Who are all these people? Are you talking about Bure and Zhamnov?
In football, personnel decisions related to the country’s top team are surprising without a plus sign. The choice is between a foreigner with no experience of work at an adult level – and a club coach who finished last season at the bottom of the table (9th place), but if he agrees to go to the national team only part-time. Sorry, but this does not sound like a convincing systematic work for the future.
In hockey, the situation is much healthier. Especially when compared to football.
Let’s see who will be working with the national team in the upcoming Olympic season.
First. The headquarters has been reinforced by Pavel Bure, and this is a very strong personnel move. The legendary dozen not only know hockey inside and out. But he is also a huge authority for all star players – from the generation of Ovechkin to the generation of Kaprizov. An immense experience of international matches. Subtle nuances of fighting the most formidable rivals. Obvious talent for staff management work. Let me remind you that in Turin-2006 Russia for the last time passed to the medal round of the Olympics with the participation of all the strongest, for the last time it won Canada in the playoffs of the Winter Games. Then Bure was the general manager of the national team.
Second. Alexey Zhamnov returns to active work with the national team. By the way, even many representatives of the hockey world for some reason were sure that he was no longer working on the main team. So, we explain – no one from the headquarters of Zhamnov removed. The past season was just a creative break that both sides could afford. An increased club load fell on the specialist, it would be simply wrong to distract him and to international absences. After all, you can win the Eurotrip, having run in the youth there, without Zhamnov.
But the Olympics are a completely different matter. Here the vast experience of coaching and managerial activities is literally worth its weight in gold. Zhamnov did an excellent job in the golden Pyeongchang-2018. There is no doubt that he will strengthen the preparation and tournament efficiency of the national team in the upcoming season.
Third. Unlike football, the most experienced general manager of the country is at the head of the hockey headquarters. Everyone is used to scolding Roman Rotenberg, but for some reason they forget that he is in the national team for the seventh season, won two Gagarin Cups and Olympic gold, with him the national hockey has more than two dozen medals of the most prestigious international tournaments. There are simply no hockey managers with a comparable baggage of achievements in today’s Russia. There is nothing to say about the experience of managing the national team incomparable with others. So in the key leadership position – the one who is the strongest at the moment.
Therefore, one should not take Mayorov’s quotes a la “who are all these people in the headquarters?” Bragin, Bure, Zhamnov, Rotenberg – the experience and background of key people speak for themselves. And the respected veteran Mayorov is simply presented in an unsightly light by journalists, engaged in banal juggling of phrases for the sake of hype and catchy headlines.
Why Nikitin is not needed
And, to put a fat point around the discussions about Nikitin’s candidacy. He will not be on the Olympic coaching staff. This whole topic is trite sucked from the finger, provoked by unexpected intra-club decisions of CSKA. It is not even clear who benefits from such a zealous and persistent pushing of the departed Igor Valerievich to the main team. Let everyone who is fired by the KHL clubs “attach” to various national teams from the pages of the media.
Of course, in terms of the scale of coaching, Nikitin is much higher than Butsaev, Zavarukhin, Krikunov and any of the other dismissed colleagues. But again, this does not mean automatic compatibility with today’s national team. There are many more contraindications. Now I will tell you FIVE main reasons why Nikitin cannot be called to the headquarters of the national team. These reasons seem to be on the surface. But for some reason the media do not write about them, they do not ask respected experts about them during interviews and discussions. Manipulating a topic that has arisen out of thin air, convincing arguments from the category “against” are simply hushed up. Well, let’s discuss them.
First. Nikitin played in three playoff finals and “confidently lost” two. Bilyaletdinovskiy “Ak Bars” and Balashikha “Avangard”. Kazan played against CSKA the way the Finns will play against Russia at the Olympics. Hartley’s team played against CSKA the way the Canadians will play against Russia at the Olympics. In both cases, Nikitin’s model crumbled corny, showing complete helplessness against rivals. In 2018, the army team with Kaprizov, Grigorenko, Shumakov, Shalunov, Okulov, Nichushkin and others scored one goal per game. In 2021, they crumbled under power pressure and did not score even five against three. Are these iron, inalienable shortcomings needed by the Russian national team at the main tournament of the four-year period?
Nikitin’s tactical achievements make it possible to confidently defeat only those who are of a lower class in composition. But in order to “sit out” in defense of a less skilled team, you don’t need a lot of talent. With hockey, which has been introduced to CSKA in recent years, it is good to go up against petrochemists in the Kahaelov arena and Slovenia at the international level. But Russia will smash the conditional Slovenia at the Olympics even without Nikitin.
Second. Follows from the previous argument. Hockey according to Nikitin is incompatible with the style that has been introduced into the vertical of national teams for several years. Incompatible neither strategically nor creatively, neither ideologically nor in practice. Real life is more difficult than someone’s wishes. Sochi-2014 showed us a practical example of the consequences of incompatibility. Then Valery Belousov was brought in to the headquarters of the national team in an emergency, a couple of months before the Games. Because the national team had problems with attack, with thought, with offensive tactics. In theory, the master of combination patterns should have amplified this component to the gold level. In practice, Valery Konstantinich was simply not allowed to do this. He was a black sheep in Bilyaletdinov’s headquarters, where like-minded people, adherents of a defensive archaic style, gathered. Belousov was pushed into the shadows, his presence on the bench and in training was useless.
So Nikitin would have found himself in today’s headquarters in exactly the same situation. Because I’m used to introducing a completely different style than the one that is cultivated in the national team. From a managerial and structural point of view, this is a complete analogy. An example from 2014 makes it clear that you shouldn’t try to fuse the incompatible together in 2021.
Third. The factor of the stars’ attitude to the hockey they are offered to play is super important. It’s not Soviet times with an army system of subordination. So, in the Sochi Olympic cycle, NHL hockey players on Bilyaletdinov were simply sick. That Malkin, who at the gold 2012 World Cup, did not act according to the guidelines, but the way he wanted. That Kovalchuk, Datsyuk and Radulov, who at the 2014 Games themselves played contrary to coaching expectations and were the best in Sochi.
So the star hockey players will have the same allergy to Nikitin’s tactics. And even if there are no NHL members at the Olympics. It is no coincidence that both clever creators like Shalunov and fighters-energizers like Mamin ran from CSKA in the summer. Both forwards of the top three made the decision to leave long before the unexpected resignation of Nikitin happened. Isn’t this an indicator of how important the nuance of compatibility of requirements with the aspirations of the players is? Especially in the year of the Olympics.
Fourth. Leaving the national team in 2019, Nikitin clearly set his priorities: the club is more important to him than the national team. And, of course, he had the right to do so. But then the headquarters has the right to give preference to those for whom the national team is more important. This is more correct both from a human and from a managerial point of view. Nikitin still does not hide the fact that in recent years “I wanted to focus on CSKA”. And now she is experiencing “emotional burnout.” Is it reasonable with such introductory statements now to take him to the headquarters with great powers? And without great authority – and there is no point.
Fifth. Staffing needs of the headquarters itself. We do not see the whole situation from the inside. But from the outside we assume that if the NHL agrees, the current coaching and managerial staff of the national team does not need Nikitin at all. And a person with experience of working overseas, really keeping his finger on the pulse and knowing the behind-the-scenes nuances of the league. That is, someone like the Potter. And the priority, apparently, should be to find such a person – and to understand whether he is capable of bringing serious benefit to the national team at the Olympics.
And the rest – everything is debugged and obvious. As football hockey colleagues would say, “we would have your problems” ..