The Curious Case of Alexander Radulov

This morning in The Tennessean, columnist David Climer delved into the question of whether Alexander Radulov would be welcomed back by his teammates, should David Poile even be able to accomplish a contractual reconciliation with the mercurial Russian sniper.

It's certainly a legitimate issue, particularly in light of captain Jason Arnott's comments:

"I'm sure we'd have to have a lot of talks about it. I don't know if he'd be accepted in the dressing room after what he did."

There are a number of barriers to be overcome before we see Radulov don the "47" Nashville jersey again, but in my humble opinion, the mood of his teammates shouldn't be one of them. This is a case where Arnott needs to demonstrate his value as a leader, by working both sides of the divide for the benefit of the team.

The time for that kind of work isn't now; the first step is for Poile to feel things out with Radulov and his agent, and see what the possibilities are. If he gets Radulov's commitment to return to the NHL, however, it is incumbent on Arnott to gather the rest of the leaders in the locker room (Dumont? Suter? Legwand?) and sit down with Radulov for an open and frank discussion. Simply lay out that if he comes back, he's going to be expected to work hard just like everyone else, and will receive some harsh criticism from the fans, but that the players would support him. Arrange some form of penance that demonstrates Radulov's commitment to move forward (he can carry bags during the preseason, or something), but the focus needs to be on the path forward, not the problems of the past.

There's also more that Poile could do; for instance, bringing a more experienced Russian presence into the organization (Maxim Afinogenov?) to provide some guidance for a young guy who still struggles with his English. Detroit has consistently taken that approach with its young Russian players, with great results.

The bottom line here is that this team needs the skill set that Radulov brings, and even if they wanted to trade him, they're not going to get equivalent value in return, not until he proves himself in NHL action. The best path forward for the Predators is to have a motivated Radulov back in the lineup, and it's the captain's job to make sure the locker room doesn't get in the way of that.

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