Remember this guy?
The last time we really talked about Maxim Afinogenov, it sounded something like this
Afinogenov’s time in Buffalo had been rocky and the end of the line is clear, but his time in the NHL might not be over just yet. I wouldn’t be shocked if he had a decent year and earned himself another contract; but I’m certainly okay with it happening on another team.
It’s certainly not a shocking statement, as everyone seemed to be saying the same things about Max for the last two years or so. The verdict on Afinogenov was clear: something happened and he needs a change of scenery to fix it. We’ve all talked about what happened and what it means to the team, but it was time for Max to go.
So he went to Atlanta, where he’s pretty much exploded. Max has 16 points (6+10) in 16 games on a surprisingly strong Thrashers team. At 10-6-1, Atlanta is second in the Southeast Division behind Washington and look like they are the real deal.
And so does Max. His advanced numbers aren’t fantastic but his basic stats are very impressive. He’s already matched his goal total from last season, and his average time on ice (17:14) is up near what he saw during his best years as a Sabre.
Here’s what Ilya Kovalchuk had to say about Max:
“Max seems like he’s got a second life in hockey. In Buffalo he just take a beating from the coach, and was told stuff and they bench him. You can’t do that to those kind of players. He’s one of the hardest working I ever see. Off the ice he’s in the gym every day and he’s preparing himself. Johnny trusts him and put him in key situations. He feels more comfortable and he gives you results… He’s every day, he’s smiling, and that’s the most important thing. In Buffalo you can’t smile. If you smile you sit on the bench.“
Now before we get all mad at Kovalchuk, let’s keep in mind how ridiculous that statement is. Smiling is certainly allowed in Buffalo, careless giveaways and inane play is not. Maxim Afinogenov got benched because he was in Lindy Ruff’s doghouse, and whether right or wrong, he was in his doghouse because he played awful stretches of hockey.
I still say he got exactly what he needed: a change of scenery. That’s sort of what Ilya is saying, but with broken English and some douchebaggery. Atlanta is giving Max a chance and they’ve been lucky, but it is still early. We know what Max is made of: injuries, frustrating stretches of hockey, and momentary brilliance.
The numbers are there, but I think it’s pretty clear that those numbers wouldn’t exist if he were still on the Sabres. Atlanta took a chance on Max and so far it has paid off. Playing with a guy like Kovalchuk can’t help. and it’s still very early. If he keeps a point per game pace all season he’s the best $800,000 player in hockey. If not, he’s Maxim Afinogenov.
Either way, good for him.