RE 13-14 ANTON BELOV: RED SAILS

The signing of Anton Belov (the first roster move by Craig MacTavish that involved an NHL calibre player) has the feel of a Jan Hejda-Steve Staois transaction: adding without subtracting, taking a chance but on a good bet. The only downside to the story? Oiler pro scouts in the recent past have not been as effective as they were a decade or more ago. Anton Belov is going to be an interesting follow.

RE 13-14: 60, 6-16-22

  1. You like this player? I like what we’ve read about him. Dmitri Chesnokov: “I’d say that the past season, and considering it was a lockout season so there were a lot of NHL players in the KHL, he was probably, unofficially the best defenceman in the KHL. This is the best way to describe him. He was one of the brighter spots on the Russian national team at the World Championships. Everybody knows the … performance that team had, but he was one of the players who stood out. The amount of improvement he has shown the past few years along with his maturity, I think Edmonton has got a great, great player.
  2. Anything else? Based on news reports there were a half dozen teams after Belov. Edmonton got him. Those are all good arrows.
  3. How does he feel about Edmonton? “Of all of the clubs the Oilers showed the most interest. First of all, I think, it’s because the team needs a defenseman of the type I am… I heard that the Oilers GM Craig MacTavish came to the World Championships and watched me play. I like the fact that the team in Edmonton is turning out to be very promising. There are young stars, especially on offense, so the club has a big future.”
  4. Tell me about him. Big guy, 6.04, 220 and 26 years old. He’s a mature player, so we should know if he’s going to be a factor by the end of pre-season.
  5. What’s the scouting report? He’s all about the lumber, not so much about the leather.
  6. English please. He is not an overwhelming defensive player. My own feeling is that–like Grebeshkov–Belov will be a little ‘loose’ defensively, a little wayward, a little walkabout.
  7. Chaos? CHAOS? Well, not chaos as in “Marc Andre Bergeron was the last man back, had the puck and passed it directly to the oncoming forechecker” type of chaos, but more in the way he was trained. The Russians have a little different sway about them.
  8. Racist. No, no. Jesus people throw that word around a lot. Let me tell you a story. In the late 1990′s, can’t remember the year, but we’ll say 1996, Bowman in Detroit had all these wonderful Russian players. THEN they added Larionov and Fetisov to the group that included Fedorov, Kozlov and the brilliant Konstantinov. So, anyway, let’s say it’s pre-season 1996-97 and Bowman throws all these Russians on the ice together. And now they’re starting to wheel–the Russian game is breathtaking–anyway, they’re all over hell’s half acre and eventually KONSTANTINOV is on a breakaway and he scores. Everyone in the arena is out of their minds with the brilliance of the play except one guy.
  9. Bowman. Yes! Because the Russian way isn’t the NHL way. NHL coaches love Russian centermen because they’re well schooled in the defensive side of things–they know from grade school that when the defenseman moves up, they have a role to play. It’s their chess, not our chess, and because of it the defenseman are often considered weak, or poor, or addled, in the NHL game. You’ll often hear people say “the Russians don’t produce great defensemen” which of course ignores Viacheslav Fetisov, Vladimir Konstantinov, Valeri Vasiliev, Sergei Zubov, Sergei Gonchar and many others.
  10. So you’re saying he’s better defensively than suggested? I’m saying that over the years we’ve heard this enough to suggest that we keep an open mind about Belov. It’s possible he’s pure chaos–the same part of the world that produced Serge Savard also produced M-A Bergeron–but weakness defensively may be Western eyes viewing style differences as opposed to the player’s own ability in a different system.
  11. Where will he play? I have him third pairing.
  12. With? That’s still to come. But third pairing, and legit PP time as reflected by the point total.
  13. Who is clearly ahead of him? At even strength? Smid-Petry, Ference-J Schultz and that’s pretty much it. Going into camp, I’d suggest a second tier of Nultz, Grebeshkov, Belov, Larsen and Potter will be in a gunfight for playing time.
  14. Does Belov have an advantage over these players? Over some of them, yes. If you look at what MacT has done with the blue, all of the new hires are mobile and have excellent puck skills.
  15. Which means someone is on the outside looking in? Yes.
  16. Name him. If you can’t figure it out there’s no helping you.
  17. Okay, fine. But if Nick Schultz is drifting down the depth chart, shouldn’t Belov see more than 60 games? You can’t count on that, though. Maybe they love Klefbom in camp and decide Nick Schultz is the perfect mentor, or maybe they play Nick Schultz every night to showcase him.
  18. There’s some urgency with Belov too, though. Right you are, this is a one-year deal and he’s UFA next summer.
  19. His contract was weird, eh? Yeah. $92,500 signing bonus, $600,000 in possible performance bonuses, $925,000 NHL contract and just $70,000 if he plays in the  AHL this coming season.
  20. He won’t play in the AHL, will he? No. He’ll either make the Oilers, get traded to another NHL team or head home to that long term deal he was offered early in the spring. My bet is he’s an Oiler this coming season and for a few years beyond. He is the best long term bet among the MacT hires on defense this season (draft excluded).
  21. Wouldn’t it be great if Belov ends the Calder trophy drought? He can’t win.
  22. Because NHL? Because NHL.

