Certain players could not care less that yet another lock-out is plaguing the National Hockey League. Why is that? They already took the liberty of joining various leagues across Europe before the issue became inevitable and forthcoming.

There have been some incredible talents to come and abruptly go in the NHL, as money, playing time and a lack of consistency persuaded them to continue their careers elsewhere.

Tax-free terms on a contract, which the Kontinental Hockey League offers, are something most of us can only dream about. You can’t blame a guy for trying flying to those stipulations.

To be an everyday competitor in the NHL, one must possess four intangibles: ability, effort, a proper mindset that is open to criticism or change and finally, a wee bit of luck.

Each of the following players holds skill to die for, but they weren’t able to get by with that on its own, explaining their premature transfers.

Their gain, in the form of more cash and playing time, is our loss because they failed to reach their peaks in North America.

Daydreaming: The game wasn’t always occupying Nikolai Zherdev’s thinking process. (Photo courtesy of viventii/ Flikr)

Nikolai Zherdev

In any book about enigmatic hockey players, Zherdev would be a prime candidate to grace its cover. Similar to the tinted visor that shielded us from seeing his eyes clearly, nobody was exactly sure about the thoughts that lied in his head.

Whenever he was in the mood, the Ukrainian could go through an entire team, go back, and do it again, if he felt like it. Recently, he scored a dazzling goal in the KHL, albeit against weaker opponents.

Nothing was out of the realm of possibility, including the lackadaisical and uninterested moments which sadly could be Zherdev’s defining trait, rather than the natural gifts.

Often butting heads with coaching staffs over his use, or misuse, Zherdev’s attitude brought a source of disruption to the dressing room. Ken Hitchcock coached him smartly in 2008 with the Columbus Blue Jackets, helping him to a career-high 61 points, but it’s still at least 20 points below his offensive ceiling.

Zherdev’s ‘A’ game is quite special; however, he frequently did not bother to even bring ‘a’ game of any sort.

Lonely island: New York gave Schremp his largest window of opportunity. (Photo courtesy of Andy Martin Jr/ Flikr)

Rob Schremp

Shootouts; they can be a scene of the extraordinary or unshakable embarassment. Rob Schremp’s creative genius is at the fore in the break-away competition, where he imitates a lacrosse player, only with a hockey stick, and swivels the puck around like a hypnotist. Whenever on his way from center ice, confident as ever, people took notice of it.

They also keenly observed his problems: lousy skating, poor determination and a forgetfulness towards defensive management.

A scoring dynamo in his junior hockey days, Schremp struggled to bring enough of his pros to help his NHL coaches turn the other cheek on his cons.

Slipping from a possible top-ten selection in his draft year to 25th overall, due to his surplus of question marks, the 26-year-old didn’t settle in with the Edmonton Oilers.

After the New York Islanders put him to the test for two seasons, in which he played 44 and 45 games, he briefly ventured in Atlanta before they subsequently relocated to Winnipeg.

Say what you will about his demeanor, but Schremp’s offensive flair speaks for itself.

Back in yellow: Alexander Radulov is the one that got away from Nashville, twice. (Photo courtesy of Gosh@/ Flikr)

Alexander Radulov

Nashville’s episode with Radulov is quite surreal and, if history is anything to go by, the Russian might have more in store for the Predators. Bolting for the KHL isn’t uncommon, but doing it while you are still contractually committed to your NHL club for one year, as he was for the 2009 season, tends to be controversial.

Deciding to suspend him without pay, Nashville got on with their regular season; however, untimely injuries to key forwards and the void already left by Radulov was too much for them to overcome. That year, they watched the playoffs from the (dis)comfort of their homes.

Almost four years later, he returned to Nashville in March and prepared prepared to assist what has to be the strongest Predators side ever. David Poile would have the scoring dynamo on his side.

Although he was effective, Radulov didn’t always have his priorities properly established, which was best encapsulated when he and Andrei Kostitsyn were at a bar in the late hours of the night. Oh, and they had a postseason game to compete in the next day. That is, before being forcefully withdrawn from the line-up.

Ousted by the Phoenix Coyotes, Nashville got as far as round two yet again and Radulov took off for Russia because he wasn’t tendered a contract extension. Sergei Federov, general manager of CSKA, called Radulov ‘one of the most exciting Russian hockey players of the last few years’ and was pleased to have signed him.

No argument there, as he dangles like many of his fellow players with Russian passports and is an absolute sniper.

He might want to lose the twirling of the stick goal celebration though.

Oil spillage: Patrick O’Sullivan’s play suffered in Edmonton. (Photo courtesy of Gosh@/ Flikr)

Patrick O’Sullivan

O’Sullivan’s upbringing was sadly scarred by an abusive father who refused to accept anything less than great performances from his son. It escalated to physical violence following a major junior hockey contest and Patrick, wanting no more of this harassment, filed charges and conjured up a restraining order.

In 2003, on the Mississauga IceDogs, him and Schremp were the two offensive weapons that the organization counted on heavily.

With a game that was defined by his shooting, it came as no shock that he was a viable shoot-out choice. Overall, he was 15-for-33 on those break-aways, but remained a constant threat to make good on his attempt.

In a career highlighted by trades and an inability to really get going, apart from his 53 points as a sophomore, O’Sullivan was later confined to the American Hockey League.

His playmaking, a feature that might be lost amid his struggles, should serve him well in Finland, where he now resides for his hockey pursuits.

No Russian it: Nikita Filatov knows that he needs more polishing to be an NHL force. (Photo courtesy of Gosh@/ Flikr)

Nikita Filatov

Columbus’ first round history in the draft has mostly yielded unsavory results. Names like Alexandre Picard, Gilbert Brule, Jakub Voracek and of course, Nikolai Zherdev, are at the head of the queue.

Nikita Filatov, the sixth overall selection in 2008, is a newer face for that list, personifying the dark side of European players trying to adjust to the North American style of play.

He started brightly, scoring in his debut and registering a hat-trick five games later, but he fell off the radar afterwards, as he couldn’t secure a spot as an undisputed first-team regular.

Ottawa tried their luck with the Russian winger and the nine total games he received tell the tale.

For his development, he opted to fly back to his homeland, expecting an upgrade in playing minutes there.

Leading up to his draft, Filatov was heralded as ‘the next best thing to Steven Stamkos’ by one scout and viewed as a mixture of Maxim Afinogenov and Ilya Kovalchuk by another.

Still just 22-years-old, there is plenty of time for him to be that player, on North American territory.

Follow Rafal Ladysz on twitter.

  1. Alexander Frolov. A former King like Patrick O’Sullivan, Fro was a whipping boy for coach Terry Murray throughout his tenure. One bad play and Fro would be benched for the rest of the game and sometimes the next one too; never mind the fact that Dustin Brown would make much worse plays on a regular basis and never get shown the doghouse. Frolov had an ability to cycle the puck down low that you simply don’t see very often. He got shown the door in LA when Lombardi made the boneheaded move of halfheartedly going after Kovalchuck without ever really being willing to give him the kind of money he demanded, and failed to impress in an injury-riddled season with the Rangers. Now he is in the KHL, and it’s a shame he was not a productive member of the Kings’ 2012 championship squad.

  2. Mark says:

    Not sure I agree with Voracek being named alongside Picard, Brule and Filatov as a disappointment.

    Otherwise, well done.

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