Anatoly (or Anatolii) Golyshev says he chased his dream of making it in the NHL, signed a minimum-level contract with the New York Islanders to make it happen, only to realize by the first-quarter mark of his first season in North America that he wasn’t really in the plans.
That can’t be entirely the case, of course: The Isles wouldn’t have bothered to bring the 26-year-old over from the KHL, nor given him a one-way contract, if they never had him in the plans.
But how NHL teams view development and prep for regular NHL duty and how players coming from outside this system view it is not always aligned. We’ve seen that across Isles regimes — Kirill Petrov under Garth Snow, and other imports under the unnamed guy who preceded him (before the 40-day guy).
For Golyshev, he hadn’t produced much in Bridgeport but according to his telling he wasn’t getting much of a look, either, claiming no meaningful power play time, no top-six roles. Things seemed to really come to a head when the Isles had a COVID outbreak that required multiple emergency callups from AHL Bridgeport. Though Golyshev was eventually one of them, it sounds like he was under the impression he would play in a game only to arrive after pre-game nap to learn he was a scratch.
After being waived — he says there were a few teams interested, but none would promise him he wouldn’t end up back in the AHL — ge gave extensive thoughts in an interview with the Sports Express Russia [ed. that link has been corrected]. To see what he reportedly said, you can practice your rusty high school Russian or run that article through Google Translate. Or, have fun with some translations by Twitter user vorkywh24 here, sharing screenshots of their translation:
With the caveat that much may be lost in, um, translation, in the story, in the tweet, in Bridgeport, and in discussions with Lou Lamoriello, this is another example of the Isles bringing in an experienced Russian but falling short at um, well, the translation game.
Truly, players should not arrive with unclear expectations, and particular attention should be paid there when there’s a language barrier and when a player feels like they’re leaving something good (regular KHL role, at home) to make the jump. Once here, there should not be muddied communication about how those expectations might evolve over time.
And just like UFAs or players with arbitration rights have a particular kind of leverage that teams recognize and treat differently, a vet from the European pro leagues has that escape hatch that should alter how you handle — or at least communicate with — them while you’re trying to assimilate them into the North American Gordie and Bobby tradition.
For the Isles, it’s quite possible the circumstances were further muddied due to the mad scramble they were in while dealing with multiple COVID cases, the NHL’s testing and communication protocol, and the shuttle of players who could arrive, actually play, and not blow up the cap. It had to be madness for everyone; as much as it sucked for fans, it had to be far worse for the whole franchise as it was making an opening night deadline for its new arena amid a losing streak and outbreak. So the feelings of an experienced player but new-to-North America guy probably weren’t high on their priority list at that moment. Or maybe they’d already seen enough, or heard enough from Bridgeport, to think it was never going to work out.
But Lou has a reputation for running an air-tight, buck-stops-here ship for a reason. You don’t expect this level of communication gap to happen.
And you know we’re going to hear very little from the Isles about this — Golyshev is gone now, that makes him an unperson, just like beards, assistant coaches and injured players. Writers will try to get at least one question in through the narrow Zoom communication hose but there will be no he-said, he-said. In this case, it’s probably low-cost because he wasn’t lighting it up in the AHL so his ceiling was likely low, limited to the kind of grinding winger with a little offensive punch who...often becomes a lineup staple if he has enough NHL games played.
There may be a small culture/reputation cost though. According to the translation, Golyshev arrived for what would’ve been his NHL debut and even Ilya Sorokin was surprised he wasn’t in the lineup. Sorokin is signed for two more years, Semyon Varlamov for one. Other international players are in the prospect pool. When it comes time to talk terms and “sacrifice this and you’ll get this opportunity” propositions are on the table, this story might give a player pause.