After a rocky start of the season, Dynamo Moscow decided to hire Vladimir Krikunov to try and rally back to a playoff spot. The experienced bench boss found a way to deal with Shipachyov and Kagarlitsky – giving them maximum freedom – and not only got to the Western Conference top eight but also moved past Jokerit. However, they couldn't stop their neighbors CSKA Moscow on their way to the Gagarin Cup.
Considering his age, most likely Vladimir Krikunov thought more than once to retire. But every time he starts making up some plans, a new director is calling him for help. It happened with Neftekhimik and Avtomobilist. This time, it looked like his work with Dynamo would have been temporary. Just some time to fix some mistakes made by the previous coach and see you. But no, after the last season Krikunov, who won the Russian title in 2005 with Dynamo, will be back next year for a second run, but under a new board.
After Zinetula Bilyaletdinov left Ak Bars, there are no other coaches in the League with his same level of experience. His pupils, like Nikolai Zavarukhin, are already coaching other KHL teams and as the time passes by Krikunov isn't scared of changing. The veteran coach is an adept of advanced stats, and his famed (and scared) Russian tires drills are now history.
Goalie: Igor Tyalo (Rubin, VHL).
Defensemen: Sergei Boikov (Colorado, AHL), Mikhail Grigoryev (Spartak), Artur Karmashkov (Admiral), Kirill Lyamin (Avtomobilist), Dmitry Ogurtsov (Neftekhimik), Maxim Ozerov (try-out), Yury Sergiyenko (Salavat Yulaev; trade), Stefan Stepanov (try-out; Orlik, Poland), Sergei Shchenkov (try-out; Izhstal, VHL), Michal Cajkovsky (Avtomobilist).
Forwards: Daniil Avdyukhin (try-out; DME Hockey Academy, USPHL), Georgi Busarov (Salavat Yulaev Ufa), Anton Vasilyev (Dynamo St. Petersburg, VHL; trade), Mark Verba (try-out; Vityaz), Fyodor Gusynin (try-out; Valk 494, Estonia), Vladislav Dyukarev (try-out; Metallurg), Andre Petersson (Barys), Alexander Petunin (Severstal; trade), Igor Polygalov (Traktor), Yegor Popov (Rubin, VHL), Pavel Tkachenko (Sibir), Ilya Shipov (Dynamo St. Petersburg, VHL), Dmitrij Jaskin (Washington, NHL).
Defensemen: Sergei Alexeyev (Khimik, VHL), Miika Koivisto (SC Bern, Switzerland), Vitaly Menshikov (Traktor), Maxim Mineyev (Torpedo; trade via Avangard), Ilya Nikulin, Alexey Pepelyayev (Humo Tashkent, VHL).
Forwards: Timur Besharov (Dynamo Tver, VHL; trade), Patrik Zackrisson (Leksands, Sweden), Dmitry Kagarlitsky (SKA), Ruslan Karlin (Traktor; via Severstal), Igor Makarov, Evgeny Mozer (Avtomobilist), Aslan Raisov (Yugra, VHL), Dmitry Sidlyarov (Admiral).
Excluding SKA and CSKA, Dynamo had the best defense in the Western Conference. This year things don't look worse, in spite of the high turnover. The team lost two of its leading defensemen in Ilya Nikulin and Miika Koivisto, and Vitaly Menshikov was also part of the top-four for Dynamo. At first, the Dynamo men had no foreigner defensemen, but then called back Michal Cajkovsky from Avtomobilist. Losing Menshikov to Chelyabinsk meant leaving some aggression on the table, but Mikhail Grigoryev should make up for the loss. The defensive corps of the Moscow-based teams got younger, even if considering the signing of Kirill Lyamin, a well-known player for the coaching staff. Krikunov and his board decided not to change the goaltending duo, with Alexander Yeryomenko and Ivan Bocharov alternating games.
Lyamin isn't the only newly signed player who already worked with Krikunov as Igor Polygalov had a good stint in Neftekhimik under the veteran coach. However, most of the signings in the attack are mostly for strengthening Dynamo's farm team and trying to develop a few players for the future. Most likely, Mark Verba, Anton Vasilyev, and Georgy Busarov - who will start the year in Tver. Nevertheless, Andre Petersson should be a fantastic acquisition for Dynamo. The technique-sound Swedish forward is already adapted to the league and last year was Barys' second top scorer after having stellar seasons in Sochi and Omsk. He will be called to replace not his fellow countrymate Patrik Zackrisson, but Dmitry Kagarlitsky. The Blue-and-Whites couldn't retain the high-scoring forward, who moved to SKA. Keeping Kagarlitsky's pace on the scoring sheet won't be easy for Petersson. Another move that should pan out for Dynamo is the signing of Dmitrij Jaskin, who is back to Europe after seven seasons in North America.
One year ago, Vadim Shipachyov signed with Dynamo to revitalize his career. After his attempt to play in the NHL, he signed back to Russia with SKA and won the Olympic gold medal, but he didn't have a significant role in South Korea and missed the IIHF World Championship in Denmark. However, in the Blue-and-White uniform, he showed that he isn't done yet and that he's still the best #87 after Sidney Crosby.
Not only Shipachyov led Dynamo in points, but he only trailed Nigel Dawes and his former teammate Nikita Gusev. Someone will say that the forward only scored one goal in the postseason but watching at the dynamic duo Shipachyov and Kagarlitsky was a real pleasure for the whole season. With the departure of Kagarlitsky, Shipachyov lost one of his favorite partners, but he was promoted to the captain role. Now, everyone will expect from him strong performance in both the regular season and the playoffs.
This year, the Dynamo's lineup will feature many young players. Ivan Igumnov is a fixture in the team's second line. Vladislav Mikhailov, one of the candidates for the WJC squad, is already scoring points for the Blue-and-Whites. Anton Vasilyev, who led the JHL in scoring last year, is also fighting for a spot in the team. However, the best young player of the preseason so far is another player – Artyom Volkov.
Krikunov is playing the shutdown defenseman in the first pair, and he doesn't look out of place. It seems that the 22-years-old blueliner, who has a VHL title and a bronze medal at the WJC under his belt, will start the season in the senior team. And it may happen while playing side-to-side with Juuso Hietanen and behind Vadim Shipachyov.
After Slovan left the League and Torpedo moved west, the situation got more complicated not only for Dynamo but for all the rest of the teams. Most likely, the White-and-Blues won't fight in the standings against Torpedo, but against Spartak, Jokerit, and Lokomotiv. Dynamo can boast a little advantage over them, given its roster and tactical stability. Oleg Znarok and Craig McTavish still have to feel themselves at home, while for Krikunov the process ended last year. The roster knows what its old-school coach is asking for them, and the bench boss knows what the players can give the team.
Dynamo may even compete with SKA, although they lack high-end quality outside of the top unit. Even there, Krikunov may have some headaches. What if Petersson will fail to replace Kagarlitsky? Who to ice on his place? Dmitrij Jaskin? Andrei Alexeyev? Daniil Tarasov? Miks Indrasis? Or maybe Maxim Afinogenov, if he'll stay away from injuries? It looks like Dynamo lacks some depth, even if the recent acquisitions of Cajkovsky and Jaskin have certainly improved the situation.