You’ve probably heard it here and there over the past few seasons, but a graph in James Mirtle’s column today really drove the point home for me. The amount of Russians coming over to play in the NHL really is on a sharp decline.

Mirtle highlights a number of good points as to why this is the case: the creation of the KHL, the oil money that’s driven up the salaries there, and the fact that the poor perception of Russian players in the NHL means that they don’t get a fair shake, among them.

My guess is that, like Abe Simpson said, it’s “A little from column A, a little from column B” (and plenty from column C).

Here are the numbers. The amount of Russian skaters in the NHL post season since the year 2000:

2000: 30

2001: 24

2002: 23

2003: 25

2004: 22

2006: 18

2007: 17

2008: 16

2009: 12

2010: 10

2011: 6

And this year, 12.

Personally, I hate this trend. Some of the most electric performers I’ve ever seen – Pavel Bure, Pavel Datsyuk, Sergei Federov and beyond – have been been Russians.

Fingers crossed that this year’s “12″ is the start of a climb in the other direction, but there’s plenty of reason to be skeptical of that.

(Follow James Mirtle on Twitter here. I recommend it.)

Comments (7)

  1. At the same time – you’re seeing more Russian players in the CHL than any time in the past.

    Guys like Yakupov and Grigorenko and Namestnikov etc decide to come here straight away – without ever considering the KHL or lower Russian leagues.

    While most of the narrative surrounding Russians surrounds the perceived risk that they could vanish in the night – there are a lot of kids who are leaving home at the age of 16 or 17 to prove they want to play in the NHL. We don’t hear about that in the media though – because slagging Russians is a lot better for business.

  2. The encouraging thing is that Russians are overly represented by their superstars. I don’t really miss Maxim Afinogenov going back to Russia if we get to keep Malkin.

    In today’s NHL Fedorov and Bure in their primes would still be here, because they would be earning the big bucks. It’s the 2nd and 3rd liners who would be stars in the KHL who have an interest in leaving.

  3. Wow, and the Devils have the audacity to have two of them in Kovalchuk and Volchenkov!

  4. The average NHL career is so short you have to wonder why any player who isn’t from North America would go there other than to play in the top league in the world. If you knew you were not a star it would make far more sense to go to Russia and avoid the entry-level, 2 way contract. You can go make half a million a year for 3 years in a place with a low cost of living and be treated like a celebrity, or you can play in a league where you are maxed out at a low contract for 3 years and risk being sent to the minors where you will not get paid anywhere near even your entry-level deal, will probably live in some shithole of a city, and will be known as the Russian. Why not stay in Russia, see your family, and make more money if you are borderline?

    On top of it the reffing in the NHL is a joke and becoming worse every day; I’ve watched a fair amount of KHL action, and the reffing is far more consistent. I doubt this makes much of an impact on their decision since it is most likely a monetary decision, but it might not help to know a horrible tiered officiating system exists.

  5. Hate to be that guy but “amount of Russians” isn’t proper grammar. It should be “number of Russians”. Amount refers to an immeasurable quantity and number is used for things you can count, like NHL players.

    Sorry for being a grammar nerd, but being raised by an English teacher will do that to someone.

    Everything else in this post (and blog) is top notch. Best hockey blog anywhere, in my opinion.

  6. Why just get numbers for the post season? That doesn’t have much to do with the overall number of Russians in the league.

    According to Wikipedia, there were 35 in 06-07, 30 in 07-08, 32 in 08-09, 33 in 09-10, and 32 in 10-11. Seems pretty consistent to me.

    You can’t use the number of Russians in the post season and say their total numbers in the NHL is down.

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