After two successful seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks, Russian forward Artemi Panarin was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets this summer. In this translated interview, originally appearing on the Russian website Sovsport.ru, Panarin talks about playing with and without Patrick Kane, his adaptation to his new reality, and the reasons why he always tries to play in a non-standard way.
* You can enjoy the original Russian language article by Dmitri Sinitsin here *
Dmitri Sinitsin: Artemi, how is your adaptation to the new team going?
Artemi Panarin: All is going great. The guys are great and I’m very satisfied.
DS: Soon you’ll turn 26. On next Oct. 30. It can be said that you are one of the veterans of your team. The Blue Jackets have a very young lineup, only seven players are older than you.
AP: It’s so great to know that you aren’t young anymore (laughs). I’m just 26 and I have all my life in front of me. But of course, by hockey standards, I’m already of mid-age. To cut it short, I’m happy about everything. We have a good and ambitious team. A good environment that helps us to play well. Of course, we have a lot to work on, but the season is long.
DS: What does the coach tell you?
AP: Personally to me, nothing. But I understand what they expect from me. I need to take the game more on myself, to shoot more. Actually, there is just one request: to bring results. I’m ready for it and I really try hard. And also, I need to play the way I play and not change it. I can get 100% on any team, not just 70% because I played with Patrik Kane. My career depends also on that.
DS: For now, Tortorella shuffles the lines a lot. You don’t have regular linemates. Is the team still searching for the optimal configuration?
AP: Sometimes we have games where we don’t play well and we need to change something. Sometimes when you change lines you get an emotional boost and everyone starts playing better. Thankfully, my line wasn’t changed that much. We got Nick Foligno back.
DS: Do you think that the Blue Jackets can repeat last year’s series of 16 straight wins?
AP: The most important thing is to get to the playoffs and then fight to the end. Every team is very good. Frankly, we aren’t thinking about a streak in the regular season.
DS: You moved to the Western Conference. Did you feel any difference?
AP: Frankly speaking, I didn’t find any particular difference. I don’t even look at the standings. What would you think, maybe the main difference now is that we fly more? I don’t really have a reply here.
DS: Now that you and Patrick Kane were split, he’s not the league’s top scorer anymore.
AP: Just wait a bit. He’s playing great and he’ll be one of the best once again.
DS: It wasn’t just him to make you better, but also you that made him stronger.
AP: Of course. Firstly, I am a very ambitious person and I can’t even think about being otherwise. I can really evaluate my value. I worked hard for that. Secondly, of course, I can’t deny that I had a tremendous linemate that helped me a lot. Just as much as I did myself. We played great. It’s not like you can take the first guy from the street to play with Kane. You need to have a forward of his same level. So please show some respect when you write that Patrick was just dragging Artemi on himself. I know that it wasn’t like that.
Back to Chicago
DS: The second game of your season was in Chicago. What were your emotions like?
AP: I couldn’t work it out correctly. I played bad, even if the arena greeted me very warmly. I couldn’t get into the right mentality and that’s bad. Moreover, it was the second game in two days for us and we were a little tired. But I think that it’s better to lose like that at the start of the season. I frankly think that the trade to Columbus was good for me. I don’t know what will happen with the stats. Perhaps, someone will soon start yelling that Panarin doesn’t score as he did before, but here I have more prospects. I take more of the game on myself. I play the puck more. In Chicago, this was more Kane’s stuff. Now I can showcase myself more. And even if it’s not easy, usually a player grows a lot in these situations.
DS: Do you follow Brandon Saad, who was traded for you to the Blackhawks?
AP: Not really.
DS: He started very well.
AP: The maximum I will follow there is Kane.
DS: Before the season, TSN published their list of the top 50 NHL players, and you were the 32th. What do you think about it?
AP: That’s bad.
AP: 50 players it’s a lot of players. And I couldn’t even break the top-30. I am very ambitious, I want to be the first. My agent Dan Millstein even wrote a book about it: “Rule Number One: Don’t Be The Number Two.” And I completely agree with him.
DS: And if you were included but without an actual ranking?
AP: Then it would have been good. But I don’t feel like I should put limits on myself. I should become better with every year.
DS: Once you said that you need to play hockey in a way that the crowd likes. Can you explain that a bit more?
AP: I’ll start by asking a question. Why do I play hockey? What can I give to this world that’s of use? I can’t invent some new technologies, for example, to cure childhood diseases. I spent my whole life doing other things. I can’t invent things like Facebook or the BitCoin. So, how can I bring good to people? People attend hockey games with their families and kids.
This means that I need to play well and in a pleasant way so that people will have a good time. Just as Pavel Datsyuk does. He never won the scoring race, but he plays great, pleasantly, and usefully for his team. Can I do the same? I’m working hard for that.
DS: Do you also like fishing like Datsyuk?
AP: I’m not its biggest fan. I’m always scared that the fish will bite my fingers when I try to get them off the hook. I’d go fishing with him, but of course, first I need to be worthy of his call.
A professional hockey writer and translator. Loves Russian culture, language, and hockey. Reachable on twitter @AlexSerenRosso