This is a disaster for the Canucks: Nikita Tryamkin is heading back to the KHL.
It may be a sign of how weak the Canucks’ defence is that the departure of Nikita Tryamkin is such a devastating blow, but the Canucks can’t afford to lose any young players with potential at this point of their rebuild. His emergence this past season, along with Troy Stecher, gave Canucks fans hope for a strong blue line in the future.
Some might say this isn’t the time for pointing fingers, but I disagree: this is exactly the time for pointing fingers. I say we point fingers willy-nilly, laying blame on as many people as we can for Tryamkin’s departure.
Fingers will first be pointed at Willie Desjardins, which is understandable. Tryamkin’s first complaint was about ice time: he averaged 16:44 per game, 7th among Canucks defencemen and barely ahead of Philip Larsen. Tryamkin clearly felt he was capable of playing more and likely thought he was a better option for increased ice time than someone like, say, Luca Sbisa.
Tryamkin was an effective penalty killer, but was fifth in shorthanded ice time per game among Canucks defencemen and never got a sniff on the power play, despite the Canucks’ obvious struggles with the man advantage
There’s also the matter of how Tryamkin’s season began, as he was held out of the lineup for “conditioning” and didn’t get into his first game until November. It’s also possible that without Erik Gudbranson getting injured, Tryamkin’s ice time would have been even lower.
All that said, Desjardins is done, so if Tryamkin’s main reason for leaving was the coach, he had a compelling reason to come back.
Benning has to hold some of the blame. As a General Manager in charge of a rebuilding franchise, you simply can’t let a 6’7” 22-year-old defenceman with top-four potential slip away. Signing him to a new contract should not have waited until the off-season; as soon as he proved he could play in the NHL, negotiations should have begun to avoid exactly this scenario.
Benning claims that the he offered Tryamkin a two-year extension, but the question is when and for how much money. Tryamkin deserved a raise from his $925,000 deal and it should have been negotiated mid-season. It’s also hard to believe Benning’s spin when he also claimed it was a “family decision” for Tryamkin, which flatly contradicts what Tryamkin has already said.
Then there’s the fact that he initially signed Tryamkin to a contract with a clause that allowed him to refuse to go to the AHL, then tried to send him to the AHL. I’m not really sure how he thought that one was going to play out.
No one is to blame for this but Tryamkin himself. Complaining about a lack of ice time as a 22-year-old rookie shows a shocking sense of entitlement and his decision to leave a rebuilding team shows a lack of foresight.
That’s the take we’re going to hear from those most sympathetic to Jim Benning. People will point to his poor conditioning heading into the season, his refusal to report to the AHL, and his complaining about ice time as signs that he’s selfish and has poor character.
I don’t buy it. I’m skeptical about how poor his conditioning really was, I think he had every right to refuse to go to the AHL, and I’ve seen no signs whatsoever that he’s selfish or lacks character. I think it’s completely understandable that he wondered why he was playing 12 minutes some nights, watching mostly from the bench while the team imploded in front of him.
That said, you do have to wonder how committed he was to finding success in the NHL when he only gave it a try for one season.
Perhaps it’s not the fault of any one person, but the fault of an entire nation: Russia. The “Russian factor” has become the bogeyman at the NHL entry draft, as teams shy away from selecting Russian players for fear of them choosing the KHL over uncertain success in the NHL.
So, blame Russia and the KHL as a whole for being an oligarchy that has money to burn (sometimes) and can offer Russian players as much or more money as they would make in the NHL, along with the ability to play closer to home.
The Canucks team store
Maybe if the fans had been able to purchase and wear Tryamkin shirseys like they were demanding, Tryamkin would have felt their love and support and been compelled to stay.
It’s all your fault, team store. I’m buying knockoff gear from now on.
What if Tryamkin chose this particular season to head back to the KHL not because he doesn’t want to succeed in the NHL but because he sees an opportunity to play for Russia in the Olympics?
Gary Bettman and the NHL owners made the decision to keep players out of the 2018 Olympics, which opens doors for players outside of the NHL to represent their country. Could Tryamkin have a shot at playing for Team Russia? Did he decide a potential Olympic medal is better than what is likely to be another dreary, losing season for the Canucks?
This is my favourite option for a couple reasons: first, it lets me blame Bettman, which I really enjoy. Second, it keeps the door open for Tryamkin’s return after the 2017-18 season.
So, who do you blame? Desjardins, Benning, Tryamkin, or someone else? Is there another party at fault that I haven't thought of?