#2 It’s put up or shut up for Evgeny Kuznetsov
By now you’ve probably heard about Evgeny Kuznetsov’s Russian language interview. In case you haven’t we’ll break it down. He ripped former Capitals coach Peter Laviolette. He called his teammate and fellow countryman Alex Alexeyev a fool for thinking he’d be the sixth defenseman. That was just part of it.
He also criticized the NHLPA for their handling of his suspension in 2019 over illegal drug use. In addition, he said the following about the Dmitry Orlov trade, “It seems like those who want to be here are kicked out while those that don’t are left behind.”
Kuznetsov is still in the lineup for tonight’s game but now this season is a prove it season. You can’t say all that and not back it up with your game. If he struggles even the slightest it could run him out of town.
If he has a bounce back season, which he is certainly capable of if Spencer Carbery “fits the style”, maybe the relationship is restored between player and team. If it isn’t, boom, there’s your trade value going up.
A bounce back season is easy on paper but hard to see until we see it. Everyone knows what Kuznetsov can do at his best, which hasn’t happened since the 2017 18 season. That year saw Kuznetsov score 27 goals and 56 assists for 83 points in the regular season.
We all knew what happened in the playoffs and it was more than just that game winner that knocked off the Penguins. That spring saw him lead the team in assists with 20 and points with 32 while adding 12 goals.
Those are the types of numbers his teammates and fans alike want to see from Kuznetsov. Can he do it remains to be seen. Last season was mid where he had just 12 goals and 43 assists for 55 points.