Monday, December 28, 2009

Absurd Goalie Monday: Mikhail Shtalenkov

In honor of the Russian team being one of the biggest countries to announce their Olympic rosters, we'll profile a former member of the gold medal roster for the Unified Team in 1992 (six of the 15 former Soviet countries) and silver medal in 1998 in Nagano. While he held his own internationally, he could never crack stardom in net coming to North America. We give you this week's AGM, Mikhail Shtalenkov.

Shtalenkov started off his career in 1986-87 with Dynamo Moscow over in the Soviet Union, playing the first six seasons with the powerhouse of Russian hockey. Shtalenkov was splitting time with Vladimir Myshkin until the 1988-89 season when Myshkin got more time due to his excelling play, while in the 1989-90 season, Shtalenkov was behind Myshkin and Andrei Karpin. However, but the 1990-91 season, Myshkin had departed and Shtalenkov had regain the trust of the Dynamo team, surpassing Karpin and getting starting gigs. Yet, things came to a change both for Shatalenkov's career, and the landscape of Russian life.

By 1991, the Soviet Union started to crumble and before the end of the year, would be disestablished. Shtalenkov would be getting plenty of time with Dynamo and getting enough exposure to actually get the call for the Unified Team for the 1992 Olympics, getting all of the starts for the team. The team itself consisted of members of Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Uzbekistan, and Armenia for the team, but most of them still played within the Russian hockey realm. During the qualifying round, the Unified team only lost to Czechoslovakia, but it would be their only defeat in the tournament. During the medal rounds, the Unified Team knocked off the Finns, the US, and then Canada team on way to the Gold Medal. Shtalenkov only allowed 12 goals in his eight games played and got plenty of exposure by the NHL scouts.

The Olympics were a springboard for Shtalenkov, who went from Dynamo to the Milwaukee Admirals of the IHL for the 1992-93 season. Shtalenkov continued his stellar play, posting a remarkable rookie year and a 26-14-5 record, garnering the Garry F. Longman Trophy for the IHL's Rookie of the Year. With Shtalenkov's stock on the rise, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim decided to draft the now 28-year-old Shtalenkov in the fifth round of the 1993 Entry Draft.

Despite a few call-ups, Shtalenkov spent most of the 1993-94 season with the San Diego Gulls of the IHL, playing in 28 games and posting up a 15-11-2 record. For his 10 games with the Ducks, he had 3-4-1 record with a decent 2.65 GAA in those games. The 1994-95 season was shortened, but Shtalenkov was up for the entire season, putting up a 4-7-1 record in 18 appearances. Success continued to allude Shtalenkov with Anaheim, as he would continue his struggles in the 1995-96 season, despite getting more time in net, he would only put up a 7-16-3 record, though his 3.12 GAA wasn't the best, but could have been worse. Shtalenkov would see less games for the next season, but a respectable record of 7-8-1 and a 2.89 GAA and .904 save percentage. Shtalenkov would get some playoff time in the 1997 playoffs, losing three of the four games he was in, twice replacing Guy Hebert; getting the last two starts of the series. Thanks to his performance in the playoffs, Shtalenkov would get split time with Hebert, seeing 40 games for the season and going 13-18-5 for the 1997-98 season. One of those wins was the first regular season game outside of North America as the Ducks beat the Canucks 3-2 in Toyko. He would also get a call from the Russian Olympic team, this time getting a Silver Medal after going 4-1-0 in his five games played.

During the off-season of the 1998, Shtalenkov was left unprotected in the Expansion Draft and was selected by the Nashville Predators. However, he would never play a game in Nashville, as Shtalenkov and Jim Dowd was traded to Edmonton for Eric Fichaud, Greg de Vries and Drake Berehowsky.

Shtalenkov would get a good amount of time with Bob Essensa in Edmonton, splitting time. In the 34 games with Edmonton, Shtalenkov would go 12-17-3; but he would get dealt to Phoenix at the trade deadline for a Draft Pick. In only four games, Shtalenkov would go 1-2-1 and with both teams, Shtalenkov would have 2.62 GAA. Shtalenkov would get more time in the 1999-2000 season, with Nikolai Khabibulin holding out for Phoenix. Shtalenkov made the most of his starting time going 7-6-2, though four of his losses came in his last four games with Phoenix.

I say last four games because with Trevor Kidd going down to injury, the Coyotes dealt Shtalenkov and a draft pick to the Florida Panthers for Sean Burke and a draft pick. Shtalenkov's tenure in Florida would only last the rest of the season, as he played 15 games for the Panthers, as they traded for Mike Vernon. Shtalenkov would go 8-4-2 in his 15 games with a fantastic 2.31 GAA and .908 save percentage. It couldn't get him a job for the 2000-01 season, so Shtalenkov would go back to Russia and play with his former club, Dynamo Moscow. Shtalenkov played two seasons with Dynamo, 25 games in the 2000-01 season with a 1.95 GAA and 28 games in 2001-02 with a 2.02 GAA. Shtalenkov would retire after the 2001-02 season.

While his international play and Russian league play was fantastic-- it never translated to success in the NHL. Whether it was due to lack of good talent surrounding him or just not being able to pick up the North American game, Shtalenkov did what he could. At least he has the medals from the Olympics to talk for him should anyone question his prowess in net.

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