In a Monday meeting with local media, Montreal Canadiens forward Alexander Radulov did not hide from his past problems.
Radulov, who signed a one-year $5.75 million contract with the Habs this summer, noted that he’s older and more mature and that his learning experiences from his younger days could help the Montreal Canadiens reach their Stanley Cup goal.
The 30-year-old Radulov has left the league twice for the KHL after two separate tenures with the Nashville Predators. In his second time with the Predators he was suspended during the second-round of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Phoenix Coyotes for a curfew violation.
“Well, I don’t want to say it was a mistake, or maybe it was a tough decision. I didn’t do it in the right way, but like I said before it’s in the past,” Radulov said when asked if there was any regrets on leaving the NHL. “I did what I did and there’s no point to look back, you know like right now. I’m older, I have family and my family is really excited we’re moving to Montreal and we’ll see.”
Radulov has spent the last four years with CSKA in the KHL scoring 78 goals and 238 points in 131 games. He spent 2006-07 and 2007-08 in Nashville and then returned for nine games in 2011-12. In 154 NHL games, Radulov has notched 102 points. For many years, he has been widely considered one of the top players not in the NHL.
On Monday, Radulov didn’t focus on personal goals. Instead he often spoke of team success and how that could help individual numbers.
“The first goal I want to win,” Radulov said. “I want to win every night. It doesn’t matter who’s going to score and put up the points. We want to win. It’s a team game and I think if the team does successful, everybody will be successful and every player will do good.”
Radulov noted he chose the Canadiens because the organization gave him a solid opportunity for a championship. He also spoke of his positive experience playing in Quebec in junior with the Quebec Remparts, and how he enjoyed his time there.
“I’m excited to be back in the NHL first of all and obviously be part of Montreal,” Radulov said. “It’s a huge club and Original Six and always a hockey town and they always want to go for a run for a Cup and that’s the reason I chose Montreal because I want to play and I want to compete for a Cup. That’s the main thing.”
Added Radulov, “When I first got to Canada, it was Quebec City. I played there for two years. It wasn’t NHL, it was a junior league but I had a good experience. We had a good group of guys there and we played and won the Memorial Cup and it was a lot of fun. I saw those fans, the young ones. They were the happiest people in the world. What can be better when you make people, fans happy? At the end of the line we all play for fans, for people who come to the game.”
Radulov said he had spoken with coach Michel Therrien but didn’t go into deep details on the conversation. Radulov was specifically questioned about Therrien’s defensive nature and whether that could be an issue, since Radulov’s game revolves around offense and scoring.
“I think it won’t be a problem because they will show on the video the way they want us to play,” Radulov said. “As a player I have to come every day and try to do that thing that coach asks me to do and tells us to do and I think we’ll be all right.”
Reporters asked specifically about the curfew issue with the Predators and Radulov owned up to his mistake. But he also intimated that he thought the organization could have handled the announcement better.
“Well, you know, like I said, it’s in the past obviously and it was – I missed curfew. I’m not going to lie or say something but the way everything was announced, I’m not agree with it, but like I said, it’s in the past and I don’t really want to get into it because I explained it many times,” Radulov said. “Like I said, right now I have family. I have no time to go somewhere and I really don’t want because I’m getting older and I have to take care of myself and be in shape and be 100 percent every day. I know how to do that and I really like that I’m here right now.”
Former Predators coach Barry Trotz recently spoke with Puck Daddy about Radulov and said there were no regrets with how the team dealt with the player’s discipline in 2012.
“It’s a privilege to play in the playoffs,” Trotz said. “I don’t think I’d do anything different. Actually I know I wouldn’t do anything different.”
But he also noted he thought Montreal was the right type of market for Radulov.
“I think he’s going to come and he’s going to do very well in Montreal,” Trotz said. “I think he’s going to embrace the spotlight. He’s not a guy who is afraid of playing in a big market or a critical market so I think he’ll do fine. When I had him he was a young man. Even the second time he was a young man. I think he’s a lot older and a lot more mature and I think he still has lots of games. I think it’ll work out.”
The last several years in the KHL, Radulov has been asked to take on more of a leadership role. He said that this, plus the recent birth of his child, has changed him and softened him to a degree.
“When you get older, it’s different because you look at some things, like hockey, differently on the ice and off the ice. A lot of things change. When you get older you might not do the same things like you do before on the ice or off the ice. Time flies as you get older and things change,” Radulov said. “I was there playing and we had a pretty young team, and I had that thing I was a leader and playing a lot of minutes and tried to lead by example in the locker room, on the ice and off the ice. It’s helped me a lot. It’s changed my vision and the way I have to work and have to be”
Radulov understood that a multi-year contract wasn’t really an option when he decided to look into rejoining the NHL, and he was fine with that. He’s played most of his professional career in Russia and knows he has to show his game can translate back to North America again before he can be rewarded with more security in this league.
“All players want a longer-term deal but in my situation right now the NHL has been changed and I wasn’t here for four years and it is what it is and Marc (Bergevin) has been talking to me a lot and he came to New York, we met there, we sat and had a good conversation and we agreed to that deal,” Radulov said. “I’m happy and hopefully they’re happy and I’ll try to prove to myself first of all and to everybody here and fans and managers that they believe in me and thanks for that shot.”
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