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Torpedo Coach Rips KHL For Not Trying To Bring Ovechkin Back To League

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Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin is not only an NHL icon as the greatest goal scorer of all time, but he is arguably much bigger back home in Russia. So big, in fact, that some coaches are criticizing the KHL for not trying to get him or other stars like Evgeni Malkin to play in Russia.

Vladimir Plyuschev, the head coach for the Supreme League’s Kazzinc-Torpedo, told sports.ru on Wednesday that the league should have done more to get Ovechkin and company to play back home rather than remain at the NHL level.

“Stars continue to go overseas, but new top players don’t go to Russia. And here are questions for the KHL leadership. The league office is clearly underperforming,” Pluyschev said. “Work must be done… this is the duty of KHL bosses, to [improve] conditions and quality of the league that superstars sign contracts with Russian clubs.”

Ovechkin is a Dynamo Moscow legend. He has also remained involved with the storied franchise over the course of his career. During the lockout to open 2012-13, the Great 8 returned home to Russia to play with Dynamo Moscow’s KHL squad. He dished 19 goals and 21 assists for 40 points in 31 games. He also had teammate Nicklas Backstrom join him overseas.

Malkin, meanwhile, also played in the KHL during the lockout, lacing ’em up with Magnitogorsk Metallurg and putting up 23 goals and 42 assists for 65 points in 37 games.

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Both were also recently pending UFAs, Ovechkin in 2021 and Malkin in 2022. However, Ovechkin was never leaving Washington. And in July 2021, he re-signed for five years as he looks to break Wayne Gretzky’s all-time scoring record. Malkin, however, was at a crossroads with the Pittsburgh Penguins but ultimately agreed to a three-year extension.

Taking that into account and the lack of star power with Jaromir Jagr, Ilya Kovalchuk and more big names not playing KHL hockey, Pluyschev questioned the league’s actions. He also criticized the KHL’s inaction.

“Why didn’t they bother to get Ovechkin to return to his native country last season or Malkin this season? Why were no attempts even made to invite them to Russian club hockey?” he asked.

Per QuantHockey, there are 50 active Russian NHL players. The country’s players also made up four percent of the NHL in 2018-19.

Meanwhile, Russian athletes are facing criticism and cannot compete in international competitions due to the country’s invasion of Ukraine. The IIHF also recently extended its ban on Russian and Belarusian teams through 2023. The 2024 World Cup of Hockey may also not include a Russian team, though Russian players may still be able to participate.

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