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Photo Credit: © Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Is Anyone to Blame for Nikita Tryamkin Leaving the Canucks?

Canucks fans were shaken Thursday morning when they woke up to news that Nikita Tryamkin had decided to sign in the KHL. Despite never having publicly spoken in English, he became a quick and easy fan-favourite with the personality he displayed on the ice. The big Russian played 66 games this season before deciding that the NHL and North America was simply not for him.

When the news first broke, fans immediately jumped off the Tryamkin bandwagon and turned into cynics, and rightly so as there are justifiable reasons as to why they should be angry. Tryamkin had his spot in the best league in the world, but he simply didn’t want it. During the season-ending press conference, he stated that it was in his best interest to play in Vancouver. Apparently, that’s not how he feels now.

However, this situation occurs quite frequently around the league and players simply use that statement to appease the media and fans. Despite the crowded blue line, Tryamkin had played well enough to earn a full-time roster spot in seasons to come. It was laying on a silver platter and there for his taking, but he decided to pass.

Before the start of the season, the Canucks openly stated that they hoped Tryamkin would make the move to Vancouver. They wanted him so badly that they added a no-AHL clause in his contract, giving him reassurance that he would stick with the big club. When times got tough, and his conditioning was not up to par, management asked if he would possibly go down to Utica on a brief conditioning stint. As expected, Tryamkin denied their request. This was the first sign of the potentially tense relationship between the two sides.

From the Canucks’ standpoint, they were acting on Tryamkin’s best interest. He wasn’t in shape when he arrived at training camp, and it carried on for essentially the first-half of the season. He found himself as a healthy scratch because of his fitness, and yet he refused to be sent down on a conditioning stint. You can call him stubborn at the time, but Tryamkin did have the right to veto the move per his contract.

According to the KHL’s interview with Tryamkin, his reason for leaving was due to the lack of ice time.

Tryamkin played under 12 minutes in just one game throughout the entire season. Looking at his TOI across his 66 games, 16:32 was the median. Yes, there were nights when he played under 14, but there were far more games with 15+ minutes of ice time. From that standpoint, it’s certainly strange that he would cite his TOI as the reason for leaving. As we’re all too aware, the Canucks organization doesn’t tolerate entitlement from their young players. As a rookie on the team, let alone amongst the defence core, other players are higher than Tryamkin on the pedestal. Being frustrated by the lack of ice time is the easiest excuse to make, though it’s obvious that it couldn’t be the only one.

Let’s be honest, if Tryamkin really wanted to play in the NHL, he would be doing everything he could to stay. With the cultural and language barriers, it’s evident that he was a lost puppy during his first few months. From what we witnessed on the ice, his primary means of communication were facial and physical movements. There didn’t appear to be any noticeable progress of him attempting to adapt. If he remained in the NHL, it would be a necessity for him to embrace the North American culture. His departure might suggest that the NHL lifestyle, although lavish and affluent, wasn’t worth undergoing cultural assimilation.

Jeff Paterson: “I was in the (locker) room enough and he looked miserable in the early going. Last year, he looked completely shell-shocked. I remember talking to some of his teammates about doing their part to try to involve him, even with the language gap – taking him out to dinners on the road, take him out to whatever activities. Guys said they were doing all they could to make him feel like a part of this group. In the second half of the season, when he was playing, he felt more part of that group. But in the early going, he didn’t look like a guy who was living the life in the NHL.” (Source)

The reasons above are quite cynical and do paint Tryamkin in a bad light, but there are also factors to be considered which take into account his personal life. Transitioning from the Russian to North American lifestyle is, by no means, an easy task. Along with his wife, he moved to an unfamiliar country halfway across the world and knew nobody. While he was on lengthy road trips with the team, she likely encountered her own struggles of feeling isolated and different. Given the fact that he’s merely 22-years-old, it would be hard to imagine he wasn’t homesick. In this instance, it would honestly be wrong to blame a person for wanting to go back to his comfort zone.

