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.)