Nikita Kucherov and the Tampa Bay Lightning finished their season almost three weeks ago, missing out on a spot in the playoffs by a narrow margin. With the year in the books, now is the time where players typically take time off and recover before preparing for the next challenge in 2017-18. That’s not the case for Kucherov.
While preparing in Russia for the World Championship which will take place next month, Kucherov blasted his Lightning teammates for their play during the 2016-17 season. Sometimes the term “blasted” is used a bit too loosely, but here he fulfills that definition by calling out his teammates for overstaying their welcome as well as taking their money and giving up.
Kucherov’s translated comments, as seen in the Tampa Bay Times:
“Some guys overstayed in team. They’ve got their money and stopped working. They knew there’s no competition for their positions and the organization is not going to take someone else. They played not really well this year. You can see it in their stats and way of play. When we played together and I made a pass, they even were not expecting this. That’s why this season was hard for me despite good stats.”
Kucherov declined to name the players he was discussing.
Those are some harsh words from the team’s best offensive player. Despite his claims that his teammates pretty much gave up, he still finished the year with some pretty awesome numbers (40 goals, 45 assists). Based on his statements, it seems like Kucherov believes he could have had even better numbers (and his team could have had a better season) had his teammates been giving it their all.
So, what happens now? Kucherov is locked into a contract with Tampa Bay through 2018-19 and is a critical component in the club’s quest for a Cup. His comments are going to rub a lot of people the wrong way, but it’s doubtful much will come of it.