One could also put the fault on Canucks front-office for the loss. As the managers of the organization, Trevor Linden and Jim Benning are responsible for ensuring that their players are taken care of on a day to day basis. Especially for someone with experience in the North American lifestyle, it is their role to make the transition as comfortable as possible. Tryamkin was the sole Russian in an organization consisting of primarily Canadians and Europeans. Nikolay Goldobin was brought in, albeit towards the latter end of the season. The Canucks have not exactly been known as a Russian-hotbed of a hockey team. Therefore, this situation should stand as a learning experience. They do not necessarily have to avoid bringing in Russian players, but rather learn how to accommodate them best.

It’s easy to put the blame on management in this ordeal, but it ultimately is Tryamkin’s decision to leave. By no means are they off the hook, however. According to Dan Murphy, Benning’s contract offer was extremely competitive and on the “high end” of comparables. Give him credit as he did try to keep him and was willing to throw in extra money. You can’t fault Benning on that part because it was Tryamkin’s decision to turn down the offer.

Along with Troy Stecher, Tryamkin was a crucial part of the Canucks’ rebuild process. With his departure, that project took a significant step back. His potential arguably exceeded any other young defenseman within the organization, and it’s a shame that he decided to leave. If you want a silver lining, Ryan Biech confirmed that the Canucks retain his rights until 2022, when he’s 27 years-old. If it doesn’t work out by then, it may be wise for management to explore trade possibilities. Tryamkin’s future in the NHL, let alone Vancouver, is unknown. Perhaps he wasn’t comfortable with the North American environment, or maybe the Canucks organization simply wasn’t the right fit. Many other teams around the league have experience with Russian players and would surely welcome a hulking 6’7, 265-pound defenceman.

So who’s to blame for Tryamkin’s decision? Technically, every party within the organization bears some sort of fault. With management, they certainly could have done more to help the transition. For a player moving to an unfamiliar continent with different cultures, it was foreseeable that it was going to be a tough transition. Especially given the fact that this organization hadn’t dealt with many Russians in the past, more work could have been done to help. The coaching staff also bears some responsibility for the lack of ice time. Although give credit to Doug Lidster because he appears to have been a significant influence on Tryamkin. For the players, at least they attempted to help and welcome Tryamkin. From what we’ve witnessed, verbal communication was not there. However, we did get to see the bonds he’s created with his teammates on the ice. There were many gif-able moments and Grainne Downey laid out just a few in this week’s Babych Please.

In the end, it is ultimately Tryamkin’s own decision to leave the Canucks. It’s hard to question his character when you think about the different circumstances. He was a new player in a new organization in a different country and city. The organization most definitely could have done more to ease the transition, but they should now look at this as a learning experience. Quite honestly, you cannot fault him for being homesick. However, he certainly could’ve been more receptive, open, and optimistic about playing in the NHL. There isn’t a single person to blame in this situation as every individual in the organization bears some sort of fault.

There’s no doubt that losing Tryamkin is a huge blow to the Canucks future. Should he choose to come back and give it a second change, he’d be welcomed with open arms. For now, all the organization can do is learn from what went wrong.

  • Jimjamg

    Is it better to have loved and lost or to never have loved at all? It’s tough being a fan of this team sometimes when it seems we live under a Charlie Brown dark cloud all the time. But I will keep hoping he comes back and will give it another shot. I thought bringing in Goldobin would really help but perhaps they didn’t hit it off. It was fun while it lasted Nikita. Don’t be a stranger.

  • Knucklehead

    I agree with most of this article. Bottom line, it was his call to go back home. Blaming mgmt. or the coaching staff doesn’t wash with me. The lack of playing time excuse is a bit of a joke. His call to leave. No one else needs to be blamed.

    • neal

      The Canucks really suck at player development.We can only hope they get the draft right this year. This team will go nowhere until they get talented players with grit.

