Metallurg Magnitogorsk is one of the famous names of Russian hockey – but in the KHL era the Ural powerhouse has fallen short in its Gagarin Cup campaigns. So, for the 2012-13 crusade, Magnitka is looking to a new coach and a younger roster to bring back the glory days.
The appointment of Paul Maurice (pictured) to the Metallurg hot-seat is potentially one of the coups of the season. The club was already seeking a new man behind the benches, and according to recently-returned vice-president Gennady Velichkin, had all but agreed terms with a coach working elsewhere in Europe. However, at the last minute the directors changed tack and decided to look to North America, where Maurice was out of contract. With a resume which includes taking Carolina Hurricanes to the 2012 Stanley Cup final, approaching him for the Magnitogorsk job was a no-brainer, Velichkin told Sovietsky Sport, and the deal was swiftly done. At the same time, double Stanley Cup winning goaltender Tom Barrasso joined the coaching staff.
Maurice, the youngest man to coach 1,000 NHL games, has reshuffled his roster and cut the average age of the team from 31 to 26. That’s in line with the club’s desire to change course and make the team into the star, rather than create a star-studded roster which appears stronger on paper than on the ice. As a result, the likes of Maxim Sushinsky and Juhamatti Aaltonen have moved on, while Maurice has recruited younger replacements from the NHL, such as forwards Cal O’Reilly and Mats Zuccarello. More experienced firepower remains, however, with Sergei Mozyakin and Alexei Kaigorodov still on the roster, while the defense is set to be marshaled once again by Oleg Tverdovsky.
According to Velichkin, Magnitka 2012 is a work in progress, and he has cautioned fans not to expect too much, too soon. But while the plan is to rejuvenate the club from its foundations, one star name – perhaps the biggest of all – will always be welcome back at his boyhood club.
Evgeny Malkin, star of the Pittsburgh Penguins and hero of Russia’s 2012 World Championship winning team, learned his trade at the Magnitogorsk school. And with the prospect of an NHL lock-out prompting more and more speculation about which Russian clubs might capitalize on the situation and lure some big names back to Europe. Malkin has been identified as Metallurg’s top target, and Velichkin is confident that there is no chance of CSKA’s recently acquired oil wealth luring Malkin away from his hometown team: Magnitka retains the Russian sporting rights to the forward and expects first refusal on his services.