Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Runaway Lokomotiv

Evgeny Artyukhin (#76), Lokomotiv Yaroslavl

When Evgeny Artyukhin spurned the Tampa Bay Lightning to sign with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl of the Russian Super League last August, Tampa GM Jay Feaster had some harsh words for Artyukhin ("A joke... as far as we're concerned, this decision spits right in our face.").

However, Damian Cristodero revisited Artyukhin's story in yesterday's St. Petersburg Times, and writes that Feaster is willing to giving his former player another chance:

General manager Jay Feaster said he likely will begin negotiations this summer to bring Artyukhin, playing in Russia, back to the Lightning. It is noteworthy not only because Tampa Bay could use the rugged 6-foot-4, 255-pound freight train, but because he and the team split in August with such rancor.

"We'd like to have him back," Feaster said. "We think we'd be in better shape if we had that physical element. He certainly is more than welcome. It's just a matter of getting a deal done."

Artyukhin's upside doesn't hurt. A terrific skater, his big body and enormous strength are perfect for clogging the slot and distracting goaltenders.

"I played with him three years and every year he got better and better," Lightning forward Ryan Craig said. "He's well coordinated and he skates so well, when he hits you, you're not going to stay in the same place."

Artyukhin, 23, has had a tough go in Russia. He began on the fourth line and had just four goals and 12 points in his first 39 games.

His punishing style caused more grief. There are stories of Artyukhin shattering glass with his checks, and he was suspended from the Karjala Cup for what was deemed rough play.

His 159 penalty minutes led the league.

"The new rules in the NHL and Super League are like black and white," Artyukhin said in an article posted on "Physical play is welcomed there while here, any collision is a penalty. ... They penalize me for everything and the lack of body checks takes away from hockey."

Here's more from Evgeny Artyukin, taken from the Nov. 7th Russian Prospects article (translated from its original source, Soviet Sport) referenced above:

"I grew up in Russia so when Lokomotiv invited me, I gladly returned home after four years in America.

...I don’t understand such bias from the referees towards me. Yeah, I’m big and tall, but where is the crime in that?! I’m used to finishing checks and it’s not my fault that the opponent is smaller than me. The opposition is often simply not ready for a physical collision but you have to always be focused and not relax when you're on the ice.

(Tampa coach) John Tortorella welcomed physical play, and showed confidence in me by putting me on the first or second line sometimes. My game improved under him.

I am definitely planning to continue my NHL career. I returned to Russia because in the NHL, they demand rather than teach. I will play here for a year and hope that Nikolai Borshevsky (Lokomotiv coach) will teach me some things that I haven’t learned yet. Borshevsky didn’t explain anything about being on the fourth line, but I’m not upset at him.

Here are videos of two of Artyukhin's four goals so far this season-- the first one, on a breakaway, was Lokomotiv's lone goal in a 1-1 tie against Severstal Cherepovets on 12/21/06.

The next video is of the coast-to-coast goal that Artyukhin mentions in the Russian Prospects interview-- Lokomotiv's third goal in a 3-2 win against Severstal on Oct 12th '06: