I have never made my disappointment at Kozlov not being played more often a secret. No, this season was not his best year, but there were other players, such as Todd White, who have gotten playing time over Kozlov and who have not played well. Kozlov was the powerplay quarterback, and the powerplay this season was abysmal despite a strong start. He also was clutch in the SO, which is another place the team was lacking this year, especially in the second half.
Slava has never had a reputation for speaking out, so when he criticized John Anderson publicly to the Russian press I figured that something was up and that he had a legit complaint. Anderson responded by benching Kozlov for almost nearly every game for the last part of the season. Some felt that this was appropriate, others like Ilya Kovalchuk, disagreed.
So when Kozlov was interviewed by the AJC's Chris Vivlamore after cleaning out his locker today, what he had to say was not exactly surprising, nor was it positive as far as Anderson was concerned. Frankly, there was little in what he said to disagree with.
“This system, for two years they tell us it’s going to work but unfortunately everybody knows what we are going to do. Our breakouts, we make two, three passes in our zone and we don’t beat anybody. I saw that in the New Jersey game. New Jersey just waited in the neutral zone and we make two or three passes and make one mistake in neutral zone and boom, they counter attack us."
I've actually pointed to that for the reason on the power play's horrible plummet in effectiveness over the season - we're not a hard egg to crack. With or without Kovalchuk, we do the same thing on every single play, and if the opposition's video coach has a spare 20 seconds, they can point out the gaps. You have to be able to modify your plan as you go along if you're a good coach. Anderson is incapable of this.
“I felt pressure since training camp. Coach told me he has pressure from upstairs. I talked to [GM] Don [Waddell], he said he never talked to the coach. Somebody is lying. I don’t want to know what happened and who is lying. I feel like I don’t deserve to be treated like that. Right now, it’s over. The last game, I have lots of support from the fans. I don’t know maybe it was because I’m not coming back next year or it’s my last game but it was nice last night.”
This is unacceptable, and I think Kozlov wanting to resolve this situation at the source was feasible. He was being told that upstairs wanted him benched, so Kozlov went to confront where he thought the problem was coming from. Waddell said no, he didn’t have anything to do with it, and that it was the coach’s call.
If Waddell told the truth to Kozlov, then that double talk from the coach fits pretty well with what people have observed of his passive aggressive nature, and might explain the discussion on last night's Hotstove on whether or not Anderson's job is in jeopardy. Double-speak like this, especially when it gets leaked to the press, is very inappropriate and makes the franchise look bad on many levels.
Slava Kozlov got good support last night in his final game as a Thrasher because the fans recognize what he has brought to the franchise over the past eight years, and we appreciate it. There have been seasons where he wasn't exactly "on," and this was one of them, but a good many people feel that Anderson was unjustified in benching him all season. Frankly, I feel like it came off as petty.
Falconer looked at our record with and without Kozlov. 25-23-7 with him, and 10-11-6 without. You crunch the numbers (no, I mean you crunch them to double check me, because I'm awful), and the former is an 85 point season, the latter is a 57 point season. 85 wouldn't've been enough to get us in this time, but it's significantly better than 57 points.