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Filatov’s Move Has Been Coming For a While

The last we see of Filatov in a Blue Jackets sweater?

The last we see of Filatov in a Blue Jackets sweater?

After rumors started circulating yesterday, the Blue Jackets announced this afternoon that winger Nikita Filatov has been loaned to CSKA Moscow for the remainder of the season. The prize Russian prospect will play out the rest of the year in the KHL. While the move may have materialized quickly, the ground works have been set for some time.
It has been reported that Filatov’s development, or lack-there-of, has been a point of contention between general manager Scott Howson and head coach Ken Hitchcock. Filatov was a preseason Calder canidate after he made waves in eight games with the Jackets last season, including a hat trick against Minnesota. Many saw Filatov as the best player not in the NHL last season, but his 2009-2010 has not gone according to plan.
In 13 games with the Jackets this season, Filatov registered two goals on just 11 shots; he had four goals on ten shots last year. The diminutive winger has been a healthy scratch in six games this season, including last night’s shootout victory over Edmonton. In his 13 games, he’s averaged just north of eight minutes of ice time. He has had limited opportunity to crack the top six. Instead spending his limited ice time with the likes of Rick Nash, Jake Voracek, or Antoine Vermette, he has been plying his trade with on lines with Jared Boll, Mike Blunden, and Andrew Murray. Not exactly skill players. That’s what it comes down to.
Hitchcock won’t give youngsters ice time unless they earn it in his eyes. Sure there is always the potential for Filatov to make plays. However, while the potential may be there, the on ice product has been a different story. Filatov has played very poorly away from the puck, and carelessly when he has had it. He turned over the puck three times in one shift late in the second versus Anaheim, in a 2-2 game. That doesn’t cut it on a Hitchcock hockey team.
Is this the best move for Nikita Filatov and the Jackets? Hardly. While little Nikita will assuredly get the ice time on CSKA Moscow, along with the opportunity to play for Russia in the World Junior Championships, Blue Jackets brass cannot be comfortable with the deal. Rumors of a KHL departure began swirling in the off-season, and one has to believe that the Filatov-Hitchcock relationship has been damaged this season. Hopefully it is not irreparable. Scott Howson believes that the sixth overall pick in the 2008 draft will be back for training camp next year. Filatov has echoed the sentiment and continues to claim that he wants to play in the NHL. Hey Nikita, you were playing in the NHL.
It’s hard to take one side or another as details are still being revealed. This lone just doesn’t sit comfortably. There is precedent and Filatov will not be the only Jackets prospect playing overseas. Lesser defensive

prospect Andrei Plekhanov is playing the season with Dynamo Moscow. The Blue Jackets have loaned players to European teams before, but with no transfer agreement between the KHL and NHL, it would not take a lot for things to take a turn for the worse.
With the contracts of Fredrick Modin, Raffi Torres, Andrew Murray and Jared Boll all coming off the books at the end of this season, It’s likely Filatov will have a better shot at cracking into the top six next season. He’ll also get the opportunity to grow and add muscle, something Hitchcock would definitely like to see. He’ll be playing in probably the best league talent-wise, outside of the NHL. Despite trying to put a positive spin on it, it’s still hard to stomach the move and this will not be the last we hear of it this season.
Comments welcome.

– Bart Logan
bartftc@gmail.com
Twiter: BartFTC

6 Comments

  1. Paul

    November 19, 2009 at 6:14 pm

    Maybe Filatov was the object of overly high expectations. Obviously, he is a major scoring talent, but (from the stories I’ve read) his defense was lacking. This could be an excellent move for both him and the Jackets. I do wonder about his attitude, though, considering the numerous stories that he absolutely refused to play for Syracuse, this year.

  2. OtherKevin

    November 20, 2009 at 11:37 am

    I like how you think that Fredrick Modin, Raffi Torres, Andrew Murray and Jared Boll are all coming off the books this year. I think that it’s pretty obvious that Modin will be retiring, but Torres, Boll, and to a lesser extent Murray are all well-liked by the current administration. Raffi especially seems likely to be re-signed.

  3. Paul

    November 20, 2009 at 7:16 pm

    Kevin, regardless of how we-liked Boll, Torres and Murray may be, there could be other considerations we don’t know about. Overall, I agree with you. On the other hand, as much as I like Boll’s style, he and Dorsett (Did I spell that right?) play a very similar game and Dorsett received a contract extension. I wonder if, in the end, Hitch or Howsom will decide that one energy player is sufficient. I hope not, as Boll and Dorsett play well together, but you never know. A question. Do you think Murray is at that “prove it or you’re gone” point, yet?

  4. OtherKevin

    November 22, 2009 at 10:35 am

    Howson. HowsoN. With an N. Why do people always spell it with an M at the end?

    I agree that there could be other considerations that we don’t know about, but it’s a bit silly on the part of the author (I can’t tell if it’s Bart Logan or Eric Smith?) to make that assumption. Raffi is a Hitchcock type of player through and through, and I believe that he’s second in goals on our team right now. There’s no way that they let him go.

  5. Bart Logan

    November 22, 2009 at 11:36 pm

    Sorry we had some difficulty getting this article up. The assumption is that Torres will be resigned, but the other 3 are not assured spots. Despite slightly better numbers each year, Boll’s roll on the team diminished. Derek Dorsett, as well as Tom Sesito, each fulfill his role as an agitator, perhaps better, and can contribute more on the score sheet. Sesito has put up impressive numbers in Juniors and the AHL, and also has a size advantage on Boll. Hitchcock loves Dorsett and he’s really become a heart-and-soul guy on this team.

    As for Murray, while he has played relatively well, he is also a player that can easily be replaced. Derek MacKenzie has filled in decently and Mike Blunden has a size and some offensive upside and can play center.

    I do agree that this will likely be Modin’s final season.

    We are in the process of a management change here at FTC. Expect some slight changes throughout the site in the coming weeks as we seek to provide you with more content and make the site more interactive.

  6. Paul

    November 23, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    Sorry about the spelling confusion. I always get the Jackets’ GM mixed up with a buddy of mine whose last name is Howsom. Personally, I like Raffi. He’s not as flashy or awe inspiring as some players, but he’s very good at what he does. I hope he has a long career with the Jackets, but if Filatov returns (Which, according to some sources is debatable) and shows signs of fulfilling his ability, someone’s going to have to go. The question is, of course, who will that be?

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