In an interview with Alexey Shevchenko of Sport-express.ru, Colorado Avalanche defenseman Nikita Zadorov explains the reasons for his possible return to the KHL and discusses the results of his NHL season.
If you use this translated text in any way, please credit Sport-express.ru, Mile High Hockey and Natalia (@forgotten_night) for the translation.
“Now the leg is all right”
Alexey Shevchenko: You had to finish the season early because of a fractured ankle. Have you gained a lot of weight since then?
Nikita Zadorov: Just a little. But I haven’t been on the ice yet, and when full-blown training starts, all the excess kilograms will go away.
Shevchenko: When you got injured, you said you could’ve played if the Avalanche had made the playoffs. The club didn’t fight for the Stanley Cup after all, but were you ready?
Zadorov: I went out on the ice on April 20 and could have forced the preparation process. But by that time our club had lost the chance to get into the top eight, so there was no point in rushing the recovery.
Shevchenko: Did the leg hurt?
Zadorov: It did initially, though only because the skate pressed on the fracture site. But I worked well during the treatment period, so there was no decline in my physical form.
Shevchenko: Is there any pain now?
Zadorov: None. I’m one hundred percent ready. I’ve been jumping in the gym—everything’s good.
Shevchenko: Was that injury an accident?
Zadorov: Entirely. The play got physical at practice, I fell badly, my opponent fell onto my leg and someone else pressed him down too. I heard a crack and knew instantly it was bad. I couldn’t step on my foot at first, but just two days later I was able to walk without crutches—in a cast, though.
Shevchenko: It’s a shame that you began showing your best hockey right before the injury.
Zadorov: It was just going well for me. I had been trusted before too, but at that moment a lot in my game finally started working out. Yes, the team was losing, but I was laying myself out on the ice, doing my best. I was doing what I love most.
Shevchenko: When we met one year ago, you told me the Avalanche would definitely make the playoffs and I just giggled. My laughter turned out to be more reasonable.
Zadorov: But we started the season quite well, won on the road. Remember how we played right before the season? Six wins in six games. The home series of six consecutive losses casted a long shadow on us. We didn’t manage to get back on track after that. We did have some very good games though.
Shevchenko: What is it like to be on a team that doesn’t make the playoffs?
Zadorov: I can’t say we lost heart. Besides, there are no motivational issues in this league. Someone’s fighting for a contract, someone for more ice time. I’ll say we all wanted it and did out best, just didn’t succeed.
Shevchenko: What was lacking then?
Zadorov: Experience. And, perhaps, character. But now I can promise you that next season we’ll definitely get into the playoffs.
Zadorov: You’ll see. We have a great team gathering now, and we’re going to fight until the end. What are you expecting from me anyway? I don’t do things by halves. Besides, you follow the NHL and know that any kinds of surprises are possible there. Look at Nashville.
“I might go back to Russia”
Shevchenko: But you still don’t have a contract with Colorado.
Zadorov: This is true. The negotiations are in progress and I’m constantly in contact with my agent. There are some contradictions.
Shevchenko: Concerning what?
Zadorov: I’m not going to disclose anything or tell you the numbers. But we have reached an agreement on the length of the contract.
Shevchenko: Is it going to be a long contract?
Zadorov: It’s a bridge deal. The term is two years.
Shevchenko: There have been talks that you might go back to Russia.
Zadorov: I’m waiting for the Avalanche’s decision. I have decided for myself that I’m ready to wait until the end of July. But I want stability. If we don’t come to an agreement, I will play for CSKA.
Shevchenko: Why isn’t Colorado signing the contract? Is it business or is it game-related?
Zadorov: No, the delay is solely business-related. Hockey-related issues are of no importance here.
Shevchenko: You might be trying to play the Russian card during the negotiations. If I were an Avalanche representative, I would know that you would lose much more if you decided to go back.
Shevchenko: The league is weak. You simply won’t be the same Zadorov.
Zadorov: Maybe you’re right, but there are moral principles. I’m not asking for anything supernatural; I know my worth and I’m asking for the terms I deserve. There’s too much on the line. Of course, I want to play in the NHL, I love the Avalanche, I like everything in Colorado. But you have to look at things the right way.
Shevchenko: Maybe you should consider asking for a trade?
Zadorov: Why? I’m happy with everything in the organization. We have a young and promising team, I have a great relationship with the coaching staff. I’d like to achieve something with the Avalanche.
