Photo Credit: Candice Ward - USA TODAY Sports

Nikita Tryamkin Speaks; on Desjardins, Vancouver and Grass

Despite leaving the Vancouver Canucks early this summer for the KHL, Nikita Tryamkin’s found ways to keep himself in the news here since.

Just yesterday, Sport-Express correspondent Igor Eronko published an interview with the towering Russian defenceman in which Tryamkin doesn’t hold back. Tryamkin, who struggled just as much to adapt to Vancouver as he did the Canucks, goes into detail about some of what made the adjustment difficult in both facets of his life.

The interview starts with Eronko asking Tryamkin about his desire to come back to the KHL, citing Pavel Datsyuk’s admission that the draw to play in your home country is enticing. Tryamkin doesn’t shy from that comparison, agreeing that it’s a part of the draw.

As it concerns the potential for a return to Vancouver, it doesn’t sound like Tryamkin is in any hurry. When asked about the fact that the Canucks maintain his NHL rights at the expiry of Tryamkin’s three-year pact with Yekaterinburg Automobilist, he had this to say. Try and bear with the Google translation (more on that later).

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

“What, did not go up, did it? Well, what – I will not say that the ‘Canucks’ is a bad team or something. However, I can not say that I will go overseas in three years or, conversely, I will not go. Maybe I’ll have a brick on my head, and I’ll stay a fool. Let’s see how I’ll play by that time. If I need it, and we’ll get along under some conditions – everything can be. But this is still far away”.

It will probably help the Canucks, assuming they want Tryamkin back, that former head coach Willie Desjardins won’t be around. The Canucks fired the embattled coach at the end of a second straight bottom-three finish.

There are many players who didn’t gel with Desjardins, but few, if any, who had a seemingly worse relationship with the coach than Tryamkin. After coming to camp in poor shape, reportedly, Tryamkin struggled to get into the Canucks lineup, missing a significant portion of the first month in a series of healthy scratches.

Even when Tryamkin was in the lineup, he seemed to be on a short leash, and his ice-time reflected as much. Among regular Canucks defencemen, only Philip Larsen played less than Tryamkin’s 16:44 on a per game basis.

As the season neared its end, Desjardins was vocal about his want for more from Tryamkin on several occasions. It just wasn’t a good fit.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Does Tryamkin have hard feelings? I’d venture there’s no love lost between the two. To Tryamkin’s credit, he wasn’t too hard on Desjardins; he seems more bewildered than angered. Eronko asks if Desjardins is unpleasant, and Tryamkin responds with “he’s normal”.

And later in the interview, Tryamkin adds “I have many times been superfluous. Yes, not even a lot – almost always me. And did not understand why. I spend a good game, and for five or seven minutes to the end I’m put on the bench without any explanation. It was very strange”.

“I talked to [Desjardins] one on one. I could ask him anything. They even told me: “How do you ask such things?”. Well, what should I do? I train, work, that’s why I come to the coach, asking when I will play. I did not come to sit there”.

In fact, Tryamkin was far more conversive about his former teammate Nikolay Goldobin’s situation than his own. Tryamkin brings him up, seemingly unprompted, when asked about Alexander Burmistrov.

One player Tryamkin might have as an ally in his ongoing bewilderment with the death throes of the Desjardins era? Nikolay Goldobin. And Tryamkin brings him up, seemingly unprompted, when asked about Alexander Burmistrov.

“And so – in touch with Kolya Goldobin. I wonder how he will go in this camp because I’m for the Russians. I want our guy to be in the main team. He’s good, talented, fast”.


“I’m certainly not a coach, but, in my opinion, Kolya should be allowed to play. He is small, brisk, his hands are in order, and he knows how to score goals. Vaughn, in the first match scored, and after that he was sentenced to ten minutes. So what is this? Where is the logic? Especially since the team was finishing the season. Then, “Arizona” scores – he again put. He scores in Edmonton in the last game – we score together, went out in fact in one link, because in three games – he is again saddled. If a person does not play, how will he grow up? How do you understand that he can play?”

There are a couple more interesting notes after that. Tryamkin makes it clear that playing time was his primary reason for returning to Automobilist, and confirms that the Canucks had a two-year offer on the table for him to stay. He adds that it wasn’t weight, but Tryamkin’s conditioning specifically with which the Canucks were most displeased.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Tryamkin goes on to discuss the inordinate hype that accompanied his arrival and the Zdeno Chara comparisons. He speaks glowingly of the Sedins. It’s mostly standard fare.

The translation, courtesy Google, makes it difficult to pry much else of circumstance from the interview. Until the very end, that is, when Tryamkin fields questions about the city of Vancouver itself.

