1. The Kirill Kabanov Saga Concludes
Kirill Kabanov is touted as one of the premier prospects for the upcoming 2010 NHL Entry Draft. Windsor star Taylor Hall, along with Seguin, Fowler and McFarland are at the top of the class thus far in a draft year that could involve many talented players. However in my pre-season draft rankings, I had Kabanov at the number one spot. Kabanov is an exceptional talent; playing left wing for Sparktak Moscow-2, Kabanov notched 15 goals and 42 points in 24 games. However, in his brief stint in the KHL he was left scoreless. The Russia native did register four goals and 11 points though in seven games in the World Juniors U-18 tournament, which is not too shabby. Kabanov brings an explosive skill set, explosive strides, great passing ability and soft hands; he is the complete offensive package. His only downfall could bethat his emotions sometimes get the best of him and the fact that he takes too many bad penalties, registering 76 PIM’s last season in Russia and 18 more in the U-18’s.
However, the issue with Kabanov has been with the KHL. The right wing southpaw refused to sign a contract with Salavat Yulaev Ufa, the team he was recently traded to. The primary reason being that as of this year, any player who signs a contract with a KHL team has their rights owned by the KHL club until they turn 28. As a top NHL prospect and one who has expressed interest numerous times in crossing overseas, that is not an option for Kabanov. The KHL President Alexander Medvedev had this to say:
“There are no insurmountable barriers to playing hockey in the N.H.L. or any other league,” he said, “but certain conditions must be met — in this case, the payment of compensation.”
This is essentially a transfer fee for crossing the Atlantic to North America, though the issue here is the fact that the rule came into effect this season and before Kabanov had ever officially signed a contract with a KHL club. His rights were traded over the summer by Spartak Moscow, even though he never actually signed a contract binding him to the KHL club under this new rule, and thus he should not require compensation for a transfer going forward.
The issue was ultimately taken to the IIHF to settle, with Kabanov`s other option being the QMJHL Moncton Wildcats, who had selected him 7th overall in the CHL Import Draft. The ruling would affect this summer`s Entry Draft because if the IIHF ruled in favour of Salavat, it would mean Kabanov`s rights would be owned by the KHL franchise until he turns 28, barring a financial payment which may change his draft position. Kabanov wants to go to North America to display his skills in a North American game, and now he might not get that chance. The KHL suspended young Kabanov for three years for this ordeal; the CHL though is an affiliate of the IIHF, along with the KHL, and they evaluated the suspension to determine if it would carry over to the QMJHL.
On October 9th, the IIHF cleared him to play in Moncton; Kabanov has two goals and five points in his first two games since then.
2. Theoren Fleury Revelations
The story that rocked the hockey world this week was retired NHL player's Theoren Fleury revealing the much suspected fact that his former junior coach Graham James sexually abused him when he was sixteen years old. Theoren had some extremely strong statements to say about the incident:
“The direct result of my being abused was that I became a f—ing raging, alcoholic lunatic,” he writes in Playing with Fire, an autobiography to be released this week, and provided in advance to Maclean’s. “[James] destroyed my belief system. The most influential adult in my life at the time was telling me that what I thought was wrong was right.
“I no longer had faith in myself or my own judgment. And when you come down to it, that’s all a person has. Once it’s gone, how do you get it back?”
Fleury and former Bruin Sheldon Kennedy were both sexually abused constantly by James. Fleury writes in the book about James forcing them to sleep at his house, where he thereby molested them, as well as road trips where they were forced to sleep with him.
He never revealed the truth as he felt it would ruin his hockey career and thus lived in fear and anxiety that the truth may suddenly come out and he continutally tried to repress the horrible memories. In order to attempt to ease the pain, Fleury started drinking, doing drugs and gambling and he even considered suicide at one point. He also spent countless nights at strip bars. However, one of the most interesting pieces of information to come out of this revelation was the NHL drug-testing on Fleury. Theoren claimed to put Gatorade samples in his urine, or use his son’s urine to fool the system from the time he signed with the Rangers in 1999. However, he gave thirteen dirty samples to the NHL before he was forced into treatment in 2001. This is the same NHL drug-testing that the league has claimed is the cleanest in North American sports. Even though Fleury’s drugs weren’t performance-enhancers/steroids and more in the form of cocaine and marijuana, the matter of the fact is that the NHL has lost come credibility because of this. Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly has come out and denied this allegation:
“However, we are prepared to say that his general recollection of that time period is factually inaccurate in a number of respects,” Daly told TSN.ca. “We are satisfied that the NHL/NHLPA’s Program for Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health at all times responded appropriately in Mr. Fleury’s treatment.”
In the time frame of the alleged drug testing here’s what Fleury produced:
Season GP G PTS GVT
1999-00 80 15 64 13.0
2000-01 62 30 74 19.0
While the Rangers didn’t succeed in those years, finishing 4th in both seasons, those are pretty impressive numbers that may have impacted another team's season by Fleury contributing against them. The whole issue has no evidence and it may turn into a he-said, she-said debate, but the matter of the fact is that the NHL is going to have to answer a lot of questions about their drug testing system in the coming days.
Fleury has said recently, that he may finally take legal action against James, which may bring closure to one of the most disturbing hockey stories of the past decade.
Corey Pronman is a contributor to Puck Prospectus and runs the statistical hockey site The Hock Project. You can contact him at CPronman@fau.edu.
Corey Pronman is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
You can contact Corey by clicking here or click here to see Corey's other articles.