Sergei Kostitsyn: 2013 Season Review

Jeff Gross

Sergei Kostitsyn has been quite the make-over project for the Preds since David Poile acquired him in the 2010-2011 season, and has shimmied up and down the "Appreciated Scale" over the last few years. After a strong first season and a slightly less-productive second season, let's see how he did during his third season as a Predator.

To me, Sergei Kostitsyn seem a bit like this year’s Kevin Klein. Some people liked him, some people couldn't stand him, but neither faction could ignore his rather Jekyll/Hyde-ian play. In Sergei's first year as a Predator (2010-2011), he came out of pretty much nowhere and lead the team in scoring (77GP-23-27-50) with a 0.64 p/g average. It was exciting and many fans had high hopes for the young Belorussian. His second year was a bit less productive (75GP-17-26-43), with a 0.57 p/g average, but he certainly wasn't terrible. This year, he ended the season in a remarkably less noticeable way (46GP-3-12-15), with a 0.32 p/g average. Wah-wah. Let's see what happened.


Sergei Kostitsyn

#74 / Left Wing / Nashville Predators

6-0

196

Mar 20, 1987

G A P +/- PIM
2012 - Sergei Kostitsyn 3 12 15 -5 11

Last year, Kostitsyn rounded up the season on a relatively good note. He was focused, he was pretty productive, and he was pretty reliable. This year, he made more noticeable mistakes in the defensive zone, seemed more hesitant in the offensive zone, and was even LESS likely to shoot the puck than he was last year (ARGH!). Backchecking was a big problem. I can’t remember how many times this year I watched a replay of a goal against only to see him floating in or around the blue line, kinda near his man, but not actually close enough to influence the play. Then there was the game against Edmonton where he completely abandoned his backcheck and got off the ice, mid-opponent-rush.

Sergei Kostitsyn gives up, lets Oilers score (via MegalodonBOC)

This forced Roman Josi out onto the ice and assigned to him the completely hopeless task of covering Sergei’s man. Amazingly, he couldn't get there and Edmonton scored. That one still burns. (Side note: There's etiquette for +/- stuff like this, and here's an article explaining it. I know this is a special teams goal, but it's still a really interesting read.) Anyway, I don’t know what to attribute the above play to. There exists this odd, xenophobic stereotype that Russian players are lazy and don't care and won't go the extra mile and etc., and I want to squash that train of thought before it even comes up. After watching Sergei's first two seasons here, we know how hard he works and how dedicated he is to the game. Whatever his problem is, I for one do not believe that is has anything to do with Sergei Kostitsyn being lazy. I think there are two explanations for his poor backchecking.

First, it might be carry-over from the lockout. For the last few months of 2012, Sergei played in the KHL for Avangard Omsk, which is based in Siberia. This is the same team that is currently courting him back to the KHL. I'm not familiar with the specifics of the style of play in the KHL, but I have played on international-sized ice before, and it does force you to play the game in a very different way. I read many stories about players who struggled to re-adjust to the NHL when the lockout ended, so his exaggerated backchecking issues could very well be rooted in the several months he spent over in Russia.

Second, it might be a reversion to old habits. Sergei grew up playing on different ice and playing a different style of hockey than we see in the NHL. I didn't watch Sergei when he played for Montreal, but if whoever the coach in Montreal was at the time that he was playing there didn't take the time to work that kink out of Sergei's play, then it has been up to Barry Trotz and Co. to do so. Sergei's only been here 3 years, and old habits die hard. Everyone has experienced this at some point in their lives. When the poop hits the fan, it's easier to do what you've always done than to keep practicing new habits. New habits require extra attention, focus, and concentration. This was not a good year for the Predators. We really sucked. We had lots of injuries. We didn't have much power up front. We had most of Milwaukee down here at one point. The metaphorical poop hit the fan, and the literal bad habits came back. (Maybe. I don't know.)

In any case, I think this was a weird year for Sergei. He ticked me off just as much as anyone at times this year, but I'm not ready to give up on him yet. I'm not going to cry if he leaves for the KHL, but I do think we will notice his absence more than people seem to think we will. Despite his infuriating lack of interest in shooting the puck, he is quite a good playmaker and he can move the puck very well. I'm not ready to see him go quite yet. Remember... he certainly wasn't the only Pred who sucked this year. It's difficult to play well when everyone else around you is playing terribly. David Poile appears to have no problem with Sergei leaving, if he ends up doing so. Poile already has a lot riding on his shoulders this summer, but if Sergei takes off, Poile will need to replace him with an equal or more capable player to keep me happy.

Yearly Grade: C to C-

Fancy Stats

5-on-5 Usage
EV TOI/Gm OZ % QoT QoC
13:45 51.1 -0.79 +0.74
Individual Team Metrics
5-5 Shots/60 5-5 Pts/60 Corsi On Corsi Rel
2.91 1.04 -2.08 +4.80
Power Play Penalty Kill
PP TOI/Gm 5-4 GF On/60 5-4 Pts/60 PK TOI/Gm 4-5 GA On/60
1:43 8.04 2.41 1:14 12.09
Penalty Plus/Minus Favor of the Hockey Gods
Taken Drawn On-Ice Sht% On-Ice Sv% PDO
0.3 0.6 8.05 904 984
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