Spals: "you've been gone so long I almost didn't recognize you."
In the latest edition of the Hippodrome, which has carved out a niche as the definitive all-encompassing survey of the Nashville sporting world, J.R. Lind notes one of the chief on-ice complaints about Alexander Radulov's behavior; that he took overly-long shifts, a big no-no under Barry Trotz:
On 102.5's Sports Revolution, Poile delineated the reasons why it wasn't going to work. One is that Rads was used to the slower pace of the KHL and he tended to take longer-than-necessary shifts when he came back to the NHL. That's sort of a strange explanation for letting go potentially the best goal-scorer in team history and also makes one wonder about the fate of shift-hog UFA Jordin Tootoo.
While some of the criticism being lobbed Rad's way may be typical "kick him on his way out of town" behavior, having a guy stay out on the ice too long can indeed be a serious problem. It screws up the line combinations, and can quickly breed disruption among teammates. If one player stays out for an extra 10-20 seconds, that deeply cuts into the next player's ice time. The best-case scenario is that the shorted player simply resents the floater - worse yet is the possibility that the 2nd guy will extend his shift too, leading to a cascade effect that can wreak havoc on a team.
But just how long was Radulov cruising around out there? Let's take a look at the facts...
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The following table shows the total ice time (in minutes) for each player on the 2011-2012 Nashville Predators (regular season data only), along with the number of shifts taken, and the average duration in seconds:
|Player||Position||Total Ice Time||Shifts||Avg. Shift|
Sure enough, Radulov sticks out like a sore thumb. Defensemen are normally expected to stay out longer than forwards, but to have Rads right up there with Ryan Suter in ice time per shift is indeed striking. In fact, across all forwards in the NHL this season, Radulov ranked 9th in this category.
Maybe it's his upbringing - despite there only being 15 Russian forwards in the league, 4 of the top 9 "ice hogs" (as J.R. termed them) hail from Mother Russia. While Radulov may indeed have the talent level to consider himself in Kovalchuk or Malkin's class, as a guy coming back to join a team right before the playoffs, he can't just soak up the ice time like that.
So indeed, this criticism sticks like glue, even though it's something that could have perhaps been addressed over time.
But the throwaway snipe at Tootoo at the end of J.R.'s quote? Well, I don't think I buy that one.