Another Year for Anton Belov?

Jonathan Willis
April 15 2014 07:00AM

77-Belov-2

One of the more difficult players to get a read on this season is Anton Belov. In his first year in North America, the Russian rearguard offered an intriguing mix of ability and error. Should the Edmonton Oilers give him another season to find his way?

By Eye

77-Belov-6

In a lot of ways, Belov is the classic puck-moving European defenceman, but with a twist: instead of being small and fast he’s big and slow.

Belov’s strengths are many. He’s relatively poised with the puck, with an ability to make the first pass out of the zone, even under pressure (something he improved on over the course of the year). He has a heavy shot, albeit one that wasn’t used frequently enough. In the defensive zone, he has both the frame (6’4”) and the strength (218 pounds) to hold the front of the net. Versatility is also an asset, as Belov was the only Oilers defenceman who seamlessly made the transition from left side to right side and back again.

There are some weaknesses in the mix, too. The most troubling is Belov’s skating; he has heavy feet and at times he can be exposed by speed. The other issue is that at times he loses one-on-one battles it looks like he should win. Some of that’s a speed issue, some of it’s a meanness issue, but at times it looked like Belov just wasn’t prepared for the kind of pressure he was put under by opposition forwards. In a way, that might be a good sign; the game in the KHL is much more passive and a lot of that could potentially clear up now that he has a season of NHL hockey under his belt.

By Number

77-Belov-4

Anton Belov played regularly with four different partners: Jeff Petry, Justin Schultz, Nick Schultz and Philip Larsen. If we define “regularly” as at least 100 minutes, it’s interesting to compare the performance of those players with Belov to their performance with other partners.

The table which follows shows the Corsi percentage for the Oilers with each of the following pairings on the ice:

Regular Partner  Jeff Petry  Justin Schultz  Nick Schultz 
Anton Belov 58.4 49.0 43.4
Martin Marincin 48.1   ---
---
Oscar Klefbom ---
44.8 ---
Andrew Ference 45.1 42.1 41.4
Nick Schultz 37.1 38.4 ---
Justin Schultz ---
---
38.4
Jeff Petry ---
---
37.1

(Philip Larsen was not included, as the only defence partner he spent more than 100 minutes with was Belov and so there was no other regular to contrast with. They were an extremely ineffective pairing, with a total on-ice Corsi rating of 34.7 percent).

The interesting thing here is that the three players who spent significant time with Belov and significant time with others all saw better on-ice shot rates with Belov than they did without him. Some of that may be related to role, but it’s hard to escape the idea that a lot of it has to do with Belov’s utility as a player.

My View

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The price point matters, but the Oilers could do much worse than Belov as a No. 6/7 option.

His versatility makes him fantastic for the No. 7 role because he can slide in anywhere without disrupting other pairings. He’s big enough to play with a small puck-mover, he’s a good enough puck-mover to survive with a player whose primary abilities lie elsewhere, and he can play the left or the right side. He’s also a significantly better player than other options Edmonton is likely to deploy in this role.

Additionally, there’s still some upside there. One of the Oilers’ (many) gaffes in recent years was the departure of Jan Hejda, who looked uneven in his first season in North America at around the same age Belov is now; he blossomed when he got a chance in Columbus and became a legitimate top-four shutdown defender.

On the right contract, the Oilers should be very interested in bringing Belov back.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

74b7cedc5d8bfbe88cf071309e98d2c3
Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#51 The Soup Fascist
April 15 2014, 12:10PM
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oilerjed wrote:

"I would take the skill over the size any day of the week."

Isnt this the mindset that has in the exact situation we are trying to find a way out of right now? No matter who we pick in June, they SHOULD NOT be on the Oilers next year. Let them wow the crap out of MacT in OKC and force him to find room for them.

18 and 19 year olds can't play in the AHL. It is either NHL or CHL ..... there lies the rub.

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#52 Will
April 15 2014, 12:29PM
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oilerjed wrote:

"I would take the skill over the size any day of the week."