      • justmyopinion

        Have you ever been there? Regardless, you’re not Russian so that’s not your home. That’s where he was born, his native language is Russian. His wife is Russian. He’s homesick. He can play hockey in the KHL. The quality may not be as high but he’s still well paid..nothing wrong with that. Too bad he’s not playing for the Canucks.

        • Bud Poile

          20 million Russians live on less than $139 per month.Poverty.
          Independent estimates state that more than 25% of the country are living under these conditions.
          1% of the population own 70% of the wealth.
          Nykita makes $150,000.00 CDN per month and his NHL wage will double.
          Yeah,he’s homesick.Big deal.
          He’s an extremely wealthy kid with near unlimited resources at his disposal.
          He should have flown his wife home business/1st class prior to every road trip.
          He bailed.Say goodbye but don’t cry for the wealthy and priviliged.

    • Oilerchild77

      Yeah, forget friends and family. I mean, with the chance to live in Vancouver is there. Haha. God, if I had a nickel for every Vancouverite that bragged about how great their city is, I could almost afford an average sized home there. Keep the west coast ego in check and think before you speak.

  • DJ_44

    The entire premise of the post is flawed. Why is there the need to assign blame. Do you want to blame Tryamkin for wanting to play in his hometown?

    Lack of ice time is a crock. He got lots of ice time. Personally, I would have liked to see him on the PP (at the point, not in front of the net), because unlike Edler or Hutton, he could move the puck up the ice (either passing or skating). But the organisation at the time has a blind spot for certain players.

    I think the whole “earning it” argument has been dispelled in other posts, so we won’t go into that.

    It boils down to two possibles: he and family wanted to go home; he was not happy with the contract that was offered. Blame need not be assigned. Nikita went home and I hope to see him return.

    Any Vancouver media with Russian roots feeling homesick?

    • Rodeobill

      exactly this.

      Except although not explicitly stated as such, i kinda read that was vanessa’s underlining conclusion. The blame game is how most writer’s and media have framed this issue, whereas she points out that it seems to be the result of (although she does use the word responsibility) of multiple circumstances.

  • Killer Marmot

    The Canucks retain Tryamkin’s rights for five years, but they should consider trading those rights immediately. An NHL club with young Russian players might figure they would have a better chance of enticing him back when his KHL contract lapses.

  • acg5151

    I think Nikita Tryamkin is to blame, but that’s not to say he is in any way wrong. I stayed in my home city because I love it here, I wouldn’t move to Russia to play hockey and so I’m not going to criticize him for not wanting to stay here.

    I think in a few years he will be back and he will be a better player and he will be better prepared for it, if he’s not ready for it now it’s not going to kill us for him to go back home.

  • Burnabybob

    I’m still optimistic about the Canucks prospect pool, which has enough depth at this point to withstand the loss of one player. They will likely be able to draft another center this year, which could give them potentially the following three lines in the future:

    Baertschi – Horvat – Boeser
    Granlund – Mittelstadt – Goldobin
    Dahlen – Gaudette – Virtanen

    And next year’s draft has a number of good defensive prospects, so they should be able to address the loss of Tryamkin. They also have later round draft picks this year and next, and that’s often where great defensemen are drafted.

    In the end, people need to move on from Tryamkin. It’s a shame he left, but if he didn’t want to be here, the team doesn’t need his energy in the locker room. I don’t think much of him trashing the Canucks coaching, either. Rookies don’t get to dictate the amount of ice time they receive. Anybody who does that has a bit of an attitude problem and needs to grow up.

  • I am Ted

    Blame? Tryamkin. However, like many CA bloggers, I think this article kinda misses the point. He’s a young guy and has some attitude issues. I saw a sense of entitlement and sulking when he wasn’t playing. He had only himself to blame by not coming into camp in shape and ready to go. I think Try needs to mature and grow up a bit. He won’t have to work as hard in the KHL and will play a lot more. That’s his option. I don’t think he can mentally endure the ups and downs of an NHL career at this point. Hopefully this changes and he comes back in a couple years.

