From Russia with love; Emery would
be welcomed back By David Pagnotta &
[Toronto, ON] -- Controversy seems to
follow goalie Ray Emery wherever he goes these days, from his exile
from Ottawa last year to his altercation on the bench in Russia this
how many clouds may be overshadowing him, Emery proved he's more than
capable of shutting down the opposition this year for Mytishchi Atlant
of the Kontinental Hockey League.
Emery played in 36 games this season, posting a 22-8-0 record with a
2.12 goals-against-average and a .926 save percentage.
In an exclusive interview with TFP, Atlant head coach Fedor Kanareikin
indicated that he was pleased with Emery's performance this past
season, despite reports suggesting otherwise.
"I would like to say that I was overall satisfied with the job Emery
did here," Kanareikin said. "There were some great games for him.
There were others when I felt that he didn't do enough. He is a good
goaltender. I would just like him to be more consistent in his work."
Emery, 26, signed a one-year deal believed to be worth $2 million with
Atlant during the off-season. He was one of a handful non-European
players to sign with a KHL club for the 2008-09 season.
Kanareikin felt the Hamilton, Ontario native adjusted quickly to the
KHL and the Russian lifestyle.
"A person who got to a certain level in the NHL of course had some
difficulties coming here and playing the first year," Kanareikin
explained. "First of all, I think he was trying to show himself well,
he came from the strongest league where he was valued. There was a
period of adjustment, but I think he handled it.
"He blended well with the team. I don't think he faced any problems
with the team. And the team treated him extremely well."
Emery also made a few friends along the way, whereas in Ottawa, he was
cast as a problem-child and a cancer in the dressing room.
"He had friends in the locker room," Kanareikin said. "He was closer
to some people. He had certain problems because he did not speak
Russian. That's why he was more comfortable communicating with foreign
players and our Russian guys who spoke English."
The media hype surrounding Emery didn't compare to the attention he
received while playing for the Senators.
Because of the language barrier, he wasn't bombarded by cameras and
reporters during his time in Russia. The spotlight seemed to follow
Emery while in Ottawa, however, with stories ranging from being late
to practice to an automotive incident related to alleged road rage.
Emery did, however, manage to make headlines on this side of the pond
when he left Atlant in the middle of the season because of a contract
dispute. According to reports, Emery wasn't receiving his pay in a
player has a contract. Every player signs that contract. We all got
into this current [economic] crisis," Kanareikin said. "But I just
want to say that I had absolutely no problems with him. We established
the boundaries respectful to each other. We communicated well. And the
fact that he is impulsive, fiery, not an easy person was not the most
important thing for me. In spite of being, perhaps, a difficult person
in some aspects, Emery was a true professional. And that for me was
the most important."
Emery also made the news for a well document altercation with who was
believed to be a team trainer – it was, in fact, a team doctor.
With videos posted all over YouTube showing the doctor trying to place
a hat, originally reported as a team sponsor's hat, on Emery's head.
Emery then shoved the doctor and charged at him.
"That was our doctor and not a trainer," Kanareikin clarified. "We
played in Yaroslavl that day, and I pulled Emery after three goals. I
knew exactly how to work with him knowing his impulsive personality.
But the incident happened simply because the doctor wanted to put a
hat on Emery's head to prevent him from getting sick because he was
sweating. But Emery, perhaps, had his own opinion. I don't think it's
a big deal. He was just unsatisfied with himself, with his game, and
that was the reason for this incident."
With Atlant's season in the books and Emery back in Canada, many will
be interested to see how many NHL teams pursue him this summer.
Despite signing a one-year deal with Atlant, his KHL rights remain the
club's property, should he choose to return to the league next season.
In the NHL, though, Emery is an unrestricted free agent and can sign
with any club he chooses.
Sources tell TFP there are a number of clubs interested in Emery,
though his role may be delegated to a backup or platoon position.
If Emery's unable to find a home in the NHL, Kanareikin said he would
welcome the netminder back with open arms.
"Of course I would be very interested to work with him again," he
confirmed. "He has a lot left in store. And if he comes here for his
second year the work will be different. Because he adjusted, he knows
our system, and he started to understand Russian a little bit. That's
why I think his game will improve."
*Special thanks to Pavel Lysenkov of
Sovetsky Sport for his help with the interview.
is the Editor-in-Chief of
The 4th Period Magazine and covers the
Toronto Maple Leafs and the NHL for TheFourthPeriod.com. He is also a
contributing writer for NBCSports.com and MSNBC. His journals appear
throughout the entire season exclusively on TFP.