Isnt this the mindset that has in the exact situation we are trying to find a way out of right now? No matter who we pick in June, they SHOULD NOT be on the Oilers next year. Let them wow the crap out of MacT in OKC and force him to find room for them.

I completely agree that whoever is drafted should not be on the roster next year.

Soup Fascist makes a great point that because of the contract the CHL has with the NHL, you have to be 20 to be in the American Hockey League, which puts these high drafted young kids in a tough developmental spot. Nurse is likely facing another year of dominating junior, where he likely does not push his game. I can't imagine Ekblad really getting a lot out of 2 more years in junior. Klefbomb is a good example of how even the AHL is not necessarily the best league for development since it's so much dump and chase as there are less players that can take and make passes.

As for Edmonton drafting so much small skill over size, that is a farce. Years of drafts were wasted on taking high round coke machines that never worked out. Which is why the team is struggling now to build around the talent we have, because they did not use their later picks wisely to draft the complimentary players a cup winner needs. If you look at Chicago and the Pens, they all got their complimentary players in later rounds, well before they got their Toews, Kane's, Malkins, and Crosby's.

I think recently they may have turned that ship around with the likes of Chase, Nurse, Yakimov, Sheleshov, Moroz and Kahrija, but those guys are all too far away.

Finally, there's the position in question. You can always trade or buy size on the wing. Heatly at 33, 6'4 and 214 who will go for pennies this off season is a good example. But you don't necessarily need size down the middle to be a contender. Duchene, Mckinnon, Boston, the Red Wings, Tampa Bay.

True, the Oilers have such a hard time against our big Pacific rivals. But getting bigger on D, where the guys can break up the cycles will help. Gaining the zone and winning puck battles might be another conversation.

So, I guess I both agree and disagree with you, noting that it's nto that simple.

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#53 oilerjed
April 15 2014, 12:35PM
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The Soup Fascist wrote:

18 and 19 year olds can't play in the AHL. It is either NHL or CHL ..... there lies the rub.

no rub really. Let them play it out in Junior for a year.

Edit: or two if 20 is the cutoff

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#54 LoweBlow
April 15 2014, 12:35PM
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That was his first year. I think he'll get a lot better. Sign him to a 1 or 2 year deal. $1.5m range. Let's see what he's got.

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#55 oilerjed
April 15 2014, 12:47PM
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@Will

"Years of drafts were wasted on taking high round coke machines that never worked out. Which is why the team is struggling now to build around the talent we have, because they did not use their later picks wisely to draft the complimentary players a cup winner needs."

I thought the team was struggling because we have too many players that play the same way. I can see the advantage of drafting BPA but ONLY if it with the intention of using these players as commodities that you are hoping to use to fill future needs.

Also Im not suggesting draft a player only based on size, but if two players are that close in comparison it would be a far better bet to try the guy with the aize if it comes with the skill and hockey IQ.

The idea of the big tough pacific division has been another thought that has been floating around in my head lately. We are attempting to replicate the success of other teams by mirroring their teams structure. How long will these teams be big and tough I wonder? The cyclical nature of NHL teams makeup is forever evolving. Teams like LA, ST Louis and Sanjose, what is their window with these players? How many clones do they have in the system to maintain that type of team? Or is their a finite period of time where this format will work until the NHL switches bcak to a speed and skill dominating over size and cycling?

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#56 Sevenseven
April 15 2014, 12:50PM
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I hope Edmonton makes enough signings and has enough depth to throw Belov in the minors. Most of the guys coming up from OKC are looking good. I think Belov needs another season to adapt to the north american game. Him playing top minutes in okc will do wonderds for his game. I think he has a lot of upside.

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#57 The Soup Fascist
April 15 2014, 12:53PM
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oilerjed wrote:

no rub really. Let them play it out in Junior for a year.

Edit: or two if 20 is the cutoff

I agree on the 1st year. Let them play in WJHC and be the go to guys.

It is that 2nd year that you have to wonder if there is diminishing returns in terms of development.

