This is a weekly feature appearing every Thursday on Arbour Day.
Behold, our… fearless… leader. Maybe? Somewhat?
Okay, let’s face it, Alexei Yashin was never the captain the Islanders needed him to be. After trading Zdeno Chara, Bill Muckalt and a first-rounder (eventually Jason Spezza) to Ottawa for the Russian forward in 2001, the Isles watched him underperform for the next six years.
Yashin’s best season on the Island was his first one — a 75-point campaign in 2001-02 (32 G, 43 A). From there, it was an average of about 53 points per season, which, for his money, was severe underachievement. Granted, he was injured for parts of two seasons and played only 47 games in 2003-04, 58 in his final season of 2006-07; however, stats only tell part of the story.
It’s obvious that being a captain requires some form of leadership, but that is certainly what Yashin lacks. In two post-season campaigns with the Islanders (both losses in the first round), he posted a grand total of one point — an assist — in ten games. (stats here) You can’t fault him for being injured for part of his career with the Isles, but you can fault him for playing utterly uninspired hockey.
For that, the Isles decided enough was enough after the 2006-07 failed playoff run, and bought out the last four years of Yashin’s mammoth 10-year, $87.5 million contract. Ever since then, he’s been on the books for $2.2M per year from the Islanders, and will continue to be paid through 2015. (Good grief, that much longer?)
So what’s he done for the past four years?
Yashin made the move over to the KHL, playing for first Lokomotive Yaroslavl and then St. Petersburg SKA. His point totals weren’t much higher there (though I’m sure his paycheck was considerably larger), and at the end of the 2010-11 season, St. Petersburg apparently cut their ties with Yashin and moved on. He then played for CSKA Moscow, posting 20 points in 43 games.
Why he is relevant now? There are whispers going around (as they have been for the last couple of years) that Yashin is planning an epic NHL comeback not unlike fellow
geriatric vet Jaromir Jagr, and of course, what team is going to be the first (and only) suspect in that chase?
If you guessed the Islanders, you’re correct.
This is extremely doubtful, just like it was last season. Unlike Jagr, Yashin has never played up to his full potential (unless you count a couple of seasons with Ottawa), and he didn’t exactly light it up in the KHL. I don’t see him contributing to any NHL roster, much less the Isles’. Garth Snow is going for young players with promise. The whole veteran experiment with Brian Rolston, Steve Staios and the like failed miserably last season. Don’t get me wrong, there are still vets in the lineup, but I think even Marty Reasoner fills a better role than Yashin at this point (he can at least kill penalties).
The Isles may be desperate for a second-line center, but I don’t think they’re desperate enough to make the same mistake twice. He’ll stay in Russia. End of story.
Correction: It’s come to my attention that in two earlier playoff campaigns with the Isles, Yashin did score eleven points (seven in seven games in the first, four in five games in the second). My article pointed out his two more recent playoff runs as an Isle. Apologies for the error.