Friday, August 31, 2007

Bullis to Russia

I have been trying very hard recently to find something to write about every day, while at the same time not covering the same ground that other bloggers cover, and not doing any season preview stuff (that's coming in September folks, let's finish rosters before we do any preview stuff), I have had to, at times put up things that aren't exactly newsworthy (like former Capitals scrubs signing with division rivals for next to no money).

So when I stumbled across this headline (roughly translated, Bullis signs in Russia) this afternoon, it got the wheels turning a bit.

We are seeing the beginning of a trend with players signing in Russia. It may not seem newsworthy now, but it may become more newsworthy over time, as more NHL players are going to Europe for more money, an easier schedule, or a better role on the team.

In the past, it has been commong for European players to go back to Europe to finish out their careers in front of their home fans, especially among Swedish players. Bengt Gustafsson went back to Sweden at the age of 31, played four more years in the Swedesh Elite League, then went to Austria to play for another 6 years. Yes, Bengt Gustaffson was still playing pro hockey when the Caps went to the finals in 1998. In other instances, players that simply couldn't cut it in the NHL anymore went over to Europe, simply because most top tier leagues across the pond pay more than the AHL.

But this summer, we're starting to see players that are disatisfied with their job prospects in the NHL repatriating back East. First it was Alexei Yashin. Then it was Columbus's Alexander Svitov (who had just signed a contract with Columbus weeks earlier). Then Jamie Heward went to the motherland for double the money. Now it's former Capital draftee Jan Bullis. Despite developing into one of the games better checking line wingers, Jan Bullis has signed with a team in the Russian Super League for more money and a more offensive role, something that Jan Bullis has demanded from his coaches at every stop in his NHL career, but never been granted. (I'm sure there are other examples I'm not mentioning, but you get the point). Europe, with Russia in particular, has become a league in which hockey players from both sides of the globe can go and earn a decent wage, player a shorter schedule than in the NHL, and be treated like kings. It's certainly a step down in terms of prestige in most players eyes, but it'll be interesting to see which way this trend continues over the next few years. Is this a sign that the NHL talent pool is becoming strong? Do I want to drag the expansion argument into this? It's certainly something else I can talk about next week . . .

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