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#58 Dman09
April 15 2014, 01:04PM
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"Very High End Defenseman" What exactly does that mean? Does that mean MacT might try and go after Weber? Would Gagner, Petry, 2015 1st rounder make it happen?

Who else would even be on the Radar for MacT?

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#59 Dman09
April 15 2014, 01:13PM
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The only top Defenseman I can see teams willing to part with are:

Shea Weber Dustin Byfuglien Keith Yandle or Oliver Ekman-Larsson

I can't see any others that would happen.

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#61 Mason Storm
April 15 2014, 01:35PM
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Dman09 wrote:

"Very High End Defenseman" What exactly does that mean? Does that mean MacT might try and go after Weber? Would Gagner, Petry, 2015 1st rounder make it happen?

Who else would even be on the Radar for MacT?

Nashville scoffed at Phillys offer sheet and matched. They would have gotten 4 first round picks. Any trade for Weber starts with the name Hall and then some. Weber means more to Nashville then Hall does to Edmonton and not one Oilers fan in the world would trade Hall for a package of players/ picks involving Gagner, Petry and a 1st rounder

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#62 oilerjed
April 15 2014, 01:40PM
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@The Soup Fascist

Ill agree with that with the caveat that a year extra in Junior would be less detrimental developmentally then two years too soon in the NHL.

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#63 Dman09
April 15 2014, 02:06PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

David Poile said this week that Shea Weber would play in Nashville next year.

That's all he's said all down the line. He's been asked and asked and asked about Weber, and the GM keeps saying he's going to be a Predator.

So then does it make sense for the Oilers to go after Dustin Byfuglien or Keith Yandle? I think PHX is going to be keeping OEL no matter the offer.

Say they get Keith Yandle and sign Brooks Orpik, does that change the Defense enough?

Yandle-Petry, Orpik-Schultz, Ference-Marincin

(just pairing not playing positions, not sure which side each plays right now)

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#64 LoweBlow
April 15 2014, 02:14PM
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Mason Storm wrote:

Nashville scoffed at Phillys offer sheet and matched. They would have gotten 4 first round picks. Any trade for Weber starts with the name Hall and then some. Weber means more to Nashville then Hall does to Edmonton and not one Oilers fan in the world would trade Hall for a package of players/ picks involving Gagner, Petry and a 1st rounder

Finally someone says it. Weber was second in scoring on team Canada. He ate up big minutes against the best in the world and looked far superior. This was a team that Hall couldn't even make.

Too many people act like Weber's inflated contract is a reason to trade him. Why then are we not questioning Ryan Suter? Malkin? These are players earning similar dollars and who aren't as valuable as Weber. Nashville also has plenty of cap space, by the way.

I admire the dreaming but Mason Storm is right. The first piece traded for Weber is Hall and he still isn't enough.

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#65 The Real Scuba Steve
April 15 2014, 02:17PM
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The Soup Fascist wrote:

Now we are talking! Let's go to Kelowna!!

Golf clubs. Check

Beach wear. Yup

Beer cooler. Roger

Torches and pitchforks. Got 'em.

In all sincerity, I honestly believe the guy is thinking about resigning. The Bob Nicholson trial balloon may be garbage or their may be some validity.

Lowe is a proud guy. I would not be surprised if he hung them up after the playoffs. Not sure he can dig himself out of this hole quickly enough.

True, but his boss is one of his best friends. Kazt, who nobody even hears from these days probably doesn't even care until the puck drops in his new arena, and by that time all people will think when mentioning the Oilers is the longest post season drought record in the NHL. Sad, I thought the Kazt era was going to bring winning hockey back to Edmonton.

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#66 Will
April 15 2014, 02:37PM
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oilerjed wrote:

"Years of drafts were wasted on taking high round coke machines that never worked out. Which is why the team is struggling now to build around the talent we have, because they did not use their later picks wisely to draft the complimentary players a cup winner needs."

I thought the team was struggling because we have too many players that play the same way. I can see the advantage of drafting BPA but ONLY if it with the intention of using these players as commodities that you are hoping to use to fill future needs.

