Igor Esmantovich: The overall rating of the season is "excellent"
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Igor Esmantovich: The overall rating of the season is "excellent"

Фото: Иван Макеев, «Комсомольская Правда»

The final press conference dedicated to the performance of CSKA in the 2022/23 season took place today. The questions of journalists were answered by the president of the CSKA PHC Igor Esmantovich, sports director Denis Denisov and the head coach of the team Sergey Fedorov.

IGOR ESMANTOVICH:

— The season went great, the team won. We were once again pleased with the CSKA Hockey School, having won the All-School Competition of the city of Moscow for the sixth time in a row. Red Army got into the playoffs of the JHL. Zvezda messed up the result a little. But the overall rating of the season is "excellent". We coped with the tasks that were set for Sergey Fedorov by the supervisory board. Many thanks to our fans. I would like to thank our owner, Rosneft, and personally Igor Ivanovich Sechin, chairman of the supervisory club. Thanks also to all the employees of our society who accompanied us and worked all season, no matter what. 

As for Sergey Fedorov's nomination for the title of the best coach of the season

This is the right decision. In the final of the Western Conference, we faced a serious opponent, St. Petersburg's SKA. There was a young coach, ambitious, there was a duel of a certain level, and Sergey Fedorov coped with it. Compared to previous years, we beat SKA quite easily, with a score of 4-2, before we had to play seven matches. The score, of course, does not say that it was an easy fight, but we played more confidently and competently in terms of the variability of tactics. I'm not ready to repeat the words of some coaches about this or that system, but our game is built on a different principle, and we managed to prove it. After playing with the first team of the regular season, we then got to the leader of the Eastern Conference. From a sporting point of view, we are playing two finals at once. The coach has to cope with such a serious barrier. A few days after the final, I asked him, "How did you go through such a difficult season?" He replied: "It's a great skill to be able to endure." This is an important factor, at the level of the huge intensity of the struggle, it is necessary to understand stress-resistant solutions. In the final, we faced the coach of the Soviet school, Zinetula Bilyaletdinov, Sergey had difficulties with hacking defensive, powerful hockey. Therefore, I am not surprised that Sergey is nominated for the best coach of the season.

About emotions after the end of the season

After the victory, there is an emotional burnout, including for Sergey Fedorov. He does not tell what hardships he goes through during the season. Yes, we all get good money for our work. But no one says that Vitaly Abramov had an operation and he didn't play for a month and a half. Anton Slepyshev, who equalized the score in the seventh match of the final, was ill. He played all 27 playoff games on injections. Having won the cup, he was operated on in Germany on May 2. Recovery is underway now. And this can be said about every hockey player. There were difficult moments when we lost to teams that did not make it to the playoffs, there was pressure in the media. Therefore, burnout takes place. But we are already forming a new team for the season. We are not touching Sergey yet, but we are working with Denis Valeryevich, signing contracts with young guys. We got a piece of luck — none of our young players will go to North America. We signed 13 of our students for the next year in the Red Army.

About meetings with fans

We recently met with one of the leaders of our fans, who spends a lot of time on a special military operation. We see serious support at away matches from those fans who did not visit the stadium at Avtozavodskaya due to a misunderstanding that happened earlier. Now these fans are starting to take part in our lives, we respond well to this. We want the guys to come back to our home matches. We have a great dialogue with the fans. Of course, we will meet with them. Time has shown that the disagreements we had did not affect our game, our tasks. After moving to Avtozavodskaya, we won the cup three times. But we understand that we miss guys who do not come to the games.

About the return of Iskhakov and Samorukov to Russia

Yesterday we talked with Ruslan Iskhakov's agent. There are tight negotiations going on, we would like to see him in our team. He has a contract for another year in North America. Our task is to understand how he will first deal with this status. Dmitry Samorukov's contract is ending. We are talking him into returning to Russia.

About the rumors about the amount of bonuses for winning the Gagarin Cup

The question of bonuses for the Gagarin Cup has not even been discussed yet. The chairman of the supervisory board of the club is on a business trip, and when he is free, we will be able to discuss this issue. My opinion is that our rivals are taking revenge on us for the victory with such rumors. This is the pressure that has been, is and will be on us. We will bear it with dignity. We are ready to announce the amount of bonuses only after they are paid.

About the "championship window" of CSKA

The words of the SKA coach about the "championship window" — I think, you understand that he was emotional, no one likes to lose. Well, he said it, and that's ok. It's not clear to me at all what a "championship window" is. I liked Sergey Plotnikov's answer: "The window leaf is open." Therefore, I would not like to react to emotional things from Roman Rotenberg. The man was under pressure, he was offended. We take it calmly, with humor. We smiled over a cup of tea and went on.

About building a dynasty team

CSKA is a philosophy. We must always win. It's a feeling nurtured by our great hockey players. Thank God it didn't collapse in the 90s with the Soviet Union. We are fulfilling the tasks that Rosneft sets for us. Creating a dynasty team is