyes On the Prize comment in April.

During last year’s world championship, I got into a blazing row with someone on Eyes On the Prize. It was about Shipachyov, it was about him getting caught by the media and getting fussy about comments in the NHL. I was dead certain then on my faith that all three of them could swiftly make the NHL. Give it to April of this year and the viewpoint had begun to do a 180 on the entire situation. By this time, the studies we had for players going back and forth was becoming more and more, it was becoming harder to bury the KHL. With the slow translating of analytics both wise, and the reliance of NHLE slowly waning, there was now a concern and North American media gaining a much more awareness of the KHL, we begin to see what led up to this comment. A constant fanning of the flames of a name being passed about in North America. Out of the great "Pandaship" line, one of them was beginning to show warning lights.

A story, almost a year in the making, and riddled ith changes throughout. So here is my European side of the Shipachyov story, as a SKA and since I typed this in a Golden Knights jersey waited a month for, I suppose s a Knights fan too.

House Cleaning.

Let’s clarify some terms, and background around everything. Firstly, there is a "statement" and interview thatcame out of SKA’s interview and I’m really bored of seeing it passed around. Anything from SKA directly needs to sprinkled with tonnes of salt. Read Voyonov’s interview when the same situation happened to him. Official statements from SKA have to go through both the TR as well as SKA’s PR as SKA is a "Base Club" It comes out with some insane things regarding the domestic violence incident. Shipachyov gave a S-E interview shortly after which is much lower key and comes across as more truthful. As a friend of mine put it: (In nicer terms, there censorship SKA tries to put by choking any source not their own is infuriating)

Now, let’s clarify a few things in and with the KHL, feel free to skip this, it should be general knowledge but I wish to clarify certain terms and structures in the KHL. Think of it as a sort of Brandt Line but with teams, there rich and poor teams and the power gap between the bottom and top is a chasm compared to the NHL. The reason why in general there’s a degree of balance (I use this term as loosely as possible and place it in the context of say, football where PSG just default wins the league every year.) is because of ow players are "Recycled" through the league. Poorer clubs will take young prospects through their academies or receive them from richer team who do not need them or want a name more. The player will grow up, make a name and the native built players will then return to cash in with the bigger teams that "prey". This route is how most KHL players, at least big names usually make it into the NHL. For Tarasenko, it was Sibir -> SKA -> NHL, oddly whenever you see Tarasenko do something good in the NHL, you’ll see both teams trying to claim it. More recently, we have Artemi Panarin, Vitjaz -> SKA -> NHL. This continues on and can even happen to AHL players who come over, and then return, but generally this recycling keeps players going and at least balances out some of the talent in the league. However, this generally means said player is often already in their mid to late twenties by the time they reach the bigger clubs and start playing with names like Ilya Kovalchuk. This was Shipachyov’s case, someone who came over from Severstal, his home team and then found success with SKA. This is generally the process which attracts the players over there.

Next, let’ talk about that "e" word and Vegas unique position in relation to the KHL. Now the next layer is that while the KHL has always exited in the NHL’s mind, the two are often caught flinging at each other. Nearly everything that has tried to be negotiated on recently has fallen through – A Gagarin v Stanley charity game, A new Transfer agreement, even about dealing with the Olympics. So, while tensions between the league are very low, North American media and eyes had started to come onto the KHL much more. From Panarin, Soshinikov to Radulov, we’ve had high number of successful transactions going both ways, however none of these cases are the same and with the more detailed eyes come with the levels of context and insider trading that comes with it. Take the Panarin example, why I mentioned him explicitly. Barry Smith, of the Blackhawks was a former coach with SKA, he even had a video with SKA being treated a like a guest of honour almost an entire year before Panarin was signed. I wrote a piece on it here, but the Blackhawks had a clear inside track onto Panarin. On the other hand, Soshinkov as acquired by the same sort of means. with the NHL and KHL upper management too busy slap fighting, this low level grey area can thrive. Vegas lacks two things in this regard: No Historical precedent with dealing with Russia (That has always played in Montreal’s favour for better or worse) but consequence lacks direct insider routes. I bring this up and explain this because interestingly, Shipachyov as the only one of the lot who had no ties and most of the teams with links had begun to move away from him. It’s important to know that Dadonov, Gusev, Rykov, Yudin, Degrachyov, Shesteryorkin (All former/current SKA players0 have had their links to the NHL kept and been constantly hammered, in Gusev’s case, even after their rights have been expired. While Vegas is stuffed in this regard, I place this another bit of context while it was Vegas that would be the one to receive the bomb. They were at this point in time, the perfect match for each other.