Also Im not suggesting draft a player only based on size, but if two players are that close in comparison it would be a far better bet to try the guy with the aize if it comes with the skill and hockey IQ.

The idea of the big tough pacific division has been another thought that has been floating around in my head lately. We are attempting to replicate the success of other teams by mirroring their teams structure. How long will these teams be big and tough I wonder? The cyclical nature of NHL teams makeup is forever evolving. Teams like LA, ST Louis and Sanjose, what is their window with these players? How many clones do they have in the system to maintain that type of team? Or is their a finite period of time where this format will work until the NHL switches bcak to a speed and skill dominating over size and cycling?

Well, I mean the Oilers are always going to have that problem unless they are willing to change the make up of their top two lines. And that means trading one of Perron, Hall, Nuge, Ebs, Yak, or Gags.

Personally I think this is inevitable, but of those 6, the 2 I'd want to trade both have no value for decent return, and would leave big holes at those positions going forward.

If, as we agree, our draft pick is not going to see the NHL for a few years anyway, then drafting the BPA over team need assumes the top six will be altered in other ways, like through trade and free agency. If that's the case then another cerebral centre, over a guy with size but bad foot speed, might actually be a better fit when he hits the NHL, over a kid that is too slow to keep up with the pace.

In other words, and especially for the Oilers, drafting based on team need has not been a good strategy (see coke machines). The make up and balance of the team will never change via building through the draft, someone will have to go, and that's up tot Mac T to pull off another Perron like deal.

I understand that type of team make up is in vogue, and I get that the league could see success from a smaller team like Detroit (again), but I do not believe the idea of a big, heavy, fast team is going to die out anytime soon. LA is not that old. The future of San Jose is arguably guys like Hertl, Couture and Pavelski, a good mix of size and skill. In Anaheim they are developing guys like Nick Bonino and Winnick. And St Louis is only going to get better as their core of young stars progresses. Moreover, if one of these teams has to start a bit of a rebuild and restock, like with Anaheim in a few years (no more Selannee or Koivu), then there are the new kids on the block using size like Colorado and Dallas. That Dallas top line are a bunch of monsters.

So, in my opinion, I actually see size becoming more of an issue in coming years.

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#67 Oiler Al
April 15 2014, 02:45PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

In the Oilers shoes, I'd much rather bring back Belov than Larsen. Much, much rather.

The only way Larsen stays is if he plays forward. I would take Larsen over Lander though.

IF only Blov played a gritty tough game back there it would make for a better fit. Then you dont need Fraser.

But I guess if its not in your DNA to be tough, all the tigers milk in the world wont help. Same message goes to Petry, would like to see him drive some guys through the boards.

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#68 The Soup Fascist
April 15 2014, 03:13PM
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@The Real Scuba Steve

"Sad, I thought the Katz era was going to bring winning hockey back to Edmonton".

You and me both. No more cap issues. No more nickel and diming. Glory Days were at hand.

Boy were we wrong!

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#69 Harry2
April 15 2014, 03:18PM
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nuge2nail wrote:

Oiler Domination To Follow

This is a playoff team, aka a wet dream roster for next year.

Perron Statsny Yakupov

Hall Hopkins Eberle

Moss Bennett Downie

Hendricks Gordan Gazdic

Markhov Myers

Shultz Marincin

Petry Ference

Klefbom Nurse

Scrivens Fasth

How do we get Myers without giving anyone up?

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#70 The Last Big Bear
April 15 2014, 03:20PM
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The Soup Fascist wrote:

18 and 19 year olds can't play in the AHL. It is either NHL or CHL ..... there lies the rub.

College.

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#71 The Last Big Bear
April 15 2014, 03:47PM
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Oh, and can we have a thread to make fun of the absolute joke of a press conference MacT gave?

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#72 Oilergasm
April 15 2014, 03:52PM
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Sorry, totally unrelated but I was looking on capgeek at potential UFA's and I saw Toby Peterson is a UFA...

JK JK!