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32 Responses to "RE 13-14 ANTON BELOV: RED SAILS"

  1. Woodguy says:

    Interesting that you have Belov ahead of Petry in terms of points.

    Do you have Belov playing behind the gifted kids more, or is there another reason? PP time?

    I think this signing got me excited more than the others.

    It was the first and it signaled are return to looking for quality players wherever they may be.

    Add to that him choosing the Oilers over teams like PIT has me thinking that the Oilers have a better pitchman in working on these guys too.

    The best part was that the GM didn’t ask Stu what he though of Belov in his draft year, or get an opinion from Steve Yzerman.

    If I may inject a little Johnny Nash

    “Oh yes I can make it now, the pain is gone
    All of the bad feelings have disappeared
    Here is the rainbow I’ve been prayin’ for
    It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)
    Sun-Shiny day.”

  2. Lowetide says:

    WG: I have him getting a lot of PP time, and three of the top 4D getting many minutes at EVs and PK without much PP time. It may not work out that way, but the new coach is going to run that Smid-Petry pairing hard imo.

  3. Ducey says:

    He won’t play in the AHL, will he? No. He’ll either make the Oilers, get traded to another NHL team or head home to that long term deal he was offered early in the spring. My bet is he’s an Oiler this coming season and for a few years beyond. He is the best long term bet among the MacT hires on defense this season (draft excluded).

    Wouldn’t everyone (Belov, Eakins, the GM) be ok with him spending 10 – 20 games in OKC to learn the NA game?

  4. David says:

    Most exciting newcomer to watch this year. He could be really special. Much more faith in Belov than Grebs. Now he’s chaos.

  5. mumbai max says:

    Belov. Grebs. Larsen. If two out of three of these guys perform as legit top 6 D, the season immediately becomes promising. This outcome brings the added bonus of keeping Klefbom on the farm for awhile. Fingers crossed.

  6. wheatnoil says:

    Ducey:
    Wouldn’t everyone (Belov, Eakins, the GM) be ok with him spending 10 – 20 games in OKC to learn the NA game?

    Well I imagine Belov wouldn’t be thrilled as spending 10 to 20 games in OKC would lose him $100 – $200K in salary. I think the discussion of whether he should spend 10 – 20 games in OKC to “learn the NA game” should happen after training camp, once we see him play some preseason games. If he’s one of the top 7 or 8 D at the camp, I suspect Eakins and MacT would both want him in the NHL to start the season, not in OKC.

    The biggest question with Belov is: “Do they have the horses if he falters.” I don’t agree with everything MacT says about the forward depth, but at defense I think the answer is resoundingly ‘yes’. If he shows well at camp / preseason, he’s on the team.

    However, I think MacT will have a ‘righty’ warming up in the bullpen pretty early on. I doubt either Eakins or MacT will give Belov the chance to pitch his way out of trouble if he’s putting men in scoring position early.