Lastly, there is a term you might see come up called a "base club", this a controversial term in the KHL but it’s becoming (sadly) more accepted. This means that there are one or two clubs in the KHL that are just a front (Or base) for Team Russia. It’s not much but if you ever wonder why Znarok is doubling as a SHC and Team Russia coach that’s why.

Translation Error

It was my goal after Steve Moses fell out of the NHL to begin working and quantifying exactly the qualities that makes a KHL player good in the NHL (Panarin) or a NHL player not succeeding fully in the KHL (Syomin to an extent). I began looking at certain properties that differentiated similar scoring players. Sadly, without any consistency in measuring between he leagues and in between teams, this became very hard to pinpoint number ones, but there was a way you do it via video and shift tracking incidentally, a recent piece came up on this very subject about Shipachyov in the NHL.

In April, after Shipachyov was pretty much getting live I began to look much closer at him in the playoffs and began to have serious doubts about him, something I then again stressed to EOTP. The same sentiment began to repeatedly become to show up from the coach, blog posts and considering NHLE has been really hard at predicting anything, this was becoming more apparent that Shipachyov was losing his steam and hype. Struggling in the Gagarin Playoffs, limping about, getting swept out by CSKA and Radulov hard countering them, then disappearing the next year. It seemed that he was getting punted off the puck too easily, there was hesitation in his shots. I supposed then it was time to go back further.

When I wrote a piece on rebuilding SKA’s lines I began to split Shipachyov away, he was much better than his peers in the KHL, while not the best a clear boundary and compared to the likes of Viktor Tikhonov and Jimmie Ericsson was miles apart in the center. Shipachyov was recording more entries, no dumping, positioned himself nearly always as a screener in front of the goal. His play actually, was much more akin to Pavel Datsuyk in the KHL.

Pavel Datsuyk ended up becoming an accidental added factor this season with it after talking with WiiM about Datsuyk’s role and playing in the NHL compared to the KHL. Surprised at certain clips and goals from Datsyuk and working with WiiM. We see that Datsyuk cantering in the KHL was a vastly different player in different position than in the NHL. He had "Adapted" going the opposite way and took much more of a Shipachyov style. This was the final red flag for me about Shipachyov. If there was such a strong change from Datsyuk in the KHL and one that took months, then it would take a monumental effort to go the other way, especially for someone who lacked any sort of experience with any other league. We were not looking at a Patrick Thorsten here at al. Alongside this, I found a back up of old charts from my original tumblr (That got eaten), with it I found a similar thing. Low shot rates (Shipchyov was constantly bottom 3 most shifts), high assists but made everyone on his line better. Take this chart for example when I was talking about what to do when Ercisson left. Nobody could replicate on Kovalchuk the same effect Shipachyov had, that is unless you are Pavel Datsyuk. This means he could dominate in the KHL but translating it to the NHL? He’d have to be paired with a high volume shot producer and another big body. This specific, he simply didn’t have size or strength or ice space to be able to hold the puck for longer periods of time.

Expectations and Stories.

Shipachyov was a curious case where him going to the NHL wasn’t too much of an explosion of a story at first. Most of the fanfare came from the numbers, but he did carry a small little flag on his back. All three of the PanDaShip line are stories from different angles. Each one of them return to the NHL in different ways and carried a story with them that were filled with hope. These stories were important percent not only for Russia, but the KHL-NHL relationship and potentional players.

Panarin came from the joke-to-the-league team in Vitjaz. While they have changed radically the last two seasons, beforehand they were know for taking up North American goons and fighting. Panarin was just as much of a dirty rat then. Undrafted because of being buried under such a team, he worked his way through Vitjaz and into SKA then eventually t the NHL. Him winning the Calder was an important symbol not only of the KHL "dream" almost but also for those who were undrafted.

