Thursday, May 15, 2008

2007-08 Rink Wrap: Viktor Kozlov

From Backstrom to Steckel, we're taking a quick look at and grading the 2007-08 season for every player* who laced 'em up for the Caps during the campaign (and is still with the team) with an eye towards 2008-09. Next up, Viktor Kozlov.

Contract Status: 2008-09 salary of $2.5M; UFA following 2008-09 season
Age (as of October 1, 2008): 33
NHL Seasons (including 2007-08): 12+
2007-08 Regular Season Stats: 81 games played, 16 goals, 38 assists, +28, 18 PIMs
Key Stat: Kozlov had the seventh-best plus/minus in the NHL.
Miserable Stats: In 12-plus seasons, Kozlov has yet to play a second round playoff game or score a playoff goal (in 21 games).

The Good: 2007-08 was Kozlov's freshman year in the Dainius Zubrus school of statistical inflation, and, as a result, he had his highest point total since 2002-03 and the best plus/minus of his career (it didn't hurt that he played a career-high 81 games for the second consecutive season, either). He rode the A-train en route to finishing as one of only two Caps to finish in the top five on the team in goals, assists, points and plus/minus (guess who the other is), and finished third on the squad in shots on goal with his highest total since '02-'03. Kozlov lead the team in primary assists per sixty minutes and was second in points per sixty minutes of ice time (edging Nicklas Backstrom). He had three different four-game scoring streaks, didn't go more than three games without a point after mid-October, and had a ridiculous March in which he had 11 points and a plus-17 rating in 14 games. His takeaway-to-giveaway ratio was better than that of any of his Russian teammates, he committed only eight minor penalties all year (and had the third best penalties drawn-to-taken per sixty ratio on the Caps) and had the best plus/minus per sixty on the team.

The Bad: Kozlov had goal-less streaks of 23 and 12 games and scored just two goals in a 43-game stretch from October 12 through January 17. He had the third-lowest shooting percentage of his career, and, ostensibly a center by trade, had a woeful 45.9 faceoff winning percentage. Frankly, none of his other stats stand out as particularly bad... thanks, Ovie!

The Vote: Rate Kozlov on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best) based on his performance relative to his potential for the season - if he had the best year you could have imagined him having, give him a 10; if he more or less played as you expected he would, give him a 5 or a 6; if he had the worst year you could have imagined him having, give him a 1.

The Questions: What role do you see Kozlov playing on the 2008-09 Caps? What will it take for him to earn a 10 rating next year?

If you've missed any of the previous 2007-08 Rink Wraps, click here, get caught up, and vote - polls will stay open for a while.

* And by "every," we mean every one who played more than just a handful of games.


NS said...

poll is missing an "8", although you might as well leave that out ;)

JP said...

Y'know, it was only a matter of time before I screwed one of these up. Oh well. If you're dying to give Kozzie an 8, vote "1" and I'll count it as an 8.

JP said...

And maybe it was Freudian, given that Kozlov was nothing without 8 this year.


1) We'd of given Kozlov a solid 6 BEFORE the post season. He played to the level you would have expected based upon the previous year in NY. Nothing spectacular, and certainly the term enigma applies, but Victor has been around long enough that no one should expect more than what he produced
2) However, his disappearence in the 7 playoff games-playin gon a top forward line and being virtually invisable when his team needed him most brought down his grade considerably.
3) Then if one looks at his career playoff stats they are down right scary-bad. (ZERO goals in 21 games!) To the point that we'd have no problem if the Caps decided to deal him this summer, or even buy him out and use that freed up cap space to resign Fedorov.

WufPirate said...

How many shootout winners did he have this year? It's quite possible that without his prowess in those, the Caps would have fallen just a few points shy of the post-season.

JP said...

I looked at that. He was 3-for-7 with one game decider.

tg said...

So call it Ovechkin-grade-inflation, but overall he did better than I expected, but not as well as I hoped. (Translation: 7) But he's another one where he'll have a couple great games in a row, and then just kind of disappear for a while.

the deuce said...

Kozlov will never get a 10, or anything approaching a 10. He's a lazy player who doesn't even know there is a gear beyond first. He was recently named by his peers as one of the biggest, um, wimps in the NHL: "Had to be 100 percent to play, not willing to play even at 90 percent. It's one of the reasons he's frustrated teams in his career and worn out his welcome." -ESPN The Mag. Yup, that about sums up Kozlov. Oh yeah, and he totally disappears in the playoffs, because, you know, that's when people really start hitting, and Kozlov doesn't like that. But he is good on shootouts, because you can be slow and deliberate then.

