Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Is someone going to paint Nikolai Korolev on his helmet?

Okay, truth be told, I'm not some Russian boxing legends know-it-all, I searched "famous russian boxer" on Google, and came up with this.

All to say - Ray Emery is the second NHLer, after Jaromir Jagr*, going to Russia. Emery will be playing for Atlant Mytishchi in the Russian Continental League during the 08/09 season (holy shit, SpellCheck hates me for these Russian team names!!!).

I feel for Rayzor, but maybe this move will get his career back on track. He's young, he's undeniably talented, and he can flat-out play. Unfortunately he got more than distracted this year, and the Ottawa media and citizens (though I guess Ottawa media and Citizen are one in the same?) were absolutely merciless when he started fucking about in his personal life without backing it up with solid play on the ice.

I don't know if the pressure of expectations, or just ego, got to him, but this was not the same goaltender that backstopped the defensively-questionable Sens to the Stanley Cup final in 2007. He got a beast of a contract after that season, some would say deservedly, I said (and still say) he was too young for that kind of contract (3 years, $9.5M), then faltered horribly and, after one disaster game and event after another, he got bought out by the Sens.

Russia could do one of two things for Emery. It might save his career, he goes to Russia, starts at Atlant Mytishchi (is the city Atlant, or Mytishchi?) for the next year, regains his reputation and confidence as a goalie, drops the ego, and makes some sort of Hollywood-esque return to the NHL as a last-chance goaltender for a failing team (*ahem* Tampa) where he'll single-handedly take them to the top, with his new appreciation and respect for the game and team spirit**.

It might, of course, ruin him. After arguably the biggest nightmare of a season possible, he's been signed in the Continental League for 1 year at $2M+ (plus bonuses). To put this in perspective - recent free agent goaltender signings:
Jaroslav Halak- 2 year/$1.55M with Montreal
Patrick Lalime - 2 year/$2M with Buffalo
Alex Auld - 2 year/$2M with Ottawa
Olaf Kolzig - 1 year/$1.5M (plus bonuses) with Tampa
Christobal Huet - 4 year/$22.4M ($5.6M/year, only $3M more than Ray) with Chicago
Curtis Joseph - 1 year/$700K with Toronto
Ty Conklin - 1 year/$750K with Detroit
Dan Ellis - 2 year/$3.5M with Nashville

All these guys had better seasons than Ray (even Lalime!), and yet only Huet is being paid more than him. In the list of all these skilled goaltenders, Ray Emery is second on the pay-chart for 2008-2009. His ego is big enough as it is, if he takes his salary the wrong way, continues with his stellar lack of work ethic, and continues to believe he is the shit, he won't be finding his way back to the NHL any time soon. GM's are looking for character guys***, even in the minor leagues, Ray Emery is anything but a character guy.

So, now is the fork in the road, let's see if Rayzor can pull it off. I really, really want to see two things next year though. Firstly - Jagr's highlight reel goal against Emery. Secondly - Emery's brand new mask. Also, how they deal with a flashy, rich black guy in Russia (someone's got to say it).

* Both names linked, as both names link to a different report on Jagr leaving - Mike's near-obituary to Jagr's defection, and Andrew's comparison of Jagr to the great Bobby Hull.
** How's that for a run-on sentence?
*** Note the quote near the end of the story from Buck's GM Terry Ruscowski (yes, that was about as shameless a plug for my own work as I could muster).

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