    • justmyopinion

      You’re assuming the next coach won’t grind on the young players as it seems to be the style of a lot of current coaches. On one hand, we hear ‘you have to earn your time’..and that sounds fair enough but when you look at it closely, it doesn’t match up with the evidence. Say what we wish about Tryamkin but I think he proved he was a better D man than Larsen and at least the equivalent of Gudbransen or even better..I’m inclined to think better. But he never got a chance to draw into the lineup until injuries happened. After that, his play indicated that he should stay. The same is true of Stecher – who was possibly the best D man this year. He had to start in the AHL even though he had clearly won a spot right out of training camp. Let’s look further: Goldobin scores in his first game when the season is out of reach. His reward? Ride the bench because he blew coverage. But Boeser is given a free pass (not that he shouldn’t be given the opportunity) and scores four goals. So it seems like some players have a really short lease and others don’t. Based on your personal projection of next year’s line up..I wouldn’t assume Mittelstadt, Goldobin, Dahlen, Gaudette or Virtanen are any locks to be playing but you never know. With the Canucks, it just depends on how the wind is blowing that day.

      • DogBreath

        I think key elements of WD’s ‘earning it’ approach for young players was largely personal maturity (ie, being a pro) and attention to defensive detail. When you look at those who failed or were headed in that direction (JV, Goldobin, McCann), they lacked maturity. You could argue Tryamkin was on that path at the start too. Those young guys who succeeded did so because they were mature and grew to pay attention to detail (Horvat, Stetcher, Baer, Granlund and even Boesser). Its not a difficult approach to understand, and its the right approach.

  • wojohowitz

    There`s no doubt about the numerous questions and speculative reasoning around this event and here`s another one; Tryamkin kissing his pendant on the bench suggests he is deeply religious and might be seriously offended by liberal western culture. I believe it was Datsyuk who expressed similar religious opinions. The comparison might be Goldobin who said when traded; What about my car`.

  • Locust

    Vanessa, did you write this, “For now, all the organization can do is learn from what they did wrong.” ???
    Out of character for you.
    He wasn’t happy, ever. Myself and a few others have pointed that out at length. What the Canucks coulda/shoulda done is not relevant 1) we don’t know what they did, or didn’t do 2) it wouldn’t have mattered.
    Only an IDIOT would think the Canucks didn’t do everything in their power to make this work.

    • Marsh

      You’re a plague at times, Locust.

      For a multi-million dollar organization, giving him a translator in practice would have been helpful. Helping his wife adapt would have cost a few introductions to some Russian cultural groups and perhaps a part time driver who spoke Russian and understood Vancouver. Just two things this idiot can think of. Cripes they sent Kass to rehab twice, why not help a useful player? Did Desjardins ever have a translator in on a hypothetical one on one meeting with Tryamkin to explain his strategy, such as it was?

      A lot is on Tryamkin but to say none is on the Canucks is just wrong.

      • Locust

        Please provide proof that the Canucks didn’t do the things you suggest.
        To think they didn’t do everything in their power is asinine and just fits into the narrative that CA likes to push – everything Canuck is a cluster.

        • justmyopinion

          Here’s what I think is ‘proof’. Tryamkin was riding the bench at the start of the season and didn’t draw in until there were injuries. His play is his proof. I would suggest he played better than Larsen and Gudbransen and on a lot of nights, probably played better than a lot of other D men. That’s proof. He says he only played 12 minutes. According to the stats, that only happened once but the stats also showed he played ‘less’ than any other D man. That’s proof. The coach lays the blame of losing a game to Boston because Tryamkin didn’t ‘man up’ and thump Marchand. Pretty tough to be a young player finding your way and be thrown under the bus. That’s proof. Interestingly, he had just thumped Benn a few nights ago with a legitimate check so we can’t say that he doesn’t hit because when he does, it’s like a freight train. Further proof. Lately, I’ve also been reading that management was showing him videos of Chris Pronger because they wanted him to play like Pronger. Really? Firstly Pronger was one of a kind. A maniac on the ice who wouldn’t be allowed to do now what he did back then although with our Player Safety Department – you never know. As an aside, Pronger was also a jerk off the ice..why do you think he left Edmonton in such a big hurry? More proof. Finally, maybe our management team should be looking at videos on management 101..as they still seem to have a hard time saying ‘rebuild’ when clearly that’s what happening.

