After moving to the NHL this summer, Sergei Plotnikov didn’t enjoy the kind of success he was expected to. After playing only 32 regular season games with the Pittsburgh Penguins, he was traded to the Arizona Coyotes on a trade deadline deal. In this translated interview, originally appearing on the Russian website sportbo.ru, Coyotes forward Sergei Plotnikov talked about his trade, tried to explain what didn’t work in Pittsburgh, and also dismissed any rumor that he wanted to get back to Russia.
For the original sportbo.ru article by Alexei Shevchenko, click here.
– Sergei, are you starting getting used to the different Arizona climate?
– Here it’s plus-86 today, me and my wife are just living at a hotel right now, we haven’t decided yet if we’ll rent a place.
– Everyone was expecting the trade, but it was still a surprise. You moved to the same team that you had to face on the same night.
– The trade was completed early in the morning, right before the morning skate. Therefore, as soon as I got to the arena I simply moved to the other locker room. My jersey was ready. Everything happened quite fast.
– You’re playing on the third line for the Coyotes.
– To be more precise I play on the fourth line. But there are no lines that are just kept on the bench, I have the impression that pretty much the coach rolls all the lines almost equally.
– You played your first couple of games in a very physical way, but you didn’t score.
– Oh, don’t tell me! I hope that I’ll be able to score soon. I’m glad that now I resolved my situation. I hope that the Coyotes will have more faith in me.
– Let’s talk about Pittsburgh now. Where do players follow the game if they aren’t in the lineup? In the press zone?
– No, we weren’t forced to sit in a specific place. You could watch the game from the stands, or you could follow the game from the locker room.
– I am asking because you didn’t play for long time.
– Almost two months. It was very tough on me. Especially now, that I’m on the peak of my career, it was very hard.
– It has been said that you were in Russia in your head and wanted to get back.
– I read these words by the General Manager. What can I say … I can’t confirm that. The only thing I wanted was a trade, and he knew it very well.
– It has been said that the management was happy with you, but that the coach was not. Everything should have changed after Mike Johnston, but under Mike Sullivan things got only worse.
– At first they told me exactly this: managers like me, but the coach doesn’t see myself in the lineup. But I’m not sure that it was really like that. It’s just one of the possible versions.
– Did you have more chances with Sullivan?
– Nothing changed. I used to play like seven minutes a game and everything was pretty much the same, I was playing very rarely. I asked them to get me playing more, to give me a true chance so that they can really get to any conclusion about me. If I played bad, then there wouldn’t be any question. But I didn’t have enough ice time to have a chance to do anything.
– You played last time for the Penguins on Jan. 6. What happened that day, since you stopped being included in the lineup?
– There were no talks at all. Well, I can’t tell you the whole story, I hope you can understand me, it wouldn’t be correct on my side. But simply there were talks or arguments. Only in early February, when I wasn’t playing for a month, Sullivan tried to explain me something.
– What exactly?
– He told me that after three or four days after he was hired I asked for a trade, therefore he wasn’t counting on me. But I don’t know if that is the sole reason.
– It is hard to me to think about you wanting to get back to Russia, I remember the spirit you had before moving to the Penguins. And it doesn’t look like you’re one of such players who would move with a running contract.
– I want to play in North America and I never thought about getting back to Russia.
– Even if you didn’t manage to score, you had some good games for the Pens.
– Yes, for example the cycle of away games in early December. We played in Los Angeles and in Anaheim. But I still (didn’t play much). I don’t remember when I played that little, maybe when I had my first KHL season for the Amur Khabarovsk. This is why I asked to play more. Why did I get here then? To sit on the bench? And how to grow that way?
– On the fourth line it ain’t easy anyway.
– By the way, with our fourth line we had some good games. But the situation never changed even after those games and they didn’t give us any extra ice time.
– This summer you could virtually pick any NHL team. Do you think you chose the wrong team with the Penguins?
– No, I do not. If I could get back, I’d still pick the Pens. At that moment it was the best option. But after they signed me, they started signing other players with bigger contracts in my same position. I didn’t understand that. Why did they sign me, then?
– You never played in the AHL, but you could. At least you wouldn’t sit in the stands.
– Yes, I’m on a two-way contract, therefore I could have been sent down. I can’t explain why.
– Did representatives of [your former KHL team] Lokomotiv Yaroslavl talk with you once they realized your diminished role in Pittsburgh?
– They didn’t talk with me, but they did contact my agent. But once again, I wasn’t planning to get back at the first hard moment. Quite the opposite, I wanted to demonstrate that I can play in this league.
– You bought out your contract with Lokomotiv yourself. Was it a mistake?
– No, it was not. Yes, I had to spend a lot of money to buy out my contract, but if I did not, then I wouldn’t leave and I’d regret it for my whole life. I had to try.
– How is your English?
– Now it’s much better than it was at the start of the season.
– When you picked your NHL team you had one condition: the team had to have at least one Russian player. Do you regret it?
– No, I do not. I needed a guy to help me when I first got here. I didn’t know the language and I wanted someone to help me. A Russian family here helped me in everyday stuff. In the club I had a countrymate and he helped me a lot. He still helps me.
– If the Coyotes won’t get to the playoffs, are you considering playing at the IIHF WC in Russia?
– It’s early to talk about that. But I talked with [Team Russia head coach] Oleg Znarok when I was still playing for the Penguins.
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A professional hockey writer and translator. Loves Russian culture, language, and hockey. Reachable on twitter @AlexSerenRosso