There was something of a controversy surrounding those comments, too. Noted sensationalist Slava Malamud promoted the article, citing Tryamkin as calling Vancouver a “junkie city”. The Google translation of the article says “drug addict city”.

Here are the comments, as they show up through Google translate. They come in response to a series of questions about Vancouver’s reputation as it relates to drugs.

“There is such. Addict, that’s really it. Everyone smokes grass everywhere. The city is all in smoke. There is still a street – I do not remember what is called. So there even in a car it’s scary to go. A lot of bad guys. They can not stand on their feet, but they still smoke without stopping. There is such chaos – a really devastated street. Cirque du Soleil in Vancouver came, my wife and I went, and for some reason we returned on this road. And in the evening there is a real life. After nine hours. Cool there ( laughs ). Life begins at night”.


“They smoke everywhere. There is not something that smells of grass – it stinks, everywhere is stinking. Okay this drug street, where these guys settle, but in downtown, in the center of the city stank the same. We lived on the tenth floor – even there, it used to smell. This is how much you need to smoke? It seems to me, it was possible to stick the receiver out of the window and inhale”.

I’d caution against lighting the torches and fashioning pitchforks. Eronko, who unlike Malamud has a great reputation for fair and balanced reporting, translates Tryamkin’s comments and provides the context in which they were made. Eronko even told me personally that there was no malice.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Honestly, it’s hard to argue with much of what Tryamkin has to say here. Vancouver does have a well-deserved reputation as a marijuana-haven. As someone who frequents Commercial Drive, I can attest to the almost constant smell of “grass” in this city. And yeah, the area he’s referencing, which I would think is the downtown east side, could be jarring for someone not familiar with it.

In general, you get the sense that Tryamkin wasn’t too keen on his time with the Canucks. The culture shock seems to have been significant. And he’s in no rush to come back here, though he hasn’t ruled out the possibility.

That all makes perfect sense to me.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

  • Steamer

    OMFG – really? CA & others are like somebody who continues to obsess about an old flame who dumped them ( for some KHL loser! ) – who effin cares about Tryamkin? He’d rather play in a lesser league, so he’s obviously not part of the plan moving forward. Please stop with the updates on this has-been – some goof playing halfway around the world is really of no interest or relevance to Van hockey.

  • Knucklehead

    I can fully understand a young guy from Russia who doesn’t really speak the language, having a difficult time adapting to a whole new culture. Having said that, it seems like his main beef was his lack of ice time. When he played, he still got over 16 minutes per game, as a rookie. Guys on the 4th line sometimes play 6-7 minutes a game. His refusal to go to the minors was also telling. He would have played much more down there while learning the North American game. Hard to feel sorry for him for all his complaints. Also hope he stays in Russia so we don’t go through this again.

  • Chris the Curmudgeon

    I remember getting the strong impression that he also didn’t like how his size was causing the team to hold a stereotyped view of his play (Botchford’s asinine blog didn’t help either). He’s the size of a bear, sure, but didn’t really subscribe to the fact that he had to be snarly on every shift. Desjardins wanted him to scrap and nail guys all game long, whereas he clearly relished the chance to move the puck and join the rush and only wanted to fight as a defensive gesture. Some would call that weak, but I think he just seems like kind of a Ned Braden wanting to focus on “Old Time Hockey”, which is understandable. Sorry to lose him, and hope that by the time his contract in Russia is up he might reconsider given the enticement of a different coach (and possibly GM). However, as you say, he doesn’t seem in any hurry to come back to Vancouver and unlike a lot of Eastern European players he appears to have no really strong itch to leave Mother Russia.

    • There was an interview where he was being compared to Chara and Tryamkin said he wanted to be “Tryamkin”. Benning and Desjardins for wanting players to be things that they’re not, whether it be Tryamkin-Chara or Sbisa-Top4.

    • canso

      Yep. Pigeon-holing his game before he’s even had a chance to show it was already bad, and the Chara comparisons shortchanged both him and Chara (as if the reason Chara won the Norris is purely that he’s tall), but there was also this really disrespectful gawking tone to some of it. I almost gagged when the commentator said, after his first goal, ‘The freak show begins.’ Seriously?

      Everything I hear from this kid makes me like him more. He seems to have a healthy self-respect and seems refreshingly low on BS. And he can play, and I suspect he will only get better. Drafting him was a great move, failing to integrate him was a squandered opportunity.