    • Vanessa Jang

      Let me rephrase: “All the organization can do is learn from what went wrong.” Just as Marsh said, the blame is on management just as much as it is on Tryamkin. As I wrote in the article, Tryamkin definitely could’ve been more open and receptive to the welcoming he was offered/given. Likewise, even if management thought they were doing all they could, it ultimately wasn’t enough.

      • Bud Poile

        I’ve spent decades outside of Canada,my birrthplace and home.
        At Nikita’s age I had just spent 18 months abroad and really wanted to go home.
        He’s newly married so now there are two kids wanting to go home under the same roof.
        RFA,loaded to the visor with cash.
        If they raise kids he may never come back.
        At 25 or 26 he may wish to test his skillset against the world’s best-or not.
        There’s nobody to blame here.
        Just two Russian kids in love far,far away from their families,friends and home.

  • Neil B

    Jeez. Stop taking this so personally. It’s the Olympics. If he wanted to move home semi-permanently, he wouldn’t have signed on for one year only. He wouldn’t have named complaints that lie on the door of people no longer with the club.

    How many other young European RFAs will go to the KHL for one season over this summer?

  • Bud Poile

    Newly married.
    21 year-old drop dead gorgeous trophy wife so far away from home.
    Hello.
    In the end, Linden said the Tryamkin’s decision was rooted in one simple desire.
    He wanted to go home with his wife.
    Ed Willes – Province Sports

  • myshkin

    Hey, he might be back in a year of two. The absolute worst thing would be to trade his rights and then become an all star for Toronto. DON’T TRADE HIS RIGHTS!

  • TD

    I bet his wife was pretty lonely when they were on road trips. Easier to blame ice time than to throw his wife under the bus. Although I bet Willie’s comments near the end of the season didn’t help. Hope he comes back in a couple of years.

  • Rolland

    Language barrier, new wife left alone for a good part of the time, culture shock and intense hockey probably all played a part. That is a lot on your plate and I can understand his situation. If he does return maybe he will be better prepared and will know what to expect. Communication is crucial and he may have misunderstood a lot that went on. I hope he returns, no point though of he can’t speak the language and isolates. That can’t be fun.

  • Dirty30

    Seems like a lot of teeth gnashing over a guy who went home on a one year contract. Had he signed for two or five, one could assume he wasn’t coming back. A one year deal suggests some time at home, a shot at the Olympics, and the door wide open to returning with some more skill and maturity moving forward.

    He didn’t say he hated Vancouver, he didn’t mention the Olympics (Buttman will likely find some way to punish players who go), and he didn’t say he never wants to come back. Twenty-two is still young to be far away from home for the first time and have everything be different.
    If Management did anything wrong it was being loyal to a Coach long past his best before date. Might not have made a difference in Nikita’s decision but letting Coach throw players under the bus Willy-nilly wasn’t a good plan.

  • TheRealRusty

    Happy wife, happy life.
    Simple as it sounds priority should have been made to better integrate his wife into the community (be it cultural groups or even player spouse/wife taking her under their wings). I say cut bait and trade his rights, nice there is zero to no chance of getting her/them back to North America when they start having kids…

  • LAKID

    Who’s to blame? The KHL will be offering contracts so as to allow players to play in the Olympics. The NHL if they don’t let the players go. The golden triangle where many a good man has been lost.

  • TheRealRusty

    I also want to add that amongst all the canucks players, Horvat (for his performance) and Tryamkin (KHL) are the 2 with the most leverage. I am astonished that upper management (and i use that word loosely for GMJBTL) were not in constant contact with Tryamkin to make sure that everything on and off the ice were as good as good can be. Another example of GMJBTL reacting instead of being proactive….