Is It Now Trade Kuznetsov Regardless Of How He Plays?

Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

Lets just get what needs to be said out of the way early. Evgeny Kuznetsov has been a pretty big headache for the Washington Capitals for too many years now. He’s a player with all of the talent you could ever wish to have, but rarely capitalizes on it. He’s someone who I honestly think could be considered a top ten player in hockey if he only used his talent and had the motivation to be one of the worlds very best.

There are so, so, so many games where you watch the Washington Capitals and you can easily notice Alex Ovechkin. You see Nicklas Backstrom. T.J. Oshie gives almost everything he has seemingly every night. And so on. But where is Kuznetsov? He is out there. He is on the ice. But he is incredibly unnoticeable. That simply cannot happen from a guy who should be a top six, or a first line center. It also cannot be done to a team that has the aspirations that the Capitals have.

The Caps apparently got tired of their headache and after several years of down play, they explored trading Kuznetsov. They even apparently got close to a deal with the Nashville Predators. The trade to Nashville, or anywhere, never happened and here we are. Training camp has started, the start of the regular season is not far off and Kuznetsov is still a member of the Capitals.

Maybe I’m dumb for this belief, but I was under the impression that it was still very possible Kuznetsov would be a Capital for a long time. If he came out and had a good season, showed he could be consistent and a star player once again, everything would be well. The Caps and Kuznetsov would once again hold hands and be prancing through a field of flowers with no problems.

Now, I tend to think the Capitals need to trade Kuznetsov regardless of how he plays. By now we’ve all likely heard what this guy has said. 

I am all for players speaking up. The hockey world tends to be too robotic, at least in my opinion. Get a question, give the cliche answer, rinse and repeat. There’s very little personality, and the game is not as fun to follow off the playing surface as it is on. Say like the NFL or the NBA.

However, there is at least one thing that needs to be talked about when discussing what Kuznetsov said in that interview.

It’s one thing to not get along with a coach. That happens a ton in sports. A coach wants the team or a player to do one thing, the player is not one hundred percent on board and rifts start. Kuznetsov seemed to blame Laviolette for his and the teams issues. Fair enough.

My first response to that would be, the team had a couple of good seasons under Laviolette. They tied for first place in 20-21, they then had a one hundred point season in a stacked eastern conference the next season.

Kuznetsov did not have good seasons under Laviolette, but he did have a very good start to the 21-22 season. He was flying again to start that season. The bad effort he gave in past seasons was gone and he was making a difference again. Then the effort level fell again and we go back to square one with this guy.

That goes to the other argument I’d make. If you want to place some blame on the head coach on your performance, what is his excuse for his AND the teams lackluster play under Todd Reirden?

Under Reirden Kuznetsov had 21 goals and 72 points in 76 games played, then the next season had 19 goals and just 52 points in 63 games played. Fine numbers, but not as good as you need from a top line center with the talent he has.

Not to mention, under Reirden the Capitals had one major issue. The team always seemed to get outworked. Those were talented Capitals teams. Those teams would dominate a game for 15-25 minutes a game, overwhelm teams in that time, then hold on for wins, or make a comeback if they were down. Then when they played great teams, especially in the playoffs, they got badly outworked and promptly disposed of early in the playoffs. This is because you cannot decide to work hard for small portions of games against Cup caliber teams.

Was that Laviolette’s fault as well? Did Kuznetsov know the Caps were going to hire him so therefore put up bad efforts before he even got to Washington?

I’ve asked this for a little while now. How many bad results do you need to see before you stop looking behind the bench and start looking at the players? The Capitals have failed two head coaches now, one who has had a lot of NHL success. They have wasted five years. With not many years left for this Caps core, five years feels, and is, massive.

Kuznetsov said other things in this interview as well. Among them he discusses the NHLPA not being there for him after his drug suspension. Well, there is an easy solution to that. Like not doing the thing that got him into trouble. Again seemingly blaming others for his problem.

He also called his teammate a fool for re-signing in Washington when there was a chance that he could get buried in the lineup. Again, fair enough. He honestly is probably correct on this point. But perhaps his teammate wants to work to make the lineup? Maybe he wants to put forth an effort to earn his spot on the team that drafted him?

Now not only is Kuznetsov putting a potentially bad spotlight on himself, now he has put one on his friend and teammate. A guy who has yet to do anything in the NHL. Nice work there!

Kuznetsov was also apparently disappointed that the Capitals traded away another friend Dmitry Orlov. Well, if the team, and yourself did not play well, trading away players and friends is going to happen. The team only has themselves to blame there once again. The line to remember from this comment is how he says something along the lines of, the team is seemingly only wanting to keep they guys who don’t want to be here anymore (meaning himself) and trading guys who want to stay. I mean, wow!

Like I said earlier, I thought there was a clear path for Kuznetsov to remain in Washington for a long time to come. Now, with these comments, I think you trade him regardless of how he plays.

The problem is this, and the 32 Thoughts podcast said this as well. I recommend you give that a listen. With these comments, if Kuznetsov still wants to be traded, he just made it even harder for that to happen.

He has a higher cap hit. He has underperformed a lot. Some of these comments basically say “you need to play the way I want or you’re not going to get my best” which is not the way team sports really works. He has called out former coaches and called teammates fools. If I’m another team, why in the world do I want to deal with this stuff?

Why do the Capitals want to deal with this stuff any longer? It sounds as if the Caps have not been able to find a trade and are more or less stuck with this issue.

I think it is past time the Capitals and Evgeny Kuznetsov part ways. I thought if he played well this season then there was a way he could potentially be a Capital for life. Now, maybe it’s best that if he plays well you trade him for whatever you can get and move on.

Enough of these headaches. Enough of asking “what Kuznetsov are we going to get this season?” or even “what Kuznetsov are we going to get tonight?”.

Trending. Elliotte Friedman on Evgeny Kuznetsov tell all interview: “I don’t think Washington is very happy at all”. light

It’s been tough watching this player for a bunch of years now. This is a really, really big season for him and the team. If he plays well, maybe there still is a way forward for him to stay. If not, trade him anyway. If he once again does not play well, for the third head coach in a row? Oh boy!