Shevchenko: I’ve been following your career and I think you’re lacking just a tiny bit to become an NHL star. Not the top-level star maybe, but at least a leader of your own team.
Zadorov: I see your point, and that’s why I have high hopes for the next season. I’ll be preparing for the season like I’ve never done before. I’m counting on the upcoming season. I hope we come to an agreement with the Avalanche.
“Our coach was very optimistic”
Shevchenko: We don’t know much about your coach. What kind of person is Jared Bednar?
Zadorov: If I were to remember something good about the season, it would all be about our coach. Yes, he was in a difficult situation, but he always believed in us and tried to give us optimism. He would never panic, even after the most crushing losses. On the contrary, he would always try to cheer us up. I’m sure we won’t have any problems with such an approach.
Shevchenko: Clever people advise asking defensemen about their relationship with the specialist working with defense rather than about that with their head coach.
Zadorov: Nolan Pratt, who works with our defensemen, has played in the KHL, spent two years in “Amur”. A great man and a brilliant specialist. We talk a lot, he’s always explaining how I can improve my game and what I can change. I attribute my success to him too.
Shevchenko: Is Patrick Roy very different from Bednar?
Zadorov: Yes, these are two completely different people. I couldn’t come up to Patrick to talk about some random things; I’d rather not bother him with anything, really. There’s no such barrier with Jared. I’m not saying whether it’s good or bad but it’s true. Our head coach likes baseball; he often tries drawing analogies between the two sports, and it’s impressive. It’s clear that this person lives for sport.
Shevchenko: And how good are you at baseball?
Zadorov: Not very good. I really like American football, but during the season it turned out that I’m not particularly knowledgeable at it either.
Zadorov: There are constant arguments in the locker room about the championship. My predictions are never right.
Shevchenko: What was the last bet you lost?
Zadorov: It was not about football but about golf. You had to pick four players at the Masters so that their scores would be summed to determine the winner, and I picked the four worst golfers.
“It will be easier for Grigorenko in the KHL”
Shevchenko: Mikhail Grigorenko has already gone back to the KHL from Colorado. I don’t think it’s a valuable addition for CSKA based on his performance in the NHL.
Zadorov: Grigorenko didn’t look bad considering the circumstances he was in. But sometimes he was placed at wing or had to go out on the ice with partners who weren’t even supposed to create. He’s a cool player; we’ve been together since Buffalo, but I remember seeing him play with enforcers. How can you expect anything from a smart player when you put him in such conditions?
Shevchenko: Does Andrei Mironov have any chances in Colorado?
Zadorov: He does, and the chances are very good. Mironov is virtually the most North American player of all those coming from the KHL this year. I talked to the coaches during the development camp; obviously, the competitive level there is not as high as that in the first team, but I was told that Mironov is all right. He has everything to earn a spot in the roster. He plays great in power style. He shows simple hockey that is valued.
Shevchenko: There’s a problem with English though.
Zadorov: It’s not a big deal. Colorado has Semyon Varlamov, Nail Yakupov, me. We’ll help Mironov if he needs us to. In fact, the biggest challenges a Russian player faces in the NHL are mostly off the ice. The American mentality is different from ours and you have to be a completely different person. But we’ll tell him what to do.
Shevchenko: This year, you had two and a half fights. I’d like to know about the “half” first. It was the first time I saw a player get 5 minutes for lying on the ice covering his head with hands.
Zadorov: It was at the game against Winnipeg, when I made a clean hit on Mark Scheifele. I got attacked and fell, but the referee decided to give me a penalty. It was absolutely unfair, and I didn’t hesitate to tell the referee that. But he explained that he wasn’t sure whether my hit had been clean or not, and if I got disqualified later, he would be punished too.
Shevchenko: But what about five for fighting?
Zadorov: He had to make the teams even. And I think that was unfair too. I guess I just don’t have a big enough name in the NHL yet. If it had been a more established player instead of me, he wouldn’t have got a penalty.
Shevchenko: You fought during a game against Toronto once. Your opponent was Matt Martin. There aren’t many enforcers left in the NHL, but he’s one of them.
Zadorov: That’s fine, I’m not afraid of anyone. What could he do? Hit me in the face? It’s nothing, I’d survive that. But in no circumstances can you show weakness. The fight was okay—at least I didn’t lose.