Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

One more last chance for Fedor Fedorov

I know nobody likes me, why do we need a holiday to emphasize it?
Fedor Fedorov (#81) playing with Metallurg Mg last year

The less-than-meteoric path of the enigma that is Fedor Fedorov was given frequent coverage here during Fedor's gradual flameout with the Hartford Wolf Pack this season. After trading away Josef Balej in order to bring Fedorov to New York early last October, the Rangers sent Fedor down to the minors, where he eventually played his way out of a job with the Hartford Wolf Pack. Fedor Fedorov now plays with the Syracuse Crunch-- currently in second place in the AHL's North Division, and the farm team of the Columbus Blue Jackets-- which is where the Rangers sent him "on loan" two weeks ago, after supposedly offering Fedorov to any number of teams but finding no takers. In 5 games so far with the Crunch since joining the team in mid-March, Fedorov has one goal and no assists and is at -2 with 8 penalty minutes.

The following is an article that appeared in The Post-Standard, a Syracuse newspaper, shortly after Fedorov joined the Crunch. It does a pretty good job of summarizing Fedor Fedorov's North American career so far, as well as what the prospects are for his future:

It's Time for Fedorov to Put Up -- By Lindsay Kramer

One way or another, Syracuse forward Fedor Fedorov claims he’s pretty much done with the American Hockey League.

His detractors would point out that in terms of production Fedorov long ago left the building, but that’s another story.

The relevant issue for the Crunch these days is that how Fedorov performs in his AHL exit interview will determine where he goes from here. If he plays well, Syracuse benefits and maybe, just maybe, Fedorov gets a chance to play with older brother Sergei in Columbus next year. If Fedor keeps drifting off, he might float until he pulls into a port in Europe.

"I’m sure these guys heard all the bad things about me here," Fedor said. "My main goal here is to come to the rink, work hard, show these guys who I am. I don’t want to let anyone down. I mean, they got me here, right?"

Only after two other organizations threw up their hands since the start of this season. Vancouver, perpetually frustrated by Fedorov’s underachievement, traded him to the New York Rangers at the end of training camp. The Rangers were so unimpressed with his effort in Hartford — 38 games, 17 points — that they loaned him to Columbus for nothing in return.

"This is the perfect period of time for the kid to show us he wants to stay in North America and be a pro player," said Jim Clark, assistant general manager of Columbus. "From our perspective, there is no risk. If he’s not getting the job done, he won’t be in the lineup."

Fedorov, 24,passes the eye test with honors. He is a long 6-foot-4, 217 pounds, and has the strength, stride and reach to play keepaway with the puck. He’s also nimble and elusive for a big man, traits that complement his heavy shot.

But his history of taking shifts off and skating to his own tune have caused the engine to drop out of his career.

There must be millions of people all over the world who never get any love letters... I could be their leader
Fedor Fedorov with Manitoba

In 154 career AHL games with Manitoba and Hartford, Fedorov registered just 37 goals and 45 assists. With the Moose two seasons ago, violations of unspecified team rules led coach Stan Smyl to make him a healthy scratch 10 straight games. He was scratched 12 times with the Wolf Pack this season.

In 18 NHL games, Fedorov has just two assists. He played in Russia last season because he was frustrated in the AHL. He stuck around this season only because he thought the trade to New York gave him a fresh start, a notion that quickly soured.

As a free agent next year, Fedorov said if this year’s return to the league doesn’t pay off in an NHL job, he’ll go back to Europe.

"I’ve been in (pro) systems since I was 20 years old," he said. "I haven’t even got a fair chance yet. I think I’ve done everything they’ve asked me to do to get a chance, to a T."

Hartford coach Jim Schoenfeld said while he didn’t have any personality conflicts with Fedorov, it became time to give minutes to the next wave of prospects.

"I think a difference between a lot of players in the AHL and the NHL is a matter of consistency," Schoenfeld said. "I wouldn’t put Fedor in a category any different than that. His high end is pretty darn high. Now, he has to find a way to play that high-end game consistently."

Fedorov’s immediate future comes down to the little things. He has one goal in his first three games with the Crunch but at some level his points total is secondary. Coach Gary Agnew needs him to win the odd faceoff, backcheck a little and use his at-times dazzling offensive skills to open up the ice for everybody.

"I’m happy with the way he’s played so far," Agnew said. "I’ve always maintained you need to see a player over a period of time to see the true player, so I’m hoping he continues."

I've developed a new philosophy... I only dread one day at a time
Fedorov (81, with his back to the camera) working along the boards for Spartak

Fedorov said he’s encouraged by the role Agnew has laid out for him, indirectly contrasting it to what he perceives as constraints placed on him by previous coaches. Fedor said Sergei told him to keep his mouth shut and enjoy playing for Agnew, who is generally regarded as a players’ coach.

"He said the coach down here is a good coach, he likes players who create," Fedor said. "He said it will be a plus for you. I said, great. When the coach is behind me, trusts me, and lets me play, I’ll do good things on the ice."

Still, Fedor maintains an independent streak. He indicated that the best guiding voice in his head might be his own.

"I have a couple of regrets about this year. But you can’t go back and change," he said without being specific. "I think the only thing (overall) I should’ve done is listen to myself and do what I think was right. I should’ve listened to myself more since I was 19 years old."

The one person whom Fedor clearly opens his ears to is his superstar brother. Clark said Sergei’s presence in the organization could be something of a wild-card variable to motivate Fedor.

"I don’t think it has anything to do with my brother saying, bring this guy over. But I’m sure he mentioned me," Fedor said of the loan. "I’m very proud of my last name. I’m very proud of my brother. I don’t think anything in the universe could change that."

Fedor warms to the notion that a quick turnaround in his game for Syracuse in the next several weeks could create the possibility of a pair of Fedorovs in the Blue Jackets’ lineup next year. There’s much work to be done between now and then, however, and both the Crunch’s schedule and Fedor’s opportunities are heading toward the finish line.

"I don’t want to jump to the next year. But it has crossed my mind," Fedor said. "It’d be great to be in camp with my brother. If I fit in, if they (Columbus) give me a shot, that’d be great. If they don’t, that’s hockey."