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#73 Scrivy
April 15 2014, 03:53PM
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JW, for a numbers guy it's surprising that you do not realize that Hejda is poor corsi player. His corsi rel was -3.2%.

Sometimes I wonder if numbers guys just pander to the dummy ex-players in the media to get by.

Look at the numbers. They don't lie. Struds and Suds do.

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#74 Will
April 15 2014, 03:55PM
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Harry2 wrote:

How do we get Myers without giving anyone up?

It looks like he traded Gagner for Yakupov in this fever dream scenario, I see Bennett here so maybe it was Gagner plus the 2015 first round pick?

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#75 Will
April 15 2014, 04:09PM
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Will wrote:

It looks like he traded Gagner for Yakupov in this fever dream scenario, I see Bennett here so maybe it was Gagner plus the 2015 first round pick?

* Edit, Ganger for Myers.

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#76 nuge2nail
April 15 2014, 04:29PM
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The Soup Fascist wrote:

The Oilers have roughly $28.5 million in cap space. Somehow you have managed to parlay Gagner and Joensuu into Steve Downie and Tyler Myers (well done, by the way!) Increasing your salary availability to $34 million.

But wait we have to actually pay Myers ($5.5 million) and Downie ($2.65 million)? Oops. Now we only have $25.8 million. No problemo.

Our 7th and 8th D (sitting in the pressbox) are going to cost us close to $4 million with bonuses. So that gives us $21.8 million. Bennett, 4th overall is another $2.5 with bonuses. Alright, we still have over $19 million.

Crap, we have to re-up Schultz and Petry? They are RFA's so we can really beat them up - still going to be $2.5 - 3 million apiece even on a bridge deal. Lets's call it $5.5 total. I am guessing over $6M but let's dream big. So we have $13.5 M left - awesome.

Gaz, here is a million for you. Moss you were making $2.1 we will give you cost of living, you are happy with that right? Call it $2.5 M. Oh we need an extra forward? Ok we will sign a kid. Another million. So let's see ... carry the three ... that leaves us with 9 million bucks.

Mr. Stastny, Mr. Markhov you are highly sought after free agents so we are going to offer you each $4.5 million to sign with the 3rd worst team in the league ....wait, what's that Scott, we need to sign Yak next year ?? .... Ahem, We are prepared to offer you $3 million dollars each ....

..... Click....

Mr. Stastny? Mr. Markhov?? ....

Damn. Disconnected again.

Oilers Domination To Follow

Downie is a ufa.

Im hoping Buffalo unloads Myers contract the way the Blues unloaded Perrons.

Gagner + Petry + 2015 second rounder for Myers.

After Trading Gagner,and Joensuu the Oilers will have 34 Million In Cap Space.

Statsny - 6.0 (x 6)

Markhov - 6.0 (x3)

Myers - 5.5 (x5)

Downie - 2.5 (x3)

Shultz - 3.5 (bridge deal)

Bennett - 2.5 (bonuses)

Moss - 2.0 (x3)

Klefbom - 1.0 (x2)

TOTAL - 29.0 Million

CAP SPACE - 34 Million

Remaining Cap Space - 5 Million

Like I said this would be an epic offseason if MacT were to pull this off.

Not sure we want Myers for 5 years at that tag though, maybe trade Gagner for a lower risk dman and sign a guy like Nikitin. Not even sure Myers is an upgrade on Petry.

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#77 nuge2nail
April 15 2014, 04:43PM
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Oiler Domination To Follow

You can always replace Myers in the trade scenario with defensemen like:

Wideman, Phaneuf, Byfuglien

or Ufas targets like:

Orpiks, Robidas, Zidlicky, Niskanen, Nikitin

5.5 Million is a lot of money for a defenseman, MacT should have some options.

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#78 Johnnydapunk
April 15 2014, 04:57PM
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I think that he is very similar to when Hejda was here, which has been mentioned. It's his first year here and I think the transition was a bit rocky, but there was enough good to see that he can do alright.

His thing for signing one year deals only to keep him playing for a new contract is also a good thing as he can be evaluated on a year to year basis.