Dadonov was a NHL drop out that worked his way back into the NHL. From falling out of the Carolina and Panther teams despite getting a couple goals, returned to Russia, made a huge name for himself as Donbass while I wish his trip to SKA was under better conditions he did push and help make that line. Even years ago, with Lwos I wrote about the significance of Dadonov on the PanDaShip line. He was a sign that even you bugger up, you can still work your back up and eventually it paid off.

You can see then why Shipachyov carried the flag then go and be center version of it, to complete the line and show that native players who were undersized could work their way up and into the NHL via the KHL without the need for drafting. He was at least to some degree meant to break the stereotype and while people on this side were hesitant, there was a spot of Shipachyov to complete the line. He had people rooting for him and he was "meant" to make both SKA, Team Russia and the KHL proud. It was the same onus that Radulov had on his return to the NHL. Correct the past, show there is such a thing a as second chance and make the KHL very much proud. If the PanDaShip line succeeded it would be a monumental achievement for both leagues in trust, acknowledgement, money, case studies and even analytics considering each of them played on the same team in the KHL.

Hype Train's American Tour

I fell out of the NHL for a long while and only really hung about occasionally din things for SBN, so when I heard the news that Vegas had signed Shipachyov, I was taken aback but found it unsurprising that the "bomb" had made to the expansion team. With a ridiculous contract (I wrote here that Viktor Tikhonov was being over paid, so you can imagine how much I chuckled at Shipachyov’s contract) and while it made sense for both parties, Shipachyov would get the time and money on a one way, McPhee would get loyalty and perhaps a long term player/asset. As overpaid as it was, this was an expansion team and loyalty does come at a price in the NHL. Be it in tanking a team like Brodeur or being overpaid to hell like the Blackhawks.

What did surprise me was when I started reading North American articles. While the Russian side was more so confused about the number than anything, the North American articles began to explode. Dropping NHLE randomly, I came over to check out Knights on Ice and I hear on the podcast first line center. This seemed…very much confusing to me. Somehow Shipachyov had managed to evolve on the hype train into this massive first line NHL center. Of course, I don’t blame the North American media entirely for this, it’s not like there wasn’t precedent. SKA has given the NHL Tarasenko and Panarin, so a big name KHL player started to have some sort of worthwhile weight in North America, but as I said in my original comment, there will be a dividing line apparent between those that know and those that don’t. In this case, instead of stemming the flames like the Blackhawks did with Tikhonov, the hype train just kept going. This makes the crash and disappointment far worse and makes the blame to be shared much greater, but this what I see is missing from most articles discussion the conclusion of Shipachyov. They miss this key part that Shipachyov’s bar was high with 0 precedent for it. In fact, because he was a center too, the bar should have been so low you could trip over it. This is the thing that I think is missing from a lot of final thoughts piece and while I did put above that official SKA sources are just as less trustworthy than any other, there was something Shipachyov did put in. There was a lot of media fanfare around him, and he noticed it, he noticed it dearly. As a player who doesn’t like talking to the media usually and noted for having little fits at them, you can see why it was odd to him. I don’t think the North America media lied to their fans, never attest to malice what could be explained by ignorance. There was simply not enough understanding and knowledge of how players work between the leagues, or any sort of effective discourse on the matter at all. Frankly, it’s going to be a long time before we get another person like Shipachyov to come over and give us the data to help play around more.

The latter reporting on the Shipachyov saga has been disastrous at best. From unfounded rumours about his health and character to fake twitter reports of him having an issue with the team. I’ve worked hard with KoI to translate actual interviews form Shipachyov and people in his camp that have been against said things. He speaks of working on face off with team members and saying he had no issue with McPhee and the first wavering after it was explained it to him. However never did I see his direct comments pop up the articles attacking him repeatedly. There was constant misinformation and even vague stats dropped on. In his most recent side interview he struggled with North American on repeated occasions and while it’s not as extreme as he put it in the SKA interview, he obviously was fully aware of the incorrect North American rumours that were going about. He did an official NHL interview clarifying said things and said he begun to make good friends with Tuch. He was for the most part happy with Vegas, until the second wavering. Shipachyov wasn’t a disappointment, it’s just his bar was placed far too high than he could ever reach. There has been repeated miscommunication at every single level and it is frustrating the media dodging their own bullet and placing the onus against Shipachyov or the KHL.

