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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Bon Voyage, Nikita Filatov - by Big Tex

photo: www.faceoff.com

I'm very disappointed to see Nikita Filatov leaving Columbus for Russia and the KHL. Not surprised, mind you, just disappointed. The Blue Jackets have been grooming the kid for stardom, as evidenced by the controversy they created last season with their decision to bring Filatov up from Syracuse to watch Columbus' final push for a playoff berth, rather than playing on a Syracuse team which was also in the playoff hunt. Conventional Wisdom going into this season was that Filatov was ready for the NHL. Apparently, Jackets' Coach Ken Hitchcock didn't think so, as evidenced by multiple healthy scratches and fourth-line minutes for the young Muscovite.

Youth is undoubtedly a factor here. Clearly, Filatov was unhappy with his limited ice time, and the impatience of youth certainly factored in his decision to go to the KHL, where he'll get top-line minutes. Impatience aside, Filatov (unsourced speculation alert: ...and GM Scott Howson, perhaps?) isn't too far in the wrong here: He can only learn so much from the Press Box, and needs to be on the ice in order to achieve his full potential. In order to get the minutes he felt he deserved, however, Filatov needed to embrace The Hitchcock Way, which can be difficult even for North American-born superstars (just ask Mike Modano or Brett Hull).

Instead, the kid has chosen the easy way out. By going to Russia, Filatov will gain confidence and his offensive game will blossom. By not playing for Hitchcock, though, his defensive game will never fully develop. In essence, Filatov could be shortening his career - NHL or KHL - by going this route. Ask yourself this question: Would Mike Modano still be in the NHL if he couldn't center a checking line? Hitch taught Mo the Art of Two-Way Hockey. He could teach young Nikita Filatov, too...if only the kid wanted to learn.

On a related note, I'll be in the arena for the Blue Jackets' next game. Thursday night, I'll be Tweeting as fast as my fat fingers can fly across the oh-so-tiny keys of my Blackjack, as Columbus visits Dallas to kick off a five-game roadie. Follow along @OGAs_BigTex. Whatever happens, I promise I won't Tweet lines from Anchorman (thanks for that, James Mirtle).

Take me back to On Goal Analysis.

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