4:00 pm: In a total of ten days of training camps – five with the rookies, five with the main squad – the Islanders have endured two days in which the main storyline was the same 18-year-old arriving late to practice. Otherwise, Kirill Kabanov has arrived exactly as advertised.
Kabanov’s second lateness came the morning after the Islanders hosted a well-executed Media Day and celebrated the signing of character-rich 2010 first pick Nino Niederreiter. What a shame. Now it’s time for the Islanders to send the 2010 third round pick back to his junior club in Moncton.
They don’t need Kabanov, and – until he matures – they don’t need the kid anywhere near the Coliseum’s front lawn. The team still has more than the 40 players needed to play its split-squad games. Casey Cizikas, who has worked so hard to get his life in order after an event none of us can comprehend, was shipped to the Ontario Hockey League before the Islanders’ main training camp ever started. After being late for the second time in ten days, what’s Kabanov still doing on Long Island?
If you really want to treat this as a cold, hard business where talent trumps character, look at it this way: it’s not like the gifted Kabanov has wowed anyone. On the ice, he’s been merely fine.
Off the ice, right now he’s a con man. Make that a con boy. The media can be amused by him; anyone around the Islanders should not be. On the slow second day of the NHL Draft in June, Kabanov charmed us all with his enthusiasm, smile and promises that he “wasn’t a devil, but an angel” and would show his gratitude to the Islanders by staying on the straight and narrow. Just because everyone enjoyed the interview doesn’t mean everyone bought in. Just because he’s not the devil doesn’t mean he is without demons.
It’s a lot easier to be cute more than two months before you have to skate for two hours a day under the groin-busting, if not ball-busting, Scott Gordon.
Whatever you do, don’t blame Eric Cairns. As a scout and player development staffer, Cairns does his best to stay on top of prospects, help them develop as players and men, maybe even scare a few of them straight. But at the end of the day, Cairns cannot be a full-time babysitter. At the end of the night, it’s up to Kabanov to decide how he wants to spend it.
Make no mistake, Kabanov deserves a year or two of chances to overcome his. But he has not earned the privilege of playing a hockey game over the next week alongside Streit, Tavares, Okposo, Bailey and DiPietro in a New York Islanders uniform before New York Islanders fans.
Late twice in the first ten days of his pro career? The Islanders have had a few troubled souls and wacky characters on their roster the last two decades; I don’t recall anything like this. Today’s 30-minute bag skate (with pushups!) a punishment? You’ve got to be kidding. Kabanov is a hockey player. Deny him the ice. Deny him entry into the locker room.
Garth Snow and Charles Wang knew exactly what they were getting when they made the decision to draft Kabanov. By one agent’s count, he has been through eight representatives in three years. (In almost every case, the agent walked away from Kabanov).
You do not have to be close to the Country to make the educated leap that the drafting of Kabanov is one of the reasons why the Islanders no longer employ a Director of Amateur Scouting. Until Kabanov goofs his way out of hockey, I’ll side with Snow and Wang on this draft pick. However, it’s not hard to envision a new wave scout, but old school-raised hockey person like Ryan Jankowski being uncomfortable with the idea of bringing a flake like Kabanov around the slow and steady rebuild.
Even after today’s second strike, the Kabanov pick was the right decision. For the Islanders to ever contend again, they need to get lucky on low-risk, high-reward dice rolls like the drafting of a wild child. But if Snow, Wang and Scott Gordon really believe it’s not potentially damaging to have Kabanov around the rest of their franchise’s young players…
Never mind. I have no doubt they do. Like the Prodigal Son, Kabanov deserves the half-dozen chances he’ll get. He should always be welcomed back with open arms until the Islanders decide whether he has earned an Entry Level Contract. But for now, unless the Islanders have serious personal reasons to want to keep an eye on their investment, it’s time to send an immediate message and dispatch Kirill the Pill to the Quebec League.
Despite the news of the last ten days, you hope coach Danny Flynn and the Moncton Wildcats are still willing to take him back.
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