This season there's going to be some Russian players on the Flyers again. It's been a while and the combination hasn't worked out well very often for either the team or the player. Current head coach of Red Army, the junior team for the CSKA Moscow, Vyacheslav Butsayev, 39, shares his memories from the early 1990's regarding his time in the NHL, the teams, the coaches... and well, Eric Lindros.
The starting point for Butsayev's NHL journey wasn't ideal to begin with. Now he admits he wasn't ready for it.
"We lost a lot of more or less experienced players from CSKA before the 1992 season. One was Andrei Kovalenko. I didn't want to be a mentor at the age of 22, so I had to leave."
"I wasn't ready when I went to play in the NHL. This is one of my lessons to the kids today."
Butsayev says it straight; his NHL career was a disappointment.
"It was. I went to Philadelphia and it wasn't the best of times for me."
"Right before I went there, they got Eric Lindros who was supposed to be the successor for Wayne Gretzky. A year before, Lindros had already played in the Canada Cup and he hadn't even played in the NHL yet. Eric didn't want to play in Québec that drafted him and demanded a trade. And he got it."
If Butsayev's memories of his NHL career aren't very positive, his memories of Lindros aren't any more positive either.
"He was a self-conscious young man who was allowed to do a lot of things. He could break the rules and it would go unpunished."
"He had talent, but he was far away from Gretzky."
"I also met him in the Canada Cup in 1991. He skated like a rocket and tried to do it all by himself. We weren't afraid of him, we played a 3-3 game with Canada. We then went on to beat him in the Olympics in Albertville in 1992 and at the World Championships in Munich in 1993."
But there was also a man who surprised Butsayev in a positive manner.
"The coach [Bill Dineen]. Old man, a father of one of the team's leaders, Kevin Dineen."
"We had lost a few games in a row and he put up a funny sign in the locker room that had three keys to victory; 'Take 50 shots on goal, steal the puck 30 times and don't turn the puck over in the neutral zone more than ten times or you'll lose!'"
"He also took the players to the bar at his own expense."
"I couldn't do that with the Red Army."
While Butsayev's visit in Philadelphia didn't go all too well, a move to San Jose didn't turn things any better. He got to play very little in California; a combined 18 games in two seasons.
"I barely played at all! The Sharks coach Kevin Constantine had his prejudices against Russians. There were Sergei Makarov and Igor Larionov, young Sandis Ozolinsh and Andrei Nazarov. My only relief was the period when I was put on the same line with Makarov and Larionov. Getting to play with such team mates felt great right away."\
This report was based off of a Russian-language story in the publication Sovietsky Sport.