Thursday, October 1, 2009

Focus on a Thrasher: Slava Kozlov

Slava has the nickname "The Professor" on the Thrashers webboard. I'm guessing because he schools everyone. Plus, his stoic nature is kind of perfect for the moniker. Slava hit kind of a slump in the 2007-08 seaon, then it was learned he was playing through an injury. Last season, he came back with a vengeance.

Vyacheslav Anatolevich Kozlov (Вячеслав Анатольевич Козлов) was born on May 3, 1972 (I'm 3 days older than Slava) in Voskresensk, U.S.S.R.

In 1987, Slava began his professional career with the Khimik Voskresensk (now known as the Atlant Moscow Blast). Slava played with Khimik for 4 season.

Slava was drafted in the 3rd round (45th overall) by the Detroit Red Wings in the 1990 NHL Entry Draft.

Slava started the 1991-92 season with the HC CSKA Moscow, but ended up in Detroit. On March 12, 1992, Slava made his NHL debut with Detroit against the St. Louis Blues. He scored his first-career point with an assist.

The 1992-93 season saw Slava spend most of his season with the Adirondack Red Wings. Slava did get called up to Detroit for 17 games that season though. On October 8, Slava scored his first NHL point against Los Angeles.

Slava spent most of the 1993-94 season with the Detroit Red Wings. He set a career-high with 73 points in 77 games (with the Wings). Slava got his first hat trick on January 16 in San Jose. He also recorded a career-high eight game point streak from 11/20-12/3.

The 1994-95 season was shortened by a lockout of the players by the owners. Slava appeared in 46 games with the Red Wings, but also appeared in 10 games and recorded 7 points for the CSKA Moscow in the Russian Super League.

For the 1995-96 Season, Slava got a new friend to play with, Igor Larionov. After Igor was acquired, Coach Scotty Bowman created a 5-man Russian unit called "The Russian Five." It consisted of Slava, Igor, Vladimir Konstantinov, Sergei Federov and Vladimir Fetisov. Specializing in speed and puck control, the Russian Five were noted for their skill and ability on the ice.

The 1996-97 season turned out to be a very good season for the Detroit Red Wings thanks to Slava and his Russian buddies. Thanks to the Russian Five, the Wings went to the Stanley Cup Finals and swept Philadelphia in 4 games. During the playoffs, the Red Wings went 16-0 when any of the Russians scored a point and 0-4 when they did not.

The Russian Five lost one of their members shortly after they won the cup. Vladimir Konstantinov was in a devastating car accident that would end his career. The team wore special patches in the 1997-98 season that said "believe" in both Russian and English. Slava was able to have a good season, putting up 52 points. He helped the Wings win the playoffs for back-to-back Stanley Cups.

Slava played with the Red Wings until the summer of 2001 when he was traded to Buffalo in exchange for Dominik Hasek. The season wasn't good for Slava and was shortened by injury. There are also some stories that he wasn't very happy there. Whatever the reason, Slava was traded to The Atlanta Thrashers (a/k/a he came home!)

Slava hit the ground running with the Thrashers. In the 2002-03 season, Slava put up 70 points. On March 31, Slava recorded his 500th NHL point. He ended the season on a six-game assist/point streak setting a career-high and tying a team-record for the longest assist streak.

Slava kept up the good work in the 2003-04 season with 52 points in 76 games. He became the 7th Russian-born player ot record eight 20 goal seasons in his career. He finished second on the team in goals and fourth in assists.

The 2004-05 season was the long, horrible, miserable lock out. Slava split his season between Voskresensk and Ak Bars Kazan of the Russian Super League. He earned 36 points in 46 games. He earned 8 points in an 8 game stretch.

With the lock out over, Slava came back to the Thrashers and for the next two seasons, put up his usual steady numbers, scoring 71 points in the 2005-06 season and a career high 80 points in 2006-07. On March 12, 2007, Slava recorded his 700th career NHL point and 300th goal. He collected his 400th NHL assist on March 8. With the inception of the Shootout in the NHL Slava has proven to be one of the league's best scorer in the shootouts . Slava is money in the bank on a shoot out!

The 2007-08 season was an off season for Slava. Though he played in all 82 games, he only put up 41 points. The last time he put up those kinds of numbers, he got traded to Buffalo (eww). The team stuck with him though. It was later learned that he had been playing in quite a bit of pain. He had surgery in the summer of 2007 and was still recovering.

Slava answered the critics in the 2008-09 season. Spending time on the Little White Russian line (with Bryan Little and Todd White) certainly helped. Slava was back to his old point scoring self playing in all 82 games and scoring 76 points.

Slava is also apparently a gym rat. They say he is stronger now than when he broke into the league almost 20 years ago. He's not as fast as he used to be, but he has found ways to compensate. Instead of relying on his speed, he is more of a "follow in behind the play, set everything in motion and follow in" kind of guy.
Todd White says:

“Being on the ice with him, he slows the play down when play gets scrambled out there and we start running around a little bit.”

Bryan Little said:
“He’s great at controlling the puck and settling things down, not panicking with the puck.”

Slava has words of wisdom, too:

"I feel pretty good, but the years take your speed away," he said. "I don't think I'm fast like I used to be, but in this game, you can use partners and you can compensate your speed with experience and playing a little different role."

Slava has plenty of gas left in the tank!


TheRussianOne13 October 2, 2009 at 12:12 PM  

Yay!! I've been waiting for the Slava piece!! Very good.

Blondyk February 11, 2010 at 12:34 PM  

I met him personally and he is indeed a great player; he made me discover hockey and I absolutely love it !


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