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Kuznetsov Doesn’t Care What Anyone Thinks Of Him: ‘Not Gonna Change’



Washington Capitals Evgeny Kuznetsov

ARLINGTON, V.A. — Over the course of his career through the ups and downs, Washington Capitals forward Evgeny Kuznetsov has heard the criticism and the mixed responses to his sense of humor. And he doesn’t really care.

The 30-year-old is known for his signature laugh, creativity, sense of humor and iconic “Birdman” celebration. But there’s also a hunger there, an unmatched drive that pushes him to be better each day and get the team to where it has to be. And following the ultimate revenge tour last season that saw him put up 77 points in 78 games despite trade rumors and somewhat harsh reviews over the offseason, he is ready to do more damage in 2022-23.

“[I want to do] a little bit more,” he says with a laugh.. “You know, what we bring last year and the way we finish, it didn’t taste good. Even they said there’s a new day, no season. You don’t have to think about that. You know, me personally, I’m always thinking about what went wrong and what’s good.

For Kuznetsov, that means staying consistent and bringing that same passion and effort night in and night out. But also, he wants to play with a smile and keep the joy in his game.

“I want to have fun every day,” he added. “End of the day, it’s nice to hear the music at the end of the game in the locker room than, you know, when it’s silence.”

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The Russian is a naturally fun-loving guy. He’s a dog lover, and also has an ever-growing tattoo collection that helps him express himself. Kuznetsov’s been like that since the start of his career, constantly joking around and letting his personality shine through. That has helped him rekindle the joy in the game, but he also knows how to balance work and play and when to stay serious. And even though not everyone’s a fan of his demeanor across the league, he’s not going to stop.

“I’m just enjoying it. I’m happy to be here. And if I’m in a happy place, I’m always gonna smile and enjoy it you know? It’s easy to see when I’m not smiling, that means I’m not in a happy place and I’m not comfortable,” Kuznetsov explained. “When I’m comfortable and I’m enjoying it, it’s just me. I’m not trying to be somebody else, I’m just like that. You know, if somebody doesn’t like that, they can talk, but I’m sorry. That’s who I am and I’m not going to change.”

He did admit with a laugh though that his teammates haven’t always been receptive to his punchlines.

“They can say something if they don’t like jokes or something. [Andre Burakovsky] and [Jakub Vrana], they used to didn’t like my jokes. They said it hurt their feelings all the time. It wasn’t bad.”

As he continues his career, Kuznetsov has more aspirations. Mainly, he wants to win again, and looking at this group, No. 92 does see something different.

“I’m definitely the big believer. And I’m big a part of some teams that have zero expectation, like World Junior Championships, and people just tell them, ‘Whatever, it’s like, okay guys just go with whatever.’ And it’s all about your insight,” Kuznetsov said. “I saw so many players in my life step up and start playing the hockey they never played before just based on the fact that the spirit inside the team and atmosphere was unbelievable, amazing. And like I said before, people come to the happy place and they enjoy to be here. When it’s like that, when they comfortable… anything can happen.”