'Smart, skillful, small and afraid'

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:34 AM ET

PHILADELPHIA -- The Senators fired back at Russian rookie Alexei Kaigorodov yesterday.

GM John Muckler and coach Bryan Murray were incensed when they picked up yesterday's edition of the Sun and read about comments made to a Russian journalist by the first-year centre.

After refusing to accept an assignment to the club's AHL affiliate in Binghamton earlier this month, Kaigorodov returned to his home country where he claimed he was "deceived" by Muckler and had "no communication" with the coaching staff.

That didn't sit well with either Muckler or Murray.

"It's not true ... It's not true at all," said Muckler. "It was unfair to (Murray) what he said because the club wasn't playing well at the time. (Murray) had to play the players that he felt were going to help him get out of the slump.

"It's pretty hard for (Murray) to have confidence in a rookie who hasn't done it before and, therefore, he didn't get the ice time to show his wares. The coach did the proper thing and unfortunately for Alexei he decided not to go to Binghamton, he's back in Russia."

Murray, along with assistant coach Greg Carvel, disputed the fact Kaigorodov didn't get any coaching.

Carvel told reporters he watched video with the 23-year-old after every game to try to help him adapt to the North American style because that -- and the youngster's poor work ethic -- were Kaigorodov's biggest issues.

"I tried to talk to him one day and it was like: 'I know. I know. I know.' Another day I asked John Paddock and it was the same type of thing: 'Yeah, I know ... I've got to work hard.' Nothing changed," said Murray.

"We just watched, as we do with all the young players, how they fit and do they fit. I thought we gave this guy the inside track for a few weeks because we brought him in from Russia and he had a talent level."

One of the players in the dressing room noted that Kaigorodov got more rope than a lot of guys would because the club wanted him to play the role of second-line centre.

"When John asked me, I told him, 'I don't see where he's going to contribute to this team right now. He's smart, skillful, small and afraid.' That combination leaves you wanting when you come into a building like this," said Murray.

"If I had to play him next to (Peter) Forsberg, that'd be a problem.

"The other thing he said in the article is he talks about the guy that plays for Pittsburgh that's not a bad player (Evgeni Malkin). (Kaigorodov) says 'I'm comparable to (Malkin) and I think I should have been treated like him.' I don't know if that's true or not. You guys are better judges than I am, but I don't think he is."

Muckler said his intent for Kaigorodov spending some time in the AHL was to allow the forward to learn what it's like to play in North America.

"What I wanted to do was remove him from that atmosphere and where he could be successful at another level," said Muckler.

"I tried to explain to him that I wanted him to go down to Bingo to play, so he'd be in a position to become successful and put up some good stats.

"If he had dominated at the AHL level, he would have been brought back. I told him he had the skill level to play, but he had to show he could play under the North American system."

And if Kaigorodov thinks he's going to be able to shop himself around the NHL once his contract expires at the end of the 2006-07 season, Muckler has some news for him.

"He states that he'll be a free agent at the end of the contract, but we'll own his rights until he becomes an unrestricted free agent and that's probably in about five years," said Muckler. "So, if he wants to play in the NHL, he has to come through Ottawa."


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