Well, we all saw this coming… even the most diehard SK74 fans. It began even more clear during the lockout, when Sergei Kostitsyn, everyone’s favorite Belorussian, made a name for himself with the KHL’s Avangard Omsk. At the time, it was inspiring to Preds fans watching the struggling talent shine so brightly amongst the KHL; so much so that we all hoped he would bring that momentum back with him when the lockout ended… He didn’t.
SK74 managed to score 27 points in 28 games with Avangard, but only 15 in 46 when the NHL season resumed. Ouch.
Sergei was a force to be reckoned with when he was picked up from the Montreal Canadiens before the 2010-11 season, scoring 23 goals and picking up 27 assists in that season alone. But after that season, everything seemed to fall apart for the young Kostitsyn, with the 2011-12 season producing a lesser, but still good, 17 goals and 26 assists. This past season? An embarrassing three goals and twelve assists. Ouch again.
During the 2011-12 season, the Preds tried to bolster SK74’s momentum by bringing his older brother, Andrei on board, picking him up before the trade deadline from Montreal. Unfortunately, the plan backfired and trouble between the Kostitsyn brothers and Alexander Radulov resulted in Andrei and Radulov’s dismissal from the team. Understandably, that left a bad taste in Sergei’s mouth.
And again, when he went to the KHL during the lockout this past season, it was another sign that SK74 felt more comfortable amongst more common fellows. It couldn’t have been more clear as to how truly comfortable he was with Avangard and, for the Predators, that wasn’t a good sign for the future of SK74 with Nashville.
The GM of Avangard Omsk offered Sergei Kostitsyn a contract this past week, wishing him to return to the Alexander Frolov and Dmitry Semin line that worked so well together. Apparently, by the stats, it worked 10 times better than the SK74-Fisher-Erat line. Preds GM David Poile has been quoted has saying he would have “no objection” for allowing SK74 to return to the KHL.
The question in the coming day is, will David Poile risk one of two Compliance Buyouts to keep the struggling Belarussian or will he let Sergei go after this year? Also, there is the possibility that SK74 pulls an Alexander Radulov and runs off before his contract ends.
The truly sad thing is, even though he is given a lot of grief for his terrible performances and his huge mistakes (A.K.A. the infamous “quit” moment), Sergei Kostitsyn has a ton of talent that, for some reason or another, cannot be displayed. And that goes for any NHL team, not just the Predators. He struggled with behavioral and accountability issues while with Montreal and he would do it again with any other NHL team that gave him a chance.
Could it be he is more like Radulov in the sense that, in the KHL, rules are different and life is a little bit less strict for a player? I believe it is a mixture of that and the comfort level he feels being back in a more familiar role, surrounded by people who all speak the same language and there really isn’t a barrier for him to get stuck behind. Unlike his fellow non-American teammates, like Pekka Rinne and Patric Hornqvist, SK74 has not clung to English very well and is not comfortable with ten mics thrown in his face. However, interviews seem to come naturally to him when they are in Belarussian or Russian, two languages he is comfortable relaying information in.
You can’t hate the kid for wanting to return to something familiar and somewhere he excels. He’s given the NHL his best shot and, unfortunately for the few SK74 fans other there, it wasn’t his best. As long as he doesn’t jump ship like Radulov, we won’t turn our backs on SK. We’d like him give it all he’s got this last season because, even if Nashville offers him an extension, I believe this is our last season with Sergei Kostitsyn in the Predators gold.