Eye on Europe–February 2013
The Cologne Sharks are Germany´s DEL front runner. The team was at the edge of bankruptcy three years ago and now are leading the DEL by three points. Two years ago the Cologne management hired Uwe Krupp, the first German to win the Stanley Cup, who was born and raised in Cologne.
Krupp began his coaching career with the German National Team and lead them back to the A-pool for the World Championships. He took over the Sharks and no one can argue that he’s doing a great job with the team.
With only a few games left to play in the Russian KHL seems like SKA St. Petersburg (Eastern Conference) is going to win the Gagarin Cup for the first time. In the past SKA wasted millions and millions of dollars each year trying to build a team of stars, but it never worked out.
After winning many championships with CSKA Moscow and with the Russian National team, GM Alexei Kasatonow, who played in the NHL from 1989-1996, assembled a great team in St. Petersburg. While the other teams are weakened because the locked out NHL players have returned to their teams SKA is adding more power to their club.
Just before the end of the transfer period they brought in KHL stars like forward Mikhail Varnakov from Torpedo, defender Alexander Osipov from Atlant Moscow, goalie Ivan Kasutin and the young rising star Artemy Panarin It appears that the only way St. Petersburg will lose is if they beat themselves.
From a Contender to a Patient
In the Russian town of Magnitogorsk all hockey fans were happy because their team seemed to be a real alternative to SKA. Former Hartford Whalers, Carolina Hurricanes and Toronto Maple Leafs coach Paul Maurice is building a team that can compete with the to clubs.
The NHL lockout helped Maurice to build one of the best teams in the KHL. With an attacking line of Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin (23- 42-75), Nikolai Kulemin of Toronto (14-24-36) as well as Metallurg star Sergei Mozyakin who set a new record by netting 34 goals and scoring 40 assists.
Metallurg was the best team in the Eastern Conference, they scored the most goals in the league and had the best power play. Everything seemed to be perfect, but then the NHL came back and it was the end of the reign of Magnitogorsk.
Since the NHL players returned to North America they are having scoring problems and have won only two of their past nine games. With the transfer period passing it seems that the playoff hopes left with the NHL players.
In Switzerland last year´s champion, Zurich, is back on the track. Former NHL coach Bob Hartley came to Zurich, won the championship 2012 and got an NHL coaching job in Calgary. Hartley was replaced by Krupp’s Cup winning coach Marc Crawford. Crawford’s squad struggled early but have reeled off six wins in a row as the season winds down.