Khl.ru continues its pictorial record of the 2016-17 Championship with the story of Spartak’s season.
Moscow’s Red-and-Whites again failed to make the playoffs, and even before winter arrived, their long-suffering fans were already suspecting that another barren season was on the cards. The team enjoyed a decent start to the Championship, but then a run of poor results brought about the departure of head coach German Titov. His place was taken by Alexei Yarushkin, but after Spartak ended the season down in 13th place in the Western Conference and 26th in the overall standings, the replacement coach was himself replaced.
The first change of head coach triggered a brief revival, but the Red-and-Whites were destined to lose more games than they won. Spartak’s goals-allowed column for the regular season showed 168, and only Medvescak’s defense (186 goals allowed) was more porous. It was certainly a difficult campaign for goaltenders Markus Svensson and Nikita Bespalov.
In contrast, Spartak’s season off the ice was a stunning success. Since the era of the KHL began in 2008-09, the club’s attendances at home games consistently hovered over the 4,000 mark, but the average attendance in the 2016-17 Championship was 7,228, with families accounting for much of the surge in support. The marketing men and woman deserve great credit for their efforts in getting so many sport-loving Muscovites to flock to the arena.
An undoubted highlight of the season was a match in retro style, put together by the Spartak workers with the utmost precision and attention to detail. The chosen opponent was Lokomotiv, and the match ended in a 2-1 win for the Muscovites over the Railwaymen, but this was one meeting in which the final score was not so important. Most who attended will remember a wonderful festive evening, and hope that more such events will be on the way.
The 2nd of January, 2017, was the 70th birthday of legendary Spartak and USSR forward Alexander Yakushev, and of course, the Red-and-Whites helped their hero celebrate the occasion in style.
Derby games against fierce crosstown rivals CSKA are always special days on the Spartak calendar. Last season, the Army Men triumphed by a 6-1 score on both occasions, but the gladiators did not go down without a fight.
Despite the club’s deserved reputation for nurturing local talent, the best players of 2016-17 were two imports, Ryan Stoa of the United States and Lukas Radil of the Czech Republic. The pair scored the lion's share of Spartak’s goals (22 from Ryan, 12 from Lukas) and were firm favorites with the fans. Radil also enjoyed regular call-ups to the Czech national team.
Spartak will begin the forthcoming tenth KHL Championship with a new head coach, Vadim Yepanchintsev, and once again the “gladiators” will set off in search of that elusive playoff spot.