And remember guys, keeping up the KHL-NHL ignorance at a media level helps noone, neither the players not the fans. From outright damage control, to lying. It benefits only the front offices.

The Future and Thoughts

This leads me onto what this whole incident actually means to both sides. Shipachyov in the NHL didn’t have to high for expectation outside of the NHL. The eyes were much more on Evgeni Dadonov on the SKA side, but it’s another dent in what was very good progress and a much more beautiful relationship forming. There’s been much more open sharing of resources and knowledge between the leagues and a much more careful look. It’s only been the past couple seasons that I see commentators talking about the KHL directly and about club names directly. However, there are so many red lights that the hole Shipachyov case does light up, I shall phrase them in questions.

What should be the leniency when giving European players time to adjust? Depending on who you ask, it seems most people are split on wherever Shipachyov got a fair shake or not. We’ve had Buchsenvich (Former SKA player) and Panarin. I am much more in agreement with Ilya Bryzgalov of all people on this issue, while it wasn’t a fair shake, there wasn’t a lot of malice against Shipachyov at all, but a issue with conflicting systems. Perhaps there as a misunderstanding of the type of player too that came over.

Will this sour relationship or GM’s trusts in the KHL? I place this question here because I’ve seen a couple snaps on twitter and such about this, the answer is no. There is more to this case that is more on both the GM and the player faults than anything against either league. In truth, I don’t think Shipachyov’s case brings much to anything as a case study wise. It’s not the best warning against signing untried Europeans, he never got enough of a shake like Jiri Sekac did. It’s not much of a case for testing a player or even for how much you sign a KHL layer for because as mentioned before it was a delicate expansion team’s situation. If anything him returning too early has lose us some really valuable data.

Was Shipachyov overeacting? Probably, I don’t know and it’s hard to say. We have reports even before SKA’s release of him that there was something else going on the scenes. He also explained in a previous interview liked above that he was close to the where the Vegas shooting happened and it spooked his family. Combine that with his unhappiness with the media alongside poor communication, another attack and then the second waivering while McPhee bus-threw him it’s understanding that Shipachyov had a less than stellar view of North America. As he said in his the alternative interview, he just wanted to play hockey there. In the end he got a game and a goal. That’s all he needed to close the door. He happened to come at a bad time and bad place in a wrong system. At least to me, it’s understandable why he wanted to just leave without having the character assassination go about. His wife didn’t speak English, he has kids, he barely speaks English. There’s personal issues there too.

Was it in Shipachyov’s best interest to return, and then to return SKA? This, I cannot say on a personal but on a money and play level, probably not. Znarok was not keen on taking him back to SKA, Servestal had wanted to sign him instead and even prepared a jersey for him, he was warned with SKA that he would be a fraction of his previous contract (Because of the cap issues SKA currently has Hell even the Karja would be a stress since Znarok had come down on players like Kovalchuk for not meeting his standard. We shall see when he plays but the fanbase is wary of him, he’s making barely 500k and he’s got a grumpy coach. Is the Olympics worth it? Perhaps that why he returned to SKA despite everything, it is the base club. It’s always the base club.

Closing Thoughts

I’ve harboured on the media a lot on this but that’s simply because I think it’s a major part that has played in it that’s dodging part of the bullet in this mess. There’s so many layers to this story and I hands down believe there are too many simplifications being thrown around between the fans, media and the front office. Of course, the "e" word will always hang over this case but it really is a case study that has a little worth if any at all. Please though, the tone of discussion needs to change, it is has been blown far out of proportion and to hate on Shipachyov o the K directly is misguided. On the other hand, doing bad things to a GM’s banana tiramisu is also a terrible idea. This is a growing pain, if anything of both the VGK, and the leagues slowly becoming much more closer together. Last season we had the biggest numbers of AHlers coming and big names going over. It’s a wonderful system we are working towards and we should take few lessons from this. A player might be like a nut. The analytics and numbers might be the core we digest but it’s the shell that grows and protects it. There’s way to much around this story that will, knowing Shipachyov will probably it will wither never come or be damage control on both sides.

It's all a little anticlimactic, isn't it?

Until next time, your dearest weeaboo Cirno. My DMs are always open on twitter and my email is on my SBN profile. I can always be reached for anything. Love you guys.