  7. Lowetide says:

    WheatnOil: Well put. I think both Russians are somewhat ‘wild cards’ and we’ll know way more in pre-season. From what we’ve heard, the club plans to have Grebs over here in August to help him get ready, which sounds like they’re making sure he’s ready.

  8. Racki says:

    I’m cautiously optimistic about Belov. I already kind of know what we can get from Grebeshkov. If paired with a strong defenseman, he can be just what we need. If paired with someone else like Belov.. it might get a bit scary. Hard to say. I’d imagine either of these guys would play on the 3rd pairing, facing easier competition and seeing some time on the PP.

    I actually have a fair bit of interest in Belov. There’s some good comments out there about him, and you can’t help but lick your chops over the fact he was the best defenseman in the KHL (even if it is just the KHL).

    The Oil don’t have much in the upper end of depth, but they definitely have a lot of guys in that 5th-7th range. There’s certainly some potential for someone to surprise us all out of camp.

  9. Bar_Qu says:

    Bohologo,

    Good point. I wondered about Belov not being on that list too.

    Let’s hope he does use Sochi as incentive.

    One thing I am wondering too. Aside from the stylistic differences for Russians, wouldn’t playing D be easier on NHL rinks than the big rinks in Europe? Less distance to cover, less areas for the Fs to wheel and simpler defense lines. I have seen how many ‘great’ KHL forwards arrive in the NHL and totally bust (Roman Cervenka anyone?), making me think the larger ice works to a Fs disadvantage and a Ds advantage when coming to North America.

    Just a thought.

  10. Hammers says:

    Woodguy:
    Interesting that you have Belov ahead of Petry in terms of points.

    Do you have Belov playing behind the gifted kids more, or is there another reason?PP time?

    I think this signing got me excited more than the others.

    It was the first and it signaled are return to looking for quality players wherever they may be.

    Add to that him choosing the Oilers over teams like PIT has me thinking that the Oilers have a better pitchman in working on these guys too.

    The best part was that the GM didn’t ask Stu what he though of Belov in his draft year, or get an opinion from Steve Yzerman.

    If I may inject a little Johnny Nash

    “Oh yes I can make it now, the pain is gone
    All of the bad feelings have disappeared
    Here is the rainbow I’ve been prayin’ for
    It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)
    Sun-Shiny day.”

    Felt exactly the same way . McT watched the guy in games and that is worth way more than some think . I actually see Belov potentially with Petry not Smid. Smid is basically a shut down “D” and although I like him he would be a 3rd line player on all the good teams .Belov has what’s needed in top 4 “D” . Obviously LT is using him on PP due to RE and N.Schultz has become a 3rd line player who won’t be here next season . So Justin & Ference / Belov & Petry / Smid & Nick or Grebs.

  11. Racki says:

    Bar_Qu:
    Bohologo,

    Good point. I wondered about Belov not being on that list too.

    Let’s hope he does use Sochi as incentive.

    One thing I am wondering too. Aside from the stylistic differences for Russians, wouldn’t playing D be easier on NHL rinks than the big rinks in Europe? Less distance to cover, less areas for the Fs to wheel and simpler defense lines. I have seen how many ‘great’ KHL forwards arrive in the NHL and totally bust (Roman Cervenka anyone?), making me think the larger ice works to a Fs disadvantage and a Ds advantage when coming to North America.

    Just a thought.

    It definitely should be easier based on rink size, but there is a jump in overall player skill/battle level from any European league to the NHL. I’m not so sure I’d say they cancel each other out, but it definitely makes that rink size advantage a little smaller (pun unintentional).

  12. Bag of Pucks says:

    LT, interesting points on the western perceptions of Russian hockey.

    If you haven’t seen it yet, you may be interested in the documentary from Glenn Anderson: To Russia With Love.

    http://www.ctvnews.ca/w5/glenn-anderson-learning-how-russia-changed-the-canadian-game-1.975721

    http://www.torussiawithlovehockey.com/

    One of the key facets of the Russia game that I believe made it distinct from NA hockey, is the Russian system under Tarasov embraced the advantages of the ’5 man unit’ as opposed to the clear distinction that NA hockey imposed btw forwards and defense.

