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Campbell's Cuts: The best and worst Russia has to offer

SKA St. Petersburg's Maxim Sushinsky had two goals and five points in eight games at the 2006 Olympics. (Ekaterina Krishtul, Jansons Media)

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SKA St. Petersburg's Maxim Sushinsky had two goals and five points in eight games at the 2006 Olympics. (Ekaterina Krishtul, Jansons Media)

More Monday musings for your dining and dancing pleasure:

• When Russian GM Vladislav Tretiak says only half his team at the Olympics will be made up of NHL players, he’s not blowing smoke. That’s because he’d have trouble filling out an entire roster with all the Russian players in the NHL this season. Only 28 are playing over here in 2009-10.

Players from the NHL who almost certainly will be on the team are Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Pavel Datsyuk, Maxim Afinogenov and Alex Semin at forward; Andrei Markov, Fedor Tyutin, Sergei Gonchar and Anton Volchenkov on defense and Evgeni Nabokov, Ilya Bryzgalov and Semyon Varlamov in goal.

When it comes to which Kontinental League players will be in Vancouver, that’s where it gets interesting. To be sure, the Russian team will almost certainly be significantly stocked by KHL defensemen and there are a number of quality ones from whom to choose.

Tretiak and coach Slava Bykov will have to choose from Sergei Zubov (SKA St. Petersburg), Andrei Zyuzin (St. Petersburg), Anton Babchuk (Avangard), Danny Markov (Dynamo Moscow) and Oleg Tverdovsky (Salavat).

Up front, a number of Russian players are putting up big numbers in the KHL, but that should be tempered by the fact that Nikita Filatov couldn’t even break into the Columbus lineup, but has nine points in five games with CSKA.

Joining Filatov as prime KHL candidates at forward are Maxim Sushinsky (SKA St. Petersburg), who leads the KHL in points and teammate Alexei Yashin, who leads the league in assists. Also in contention are Alexei Morozov (Ak Bars Kazan), Alexander Radulov and Sergei Zinovyev (Salavat), Maxim Spiridonov (Barys) and Stanislav Chistov and Sergei Fedorov (Metallurg Magnitogorsk).

• If there is a less compelling exhibition of hockey on the planet than the Subway Super Series – or whatever they’re calling it these days – these eyes have not seen it.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this particular event – consider yourselves lucky – it is an annual six-game series with two games each featuring an all-star team from one of Canada’s three major junior leagues and a collection of Russian junior players, one or two of whom might even end up playing for their team at the World Junior Championship.

This year marked the seventh time the Canadian juniors have met the Russians in this series and the Canadian teams went 6-0, outscoring the Russians 27-11. The six games made Nashville-Carolina on a Tuesday night look exciting by comparison. It was so bad, in fact, that midway through the series, the players had to be reminded by Hockey Canada that this was an audition for the Canadian World Junior team and not a meaningless exhibition.

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Of the 360 minutes the teams played, the Russians held a lead for 25 minutes and 41 seconds and never by more than a goal. The games were dull and almost never in doubt and very, very difficult to retain a spectator’s interest.

And if this were a one-off, it might be acceptable. But in the seven years this series has been played, the Canadian teams have a 36-4-2 record and have outscored the Russians by a 194-91 margin.

So why do they keep playing? Well, Hockey Canada would have you believe it’s a valuable tool for evaluating World Junior talent, but what exactly can you glean from watching an all-star team play against third-rate Russian players that you can’t get from a regular season contest that at least has something on the line?

Actually – surprise, surprise – it’s about money. Not for the players, mind you, but for the Russian federation and the three junior leagues. And until those sources of revenue dry up, they’ll continue to foist this garbage on a public that keeps being duped into thinking it’s watching a spectacle that actually means something.

• Saw this line on another website, but it was so brilliant it bears repeating:

Commenting on the fact the Saskatchewan Roughriders lost the Grey Cup because they had 13 men on the field when the Montreal Alouettes missed a field goal in the dying seconds, somebody wrote: “Was Don Cherry coaching the Riders?”

That, of course, is a reference to the Cherry-coached Boston Bruins giving up the tying goal while shorthanded due to a late too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty in Game 7 of the 1979 semifinal against the Montreal Canadiens before going on to lose in overtime.

Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appear Wednesdays and Fridays and his column, Campbell's Cuts, appears Mondays.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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