  • Fred-65

    I have to say I hope Justin Trudeau listen to what those out side of Canada think of Vancouver. I frankly don’t like the smell of grass. But frankly I’ve visted Russia and there surely more alcoholics per capita than most countries. He wasn’t a smart player if he doesn’t understand why he or Goldobin is sat. His chance with improvement in the future seems slim if he doesn’t grasp where is flaws are. He’s not a top 4 D yet and it now seems unlikely he ever will. This isn’t the KHL but frankly it might be the better fit for the guy, shame IMO. He could be better but with his view of hockey it starting to look like a long shot

    • truthseeker

      Sorry, but Trudeau is absolutely right for legalizing it. And he’s not gone far enough. Every drug needs to be made legal. Portugal is proving that correct with every study that comes out about it.

      Having said that, canadians really need to get over the glorification of weed. Nothing wrong with enjoying it, but all these pot people painting it as “harmless” need to grow up. They’re almost as bad as global warming deniers.

  • canuckfan

    Tryamkin is not coming back in the near term, if he does in the future lets see how he does. After reading the article I think coming to Vancouver was a bit of a culture shock for both him and his wife. Hopefully he has learned about conditioning if not it will all be downhill from here, if he has learned he would be dominant in KHL with size and talent and skating ability. Wish him success.

  • Killer Marmot

    It’s a pity that Tryamkin wasn’t a little more patient. Rookies are often sat down at critical junctures of the game, and that’s just the way it is. The coach has the responsibility of trying to win the game, and that will not please every player.

    • Moderated Post

      That’s just the way it is, eh? That’s also the definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different outcome. By February the team’s season was done, there’s no excuse for doing so little to develop what could be a franchise D.

      • Justmyopinion

        I don’t think that’s just the way it is…when Tryamkin finally got his opportunity, he held his own and imo, was better than Larsen and Gudbransen..yet both of them had long leashes whereas Tryamkin didn’t…the opportunities that were given to Gudbransen and Larsen were definitely more favourable than what Tryamkin got. Combined that with the cultural adjustment and the language challenges on top of it all and the obvious bias that was given to Larsen and Gudbransen and it’s easy to see why Tryamkin decided to go home.

  • Dean S

    Well said. I liked a lot of things about Tryamkin, I still think he has a huge upside. 2 things to remember with all young players. Generally europeans take longer to develop than N American kids. Defensemen take longer than others to become NHL consistent (in the lineup daily and used regularly). I’m not to hard on the Nucks or Tryamkin. Both learned from the situation.

  • Forward Thinker

    In my opinion, his rights should be traded to an Eastern team. Don’t want him in thevWest for obvious reasons but he clearly will not be a fit here.

  • Kanucked

    I would be interested in an article explaining how NHL coaches handle their teams. This isn’t meant to be derogatory. Apart from the systems and allocating ice time, what do these guys do?

    I would think that communicating with the players would be fundamental. I read Tryamkin’s comments to mean he didn’t know why he sat late in the games or why Golobin sat after scoring. Virtanen also said WD didn’t talk to him. Going back to Torts, Burrows said they rarely spoke.

    Coaches say the locker room belongs to the players, so where exactly do they fit in?

  • I love this big Russian giant. I hope you return soon.

    Nikita’s departure was like a perfect storm. Unhappy wife = unhappy life. She should have learned the language, same with Nikita. English lessons are mandatory. How do you fit in when you can’t communicate your thoughts.
    Willie mis handled my favorite defenseman. Yes Willie, I blame you.
    Management put unrealistic expectations on him. Showing him a ten minute Chris Pronger video may have been too much. I want him to be like that too, but he isn’t. Nikita is a soft spoken young man. Non violent. We should have accepted him as is.
    Nikita needs to accept the fact that his summer training was not up to NHL standards. That’s on him.
    Combine all of this, plus culture shock, and there you have it. He’s back in Russia, the place he calls home.

    • Rodeobill

      For a big guy, he really positioned himself well, was excellent at pinning guys into the boards, and leaned heavily on his excellent poke check (rather than slashes, which seem to be the penalty de jour). He was one of my favorite parts of last season because he really communicated to his teammates through gestures and expressions (as you do when linguistically challenged), but then the viewers at home got to see is personality too. I hope he finds a way to be happy and come back. He was hard not to like.

  • Gregthehockeynut

    Do the Canucks employ a staff member to help players learn the city and culture? Knowing where to go and more importantly where not to go in this city seems like a resource the team should offer to incoming players, especially young ones with limited english.

  • Burnabybob

    In three years, Tryamkin should be just entering his prime, and the Canucks should be poised to fight for a playoff spot after a long absence. Hopefully he can be lured back.

  • Holly Wood

    Couldn’t resist this one. When your crusher thinks he is a rusher he soon becomes an usher. The kid had an overinflated value of his ability and how to best contribute to the team.