When Ilya Kovalchuk “retired” from the NHL and signed a 4-year deal in the KHL, expectations were higher than the I.S.S. for SKA St. Petersburg, the deep-pocketed franchise that has yet to play for the Gagarin Cup in the League’s six years of existence.
Those expectations came crashing down when SKA lost to No. 8 seed Lokomotiv Yaroslavl in the conference semifinals, as Kovalchuk managed just 3 goals and 2 assists in 10 games. He revealed after the season that he would have surgery on his knee and miss the IIHF world championships.
Someone had to pay for this failure. Turns out it’s “everyone”: SKA on Friday fired all of its coaches and its general manager. Which seems a little extreme.
SKA St. Petersburg hockey club fired Finnish head coach Jukka Jalonen on Friday after a disappointing playoff run, replacing him with former Russian national team coach and Olympic gold medalist Vyacheslav Bykov.
Jalonen, general manager Alexei Kasatonov and the entire coaching staff have been fired "in connection with unsatisfactory results," SKA said in a website statement. "Vyacheslav Bykov has been named as the new head coach of SKA."
Jalonen's departure comes six days after SKA president Alexander Medvedev, who doubles as KHL president, said it was "obvious that the team played below its capabilities" in the playoffs when asked about Jalonen's future.
Well, that’ll do it.
Please keep in mind that the hiring of Bykov also fits with what Russian Hockey Federatoon president Vladislav Tretiak has been calling for, which is for the KHL to hire more Russian coaches instead of showing a "preference for foreigners."
You know, the kind of thinking that gets you winners like Zinetula Bilyaletdinov coaching Team Russia in Sochi, if that’s what you could call it.