    When the 5 man unit works, as it did with the Konstantinov goal you described, it is legitimately sublime, However, when the 5 man unit breaks down, it can have a chain reaction effect that is equally catastrophic. A good example of this is Lemieux’s iconic winning goal in the 87 Canada Cup, As Canadians, we all remember Gretz’ uncanny anticipation of the developing play (how did he know to skate directly to that left wing position?) and the resultant perfect pass, Murphy driving the net as the perfect decoy, and Mario’s unerring patience, flash release and deadly accuracy. But I think NA hockey fans also remember the absolute total defensive breakdown of Russia’s entire 5 man unit on that play.

    After Kravchuk’s ill advised pinch, it’s absolute chaos with every Russian player on the ice. It’s a small sample size in the extreme, but unfortunately it is from such iconic moments that are much replayed where lasting impressions and perceptions are formed.

    That goal is also very revealing because it points to a key weakness in the Russian system vs the Canadian system. In somewhat similar fashion to King Ralph last season, the Russian system downplays the importance of line matching, instead adhering to this flawed belief that each 5 man unit is equal and thus the team is best served by consistently rotating the units regardless of the situation. Pace and conditioning in theory create competitive advantages when this system is executed to optimal levels. There is obviously some ideological parallels btw these coaching philosophies and the prevailing politics of the time (i.e. value of the individual in a free enterprise system vs value of the collective in the communist system) which makes the rivalry all the more entertaining. Yes, it was more fun beating them when they were the evil empire ; )

    In the 25th anniversary recollections of that tournament, Gretzky lauded the prescient decision making of Keenan in putting out 3 offensive first players for an own zone faceoff that late in the game. It’s a good point, but what should also be considered is ‘what the hell Tikhonov was thinking putting out his two most inexperienced defenseman at the same moment?” A colossal coaching blunder given the circumstances, and ironic, because it arose from a systemic system flaw that the Russian hockey elite considered a prevaling strength at the time.

  13. Lowetide says:

    Bag: Outstanding post. Absolutely outstanding. Thanks for it.

  14. jonrmcleod says:

    Bag of Pucks,

    On that Lemieux goal, it also helped that a Canadian (#10?) tripped a Russian at the blue line.

  15. Bag of Pucks says:

    Thanks LT, the history of the Canada v Russia rivalry has always fascinated me. Can’t wait until the next chapter in Sochi. Hopefully Hall makes Team Canada.

    Jon, the trip did help but if you watch the entire period, Koharski had swallowed the whistle (NHL style) and it benefited both teams. That 87 Russian squad was a GUTSY team worthy of admiration though. In all 3 of those final games, they tied it up after trailing in the 3rd.

    This thread actually prompted a neat memory for me today. Growing up on the farm, our nearest neighbour was this older French farmer that absolutely worshipped the Habs. We always talked hockey and he was pretty cool to this likely obnoxious little kid that shared equal worship for those upstart Oilers. He lent me a bunch of cool books to read and one of them was Tarasov’s coaching manual/philosophy. I saw of lot of that philosophy reflected in those great Oiler teams particularly when we were lucky enough to get the odd practice drill on tv from a local sportscast. Unfortunately, the relationship dynamic changed when our cinderella squad led by Andy Moog upset the mighty Montreal team. From then on, I was a threat, and not a young jedi to be tutored in the ways of the hockey force ; )

  16. Lowetide says:

    Bag of Pucks: It’s funny how life works. My Dad warmed to the Oilers when they beat Montreal. He didn’t cheer for the Leafs after they traded big Frank, so it was kind of a great memory for me as a young man.

  17. Bag of Pucks says:

    Lowetide:
    My Dad warmed to the Oilers when they beat Montreal.

    On the basis of that decision alone, your Dad sounds like a very, very smart man ; )

  18. dawgtoy says:

    jonrmcleod,

    Dale Hawerchuk with the trip. I always thought he deserved an assist.