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I would sign Belov and Larson. At training camp, hold a genuine open competition for spots on the big club. If Marincin(very likely) Klefbomb (probably) and even Nurse show better in training camp, then send Belov and Larson to OKC. Future depth callups or lost on waivers, which would be like we never signed them. Or maybe Larson stays in as a forward even.

As for Fraser, two-way deal (if that's even possible) or let him walk. if he doesn't sign elsewhere, bring him to camp as a pro-tryout. If he performs as one of our top 7 Dmen in camp, then keep him.

By the way, like nearly everybody else, I'd love to also add a top-end Dman as well. Not sure if Markov is the guy, or if we could get Boyle or even Phaneuf or Myers, but I would love to see MacT get someone who would bump everyone else down a step on the depth chart. We need another Brewer (Petry this time around)for Pronger deal; I don't see it happening, but we'll see what the Silver Fox can do.

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#80 TigerUnderGlass
April 15 2014, 05:08PM
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@Dman09

OEL is available? That would be amazing.

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#81 The Soup Fascist
April 15 2014, 06:52PM
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The Last Big Bear wrote:

College.

Jed was talking about Nurse / this year's pick. Both are (will be CHLers). College is not an option for Nurse.

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#82 The Soup Fascist
April 15 2014, 07:00PM
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nuge2nail wrote:

Oilers Domination To Follow

Downie is a ufa.

Im hoping Buffalo unloads Myers contract the way the Blues unloaded Perrons.

Gagner + Petry + 2015 second rounder for Myers.

After Trading Gagner,and Joensuu the Oilers will have 34 Million In Cap Space.

Statsny - 6.0 (x 6)

Markhov - 6.0 (x3)

Myers - 5.5 (x5)

Downie - 2.5 (x3)

Shultz - 3.5 (bridge deal)

Bennett - 2.5 (bonuses)

Moss - 2.0 (x3)

Klefbom - 1.0 (x2)

TOTAL - 29.0 Million

CAP SPACE - 34 Million

Remaining Cap Space - 5 Million

Like I said this would be an epic offseason if MacT were to pull this off.

Not sure we want Myers for 5 years at that tag though, maybe trade Gagner for a lower risk dman and sign a guy like Nikitin. Not even sure Myers is an upgrade on Petry.

My apologies. You are corerct on Downie.

Klefbom as a first rounder will make more than $1 million including some easy to hit bonuses.

I am not sure why Moss is taking a paycut at 32 years old.

You still have to carry a 23 man roster and by my reckoning you are not accounting for a couple of forwards. But it matters not ....

Obviously you put some thought into this and this team looks way better than what the Oiler's will start actually start the season with. Not trying to throw rocks. It is fun to play GM. Just not always easy to convince the other GM to deal or the FA to sign here.

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#83 The Soup Fascist
April 15 2014, 07:02PM
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oilerjed wrote:

Ill agree with that with the caveat that a year extra in Junior would be less detrimental developmentally then two years too soon in the NHL.

Other than Oiler's management everyone would agree ....

See Gagner, Sam.

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#84 russ99
April 15 2014, 07:16PM
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Look at the FA defensemen signed last August for cheap. Would you really want Belov over those guys?

If there's one thing MacT should focus on this offseason it's more veterans, less question marks.

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#86 Bringbackslats
April 15 2014, 11:30PM
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Finally someone has something good to say about him... I thought at times Belov looked like the best defenseman on our team. Unlike most of our blue, he's got a great defenseman's intuition on know just how much time and space he has to make a pass oit of zone and under pressure. He also does a good job of separating forwards from the puck with seemingly litle effort at times. He's a big body and I think he gets unfairly critiqued for his footspeed. He may not be that fast but he's a solid skater... Just as should be expected for a European. FoodStuffer should give his head a shake. He'll sing the praises of Shultz all season and in the same breath he throws Belov inder the bus. Guy might have great recall but he couldn't judge a defenseman's skills if his life depended on it...or a second helping of Jelly donuts.

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