Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Focus on a Thrasher: Max Afinogenov

I'm trying to get this show back on the road. I thought this Monday would be a perfect time to the Focus On A Thrasher about Max Afinogenov. Max said "Afinogenov this team" last week when he signed a five year deal with the KHL. Mad Max was only with us for a year, but the fans loved him.

Max came to Atlanta in the 2009-10 season when he was given an invitation to training camp to tryout.

One of my favorite Mad Max stories is about how he played pick-up hockey in Birmingham, Alabama. Visiting the city with his girlfriend, tennis star Elena Dementieva, Max wanted some ice time during the Olympic break. His agent called up the local ice rink and reserved some time. You can read the whole story here: http://blog.al.com/ray-melick/2010/04/melick_fed_cup_lures_mad_max_t.html

Max was born in Moscow, Russia, on September 4, 1979 to parents Raisa and Sergei. Sergei introduced Max to hockey as soon as he could walk. By his early teens, Max was an accomplished player. Coaches were amazed at his ability to get shots off, but confused as to why they weren't finding their way to the back of the net.

Max is not the only star athlete of the family. Katia, Max's younger sister, was once thought to be the prodigy of the family in the sport of tennis. At age 13, she moved to Florida to study with an instructor who trained both Venus and Serena Williams as children. Max's mother was also a noted track and field star who was twice the Soviet track and field champion at 800 meters.

Max played for 4 seasons with the Moscow Dynamo, one of Russia's elite junior teams, and by his final years with the club, his shots had definitely started hitting the back of the net. Max was drafted in the 3rd round, 69th overall, by the Buffalo Sabres in the 1997 NHL entry draft. In 1998 he also represented his country in the World Junior Championships and scored 16 points in 16 games. He was also named the top forward of the tournament.

With is junior hockey career behind him, Max split the 1999-00 season between the Rochester Americans of the AHL and the Buffalo Sabres. Max made his NHL debut on November 10, 1999 and scored a goal and an assist in a 6-2 win over the Boston Bruins. While in the AHL, Max lead rookie scoring at the time of his recall. At the end of the season he was 8th in the NHL for rookie scoring.

Once Max was called up from the AHL, he never went back. He started the 2000-01 season with the Sabres. He appeared in 78 games for the Sabres, scoring 36 points (14 goals 22 assists). He also scored his first play off goal in game 5 against the Philadelphia Flyers. At the end of the season he was tied for the team high of 5 game winning goals.

The 2001-02 season shaped up to be a good one for Max. He had a (then) career high year for points with 40 (21 goals 19 assists) in 81 games. He also had a 6 game point streak.

With such a good season, it's not surprised that the Sabres signed Max to a $2.4 million contract on September 4, 2002. What IS a big surprise is that later that day in a game of pick up hockey in Moscow, Max took a puck to the head that gave him a concussion. (Max and those damn pick up games). He was out for most of the 2002-03 season, only playing in 35 games and scoring 11 points.

For the 2003-04 season, Max was looking to bounce back from this concussion syndrome riddle previous season. He was able to play in 73 games that season scoring 31 points (17 goals 14 assists). He scored his first NHL hat trick on December 31, 2003 in a 7-1 win against the Washington Capitals.

During the 2004-05 lock out, Max returned to Russia and played 36 games for the Moscow Dynamo of the Russian Super League scoring 27 points (13+14). He also represented Russia at 2005 World Championships in Austria, scoring three goals and two assists in nine games

The lock out seemed to rejuvenate Max and he came back to the NHL on fire and finished the season as the team's leading scorer. The 2005-06 season was his best to date. In 77 games with the Sabres he scored 73 points (22 goals 51 assists). He also had a team high of 18 multiple point games.

Max continued to dazzle in the 2006-07 season. Despite missing 26 games, Max still managed to score 61 points (23 goals 38 assists). In February of 2007, back up goalie, Martin Biron, was traded. This made Max the longest-serving Sabre on the roster.

For the 2007-08 season, Max was once again limited to 56 games, but failed to dazzle with only 28 points. His production fell even farther for the 2008-09 season where due to a groin injury, he appeared in only 48 games and scored 20 points. He became an unrestricted free agent and was not re-signed by the Sabres.

Then we gave him a tryout! On September 29 2009, he signed a one-year contract with the team worth $800,000. His first goal as a Thrasher...on October 17, 2009 against the Buffalo Sabres. I love irony. Fans loved watching Mad Max fly up the ice. While in Atlanta Max played in all 82 games and scored 61 points (24 goals 37 assists).

Good luck in the KHL, Max! I can't fault a man for wanting to go back home. You have had a great career and were only a Thrasher for a little while, but you have fans here!


Michelle August 10, 2010 at 7:48 AM  

We are really going to miss Max. Great tribute!

ATLANTA HOCKEY PICTURES August 10, 2010 at 9:33 AM  

:-( gonna miss him too. oh well.

Nuts for Boults August 11, 2010 at 5:28 PM  

I loved Max first. I miss Max most.


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