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A Caveat

I’ve recently finished reading King of Russia by Dave King & Eric Duhatschek, which is basically a diary of King’s 1st season as the coach of Magnitorsk Metallurg. It’s an interesting read, very entertaining, even if it does go a little light on the technical aspects of coaching. One of the more interesting characters that King mentions is "the Fish".
King describes him as an NHL draft pick, born in 1983. Looking at Magnitorsk’s lineup in 2005-06, only two players fit this description: Stanislav Chistov and Alexei Kaigorodov. However, King also mentions the Fish possibly playing with Kaigorodov, leaving us with Stanislav Chistov as the Fish. Why is this relevant, you ask? Let’s let King answer:

Pg. 39 - "The Fish is dour. He’s an introvert."

Pg. 102 – "The Fish, our talented but mercurial forward . . . showed up for work today with a broken toe. My assistants tell me that it occurred during an off-ice drinking incident. Apparently this isn’t the first time this has happened to the Fish – and alcohol is usually involved."

Pg. 190 – "The Fish is giving us problems again. He can’t play tonight because he’s still recovering from another one of his mysterious illnesses. . . Fedor Kanareykin (assistant coach) smelled alcohol on his breath. This is the third or fourth time he’s had an episode; usually it happens after a break in the schedule, when he finds himself at loose ends and ends up going on a bender."

Pg. 201 – "He’s a fine talent, born in ’83, with skill coming out of his ears. He’s been drafted and the NHL team that owns his rights is always phoning about him, but he can’t play in the NHL until he gets this problem under control."

I’ve also recently read another fine book (okay, more than once), Future Greats and Heartbreaks, by Gare Joyce, and one of the things he was astonished by (working with the Blue Jackets’ scouting department) was how little background checking they do on a player.

There are a lot of things statistics, and even watching the guy play don’t tell us. Chistov was picked 5th overall in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, ahead of, among others, Mikko Koivu and Ales Hemsky, and this despite being 5’9". Russianprospects described him as being one of the most talented forwards of his generation. He wound up being dealt to the Bruins for a 3rd round pick, and has bounced around the AHL and Russian Super League. His NHL career appears dubious at best.

What I’m driving at here is how limited our perspective as fans can be, as all of our information is coming second-hand (or, if you read Eklund, 38th-hand).