  19. theres oil in virginia says:

    Here’s the clip of the Schultz masterpiece defensive play:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VigtDxBSbOI&feature=youtu.be

    It’s quick and dirty, but it’s there.

  20. Lowetide says:

    theres oil in virginia:
    Here’s the clip of the Schultz masterpiece defensive play:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VigtDxBSbOI&feature=youtu.be

    It’s quick and dirty, but it’s there.

    Nice!

  21. theres oil in virginia says:

    Lowetide,
    I hope to do this more often now that I (kinda) know how. Still some kinks to work out.

  22. Romulus Apotheosis says:

    Just got back from a lovely B-B-!

    A little sad that I missed Belov’s RE Day. He’s my favorite new Oiler.

    I look forward to him sharpening his skates on Flames.

  23. Racki says:

    theres oil in virginia:
    Here’s the clip of the Schultz masterpiece defensive play:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VigtDxBSbOI&feature=youtu.be

    It’s quick and dirty, but it’s there.

    I don’t want to define a player on one play, but that was very well played, even if it he did lose it at the blue line (I’m not saying it’s entirely his fault, just saying it’s a good defensive play even if some people would be hard on him for losing it at the line).

  24. theres oil in virginia says:

    Racki,
    I’m guessing he could get away with making that move to the middle in college. In the NHL, that forward gets there in a hurry. A safer play would have been the quick dump down low, but he was trying to make something happen. I’d bet he doesn’t make a habit of it. Experience is the only way you know how fast the forward is. It’s like my 5 year old son says: “You never know what you never know. That’s what I always say.”

  25. Rocknrolla says:

    theres oil in virginia:
    Here’s the clip of the Schultz masterpiece defensive play:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VigtDxBSbOI&feature=youtu.be

    It’s quick and dirty, but it’s there.

    It was a fabulous defensive play and hopefully is a glimmer of what he can accomplish with more defensive improvement.

    I like Belov’s chances on this team and think he has a lot to play for. Loved his quote about how he doesn’t like long term deals as he feels it makes players complacent.

    If that’s not the right attitude, don’t know what is!

  26. Romulus Apotheosis says:

    Red Sails. Favorite song from Lodger. Perfect for the Russian.

    any word on when he’s coming to town?

  27. Lowetide says:

    Romulus Apotheosis:
    Red Sails. Favorite song from Lodger. Perfect for the Russian.

    any word on when he’s coming to town?

    No, which is kind of funny because we already know Grebeshkov will be here (or may be here) with plenty of time to get into game shape.

  28. Romulus Apotheosis says:

    Lowetide: No, which is kind of funny because we already know Grebeshkov will be here (or may be here) with plenty of time to get into game shape.

    Maybe he’s already here! He’s probably stalking you in the grocery aisles, ready to heckle you in Russian about your RE series.

    He won’t actually hurt you, but he might.

  29. Numenius says:

    theres oil in virginia,

    Thanks for the video. What a beautiful defensive play.

  30. Zipdot says:

    Bag of Pucks: One of the key facets of the Russia game that I believe made it distinct from NA hockey, is the Russian system under Tarasov embraced the advantages of the ’5 man unit’ as opposed to the clear distinction that NA hockey imposed btw forwards and defense.

    Man, great post! I thought that was a great video from Glenny; wonderful to see Tikhonov in his little office still at it. I shared it with my mom because she loves that kind of stuff. Thanks a ton for the link.

    Bag of Pucks: what the hell Tikhonov was thinking putting out his two most inexperienced defenseman at the same moment?” A colossal coaching blunder given the circumstances, and ironic, because it arose from a systemic system flaw that the Russian hockey elite considered a prevaling strength at the time.

    Tikhonov said that the biggest blunder of his career was to pull Tretiak after the second in Lake Placid. Maybe this was his second biggest? :)

  31. Rebilled says:

    Well, maybe no Calder but the Norris is a nice piece of hardware. Always with the C. Norris debate…

    Can’t wait for the presentation of the Metropolitan Trophy next year¡

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