Shaggy said...

Grade inflation is one thing...but I think Kozzie had one helluva year. Goalless streaks aside, he wasn't counted as highly to score goals, but to help the Caps' puck possession game, and he succeeded. +28 is +28. This guy was not highly regarded like Briere, Gomez or Drury, and had almost instant chemistry with the greatest player on earth.
I really was going to give him and 8 and I thought, funny how JP left that number off, of all numbers!

Kim said...

So what does Viktor look like without his shirt. Never mind. You can role that little info. in when you do tomorrow's rink wrap :)

Seriously, Viktor was one of the most confusing players for me. His stats (assists, plus/minus, etc.) look good on paper. So why did he frustrate me so much during the regular season? He starts off by denting the mask of DP in the third game of the season with his wicked hard shot and then that edge seemed to disappear at times. He often looked like he was in slow motion, and for his size was at times pretty soft. But, just when Viktor had seemingly lulled us all to sleep, brilliance would strike again.

I was anticipating more, given Ovie's interest in Viktor. However, I find it hard to say that he played below what was realistically expected. Wish that edge and flash of brilliance would have showed itself more.

JP said...

In fairness, Deuce, he has missed just two games in the past two seasons... but I'm not going to quibble much with the rest of your comment.

VT Caps Fan said...

No secret I'm no fan of this guy. That's why I gave him a 4. If you take away his skill in the shoot outs, what does he add to this team?
Leadership? No.
Skill? Arguable.
Salary Cap space? Yeah (but could be worse)

When Steve Eminger has 1 more playoff goal in 5 games (Yeah I know it was a fluke), then Kozlov in 21 games this tells you how he preforms under pressure.

He is expendable in my opinion.

A healthy Eric Fehr could put up better numbers on this line then Kozlov could.

~Mark said...

Wow, did we get through a conversation about Koz and not mention Zubrus? Thank goodness!
I thought Koz gave exactly what a realistic person should have expected, which is both good and bad. Good, because he could have been a huge bust, and at times he was the most dominant forward. Bad, because I wonder how he fits into a team that needs to be built for the playoffs. Can we really depend on Koz as a top 6 forward on a Cup contender? This is one of my bigger concerns as we build this team.

Sam said...

was leaving the 8 out on purpose?

JP said...

@ Sam: No (see the first comments).

breed16 said...

I gave him a 9, simply because my expectations were dreadfully low. He maxed out in offensive production, and a +28!?!?!?! Lordy. Shootouts are a plus too. Overall I agree that he's not going to be a part of any championship team, but he is playing his role admirably: as an affordable veteran stop-gap (read: short-term) top 6 forward. I doubt McPhee has any illusions about extening him beyond next season.

b.orr4 said...

I gave Kozlov a solid 7. Aside from hitting, he was a huge improvement over Zubrus in every department. Yeah, his goal scoring was down from the previous year but that's to be expected playing with AO. And while many of his stats may have been the result of playing with Alex, I think Ovechkin's plus/minus improvement is due in large part to playing with Kozlov. Viktor is a superb stickhandler, invaluable on the shootouts, difficult to take off the puck in the offensive end and I thought he brought a real veteran presence to help Backstrom settle into the #1 center role. And you can argue that the top line of Koz, Nik and Alex may have been one of the best in the league in March. Hell, I've just convinced myself to give him an 8 (oops, we don't have one).

dmg said...

I also rate him a 7 - slightly exceeded expectations when it came to offensive production and there was no way I expected him to be one of the team's +/- leaders.

RandyD said...

I expected a good season from him, and Kozzie disappeared too many times during the season. I would have expected some career numbers for him being on Ovie's line -- at least a few more goals. The plus 28 is nice, but I've never considered him a defensive forward. Perhaps he brings more off the ice, but overall I saw little that stood out. I gave him a 5.

Mike in SF said...

Kozlov is a decent RW, but not the guy we need next to Ovechkin. I really hope somebody (Fehr, Clark, Laich) outplays him in the fall and earns that spot next to Ovechkin and Backstrom.

I keep saying the same thing in these forward reviews, but Boudreau likes to balance his lines out more than other coaches. Kozlov makes a lot of sense on a third scoring line. Something like:

Ovechkin Backstrom Clark
Laich Nylander Fehr
Semin Fedorov Kozlov
Bradley Steckel Gordon

You can mix and match Clark, Laich, Fehr and Fleischmann, and Laich probably centers the 3rd line if they don't re-sign Fedorov. You get the point. Each of thes top 3 lines has skill and each one has a defensive conscience. Makes them hard to match up against.

bigonetimer said...

