Monday, December 12, 2011

Filatov Gets The Boot In Ottawa

Let’s just say there was plenty of warning signals for those who could get past the initial excitement of the Senators adding a former highly touted first round pick for a mere third rounder.

Back in the summer, word leaked out that Nikita Filatov was claiming he was promised top-six minutes by GM Bryan Murray. Uh oh.

Not only did that “promise” go unfulfilled, but Nikita Filatov was back on a plane today to Russia to finish the year in the KHL and it’s not even Christmas yet.

So where did it all go wrong?

Some would say it went wrong all the way back in Columbus where Filatov cemented his reputation (fair or not) as a petulant, offense-only winger who wouldn’t take coaching instructions. Optimists said it sounded like a hundred other prospects who eventually turned their games and attitudes around to have long careers. Pessimists rejoiced in the leaked “Filly don’t do rebounds” story that surfaced not long ago and it seemed the entire fanbase was at odds with one another over whether Filatov wasn’t being given a chance to succeed under Paul MacLean and those who felt he had to earn his chance by playing in the AHL or with spot duty on the bottom two lines.

Today we know which side will be thumping their chests.

But even with Filatov gone, many questions remain. He may not be done in Ottawa just yet. The Senators “assigned” him to the KHL which indicates they retain his rights. All the Senators have to do is submit a qualifying offer in the summer and we could potentially see the circus return next September (as long as a new CBA is hammered out in the meantime).

Fans are also left wondering what would have happened had MacLean given Filatov just a few more games in the lineup to so he could get that one goal that might spark a return of confidence. With Filatov’s stay cut so abruptly, it may feel to some like an experiment that never had a chance to play out properly.

Filatov played a total of 9 games spread out over a couple of months: 3 games in October but the first two were on back to back nights to open the season and the last was at the end of the month. He played 5 games in November, again with the first 3 at the beginning of the month and 2 at the end. His final game was against Dallas on December 1 where he had his only minus game of the 9 total. His highest ice-time total in those 9 games was 15:07 on November 27 against Carolina (where he was +1) and his lowest TOI was only two nights later against Winnipeg at 3:30 which was artificially low because he took a skate boot to the face and had to leave the game. But Filatov also posted individual game ice-times 5:16, 6:34, 7:18 and 8:51 in four consecutive games from October 30-November 5 that weren’t affected by injury.

Looking at those ice-times, you can see why many people feel he didn’t get a proper look. But some will point to the fact that in 9 games, Filatov ended up with a single assist and that came in his first game. And this is on a team where many third and fourth liners are contributing on the scoresheet as well as playing a complete defensive game in limited ice-time, neither of which Filatov can claim to have done.

In the end, it looks like this saga came down to one thing: Paul MacLean felt Ottawa had a better chance to win with Filatov out of the lineup instead of in it. That’s pretty much all there is to say. Perhaps there were issues with his work habits in practice or maybe some other intangible thing that fans don’t see in games. So much goes on behind closed doors that fans are left to speculate on scraps of information that may be misinterpreted without the whole context behind them.

Quite likely, and this is just an educated guess, Paul MacLean has no time for incomplete players. Look at the system in Detroit that he came from. All of their offensive guys played the game both ways. Then look at Ottawa and notice that David Rundblad has been scratched from time to time because of his weak defensive play, despite the fact that he can create offense. Filatov, despite skating well on the backcheck in the games he did play, didn’t seem to be contributing in either area.

While we may not have heard the last of Filatov in Ottawa (although I suspect we have), it will be a debate that goes on for some time, but in the end it’s just that – debate.

Paul MacLean and Bryan Murray have the final word in all these things and they spoke rather clearly today with the departure of Filatov.


Anonymous said...

It's kinda funny because if you go back to many of the comments around the blogosphere when Filatov was acquired, it was almost unanimous that Filatov was not a third or fourth liner. Many saw him as a guy that needed a top 6 role in order to prove his worth.

If you look at his minutes, he got bottom 6 minutes for the most part.

It's hard to believe that on a team that is rebuilding that we can't find a spot for a guy that's so talented.

I wonder if things would have been different if he was recalled from the AHL after Zbad was sent home. Maybe his agents wouldn't have issued the KHL ultimatum if Filly was making NHL money. The Sens could have had Filly as a healthy scratch, like they treated Butler, rather than have him earning 70K in the AHL.

They could have still played the "earn your spot" game, and it would have avoided the black cloud that came when he forced the call up.

It's all hindsight, but it's not far fetched given the fact that he bolted for the KHL in Columbus as well.

Best case is that he tears it up in the KHL, and we see him back at training camp next year.

Anonymous said...

Saw this coming a mile away and I'm not even a GM. The warning signs were visible a mile away. If that 3rd round pick scores even a handful of points at the NHL level this will be another wasted asset by Murray.

Oh well, carry on Bryam...not like there is any media or fanbase or owner to hold you accountable...