I gave him a 6, down from a regular season 7+. I'd like to see him add a little more snarl to his game; for a big guy, he plays kind of small at times. Nonetheless, I thought he and OV played with great chemistry and he is money in the shootout.

Most troubling though is his disappearance in the playoffs, which is nothing new in his career. He just seemed a step slower and predictable vs. the Flyers, who scouted him well.

And the crushing blow: with a potential series changing goal on his stick at the end of Game 4, not only did he not convert or draw a penalty, but inexplicably gets one himself-the standout terrible call of the series, I have to add. I'm certainly not laying the game or series loss at his feet but for me, if he scores right there, it's a very different series and we might still be playing.

dmg said...

Mike in SF:

I agree with you that the Capitals are getting the point where they can have several lines that are all defensively solid and offensively productive, but I have a couple notes:

*beyond matchups and pairings you have to consider minutes and I don't like the idea of Clark seeing first line minutes, Fehr and Laich seeing second line minutes and Kozlov and Semin seeing third line minutes.
*player preferences are worth considering and given that Kozlov likes playing with Ovechkin, it might be the difference between him having 60 points and a +20 and him having 40 points and a -5.
*Boudreau's going to dress Brashear most nights.

Personally, if Cooke leaves and Fedorov returns, I'd like to see:


Each lines has at least two defensively sound players, the top lines stay intact, Laich and Clark play on an energy line and not all the eggs are in one basket.

exwhaler said...

Kozlov is what he is--Danius Zubrus, Part 2. A cynic will look at that breakdown and say he's a center who can't win faceoffs playing wing where he can't score goals. Bu Kozlov was brought in as a filler player--a veteran who can be productive in the top two lines until somebody better comes along either through the system or the market. And he did just that.

The issue is whether the team has better options for next season. If Clark is healthy, if they resign Fedorov...either one would bring more to the offense than Kozlov for next season. If neither of those two possiblities occur, Kozlov is here another season until somebody like Andrew Gordon or Bouchard is ready, or the Caps find somebody through trade ala Huet.

Ogre said...

I dunno, man. A +28 is a +28, no matter who you play with.

I gave him a 7. He's another one of those players who really struggled and then kinda seemed to turn it on, and when he was on *he was on*.

I think given another year with Boudreau, his numbers go up. He better learn to be a right wing by trade, though.

BobbySweet said...

For the money, I thought he did a pretty good job this year. He used his size well to protect the puck and generated some offense.

Did great in shootouts.

Of course he's slow and soft, but we all knew that coming in. Good return for the caysh, I says.

JP said...

To that end, I wonder (read: how about one of you guys do the research on this) how many guys had more points at a lower salary than Kozzie (and guys on incentive-laden entry deals don't count).


1) In an unrelated note congrats to Caps prospect Sami Lepisto for scoring the game winning goal in OT against the USA in the World championships

Brian said...


It looks like 36 guys had at least as many points and a lower salary than Kozlov. Based on this year's cap numbers, that number shrinks to 29 guys. Looking at next year, only 16 guys scored as much or more and will make less money (12 UFAs and 3 RFAs not included).

breed16 said...

Here's the shortlist of players who a.) outscored Kozlov, and b.) had salaries equal to or less than Kozlov's, and c.) that excludes entry-level contracts, and players under 25 generally. No, I don't enjoy my job.

J.P. Dumont (2.5 million, 72 points)
Vaclav Prospal (1.9 million, 71 points)
Kristian Huselius (1.4 million, 66 points)
D. Langkow (2.442 million, 65 points)
C. Stillman (1.75 million, 65 points)
Petr Sykora (2.5 million, 63 points)
B. Rolston (2.432 million, 59 points)
A. Brunette (1.6 million, 59 points)
R. Vrbata (1.225 million, 56 points)
N. Antropov (1.95 million, 56 points)

Jimmy Jazz said...

It was a lot easier to find fault with Koz when our team was laughable. I'd give him a six during the season, and a two for the playoffs.

Lisa said...

Wow, you guys can even make Viktor Kozlov sound interesting which is saying something. Thanks for the research and some laughs at his expense. I can't summon much enthusiasm, good or bad, for his play although that might change if we could see what 6'4" 224 looks like without a shirt. On a serious note, isn't he just a placeholder, albeit a Zubrus upgrade, until something better comes along?

For me, his drone-like performance in the playoffs, although not a surprise, is still inexcusable after 12+ years in the league. Maybe on the JP scale he still earns an above average score because we expected total suckage, at least in the playoffs, but I can't help thinking there's got to be more there, there. I'm probably just naive and this is what you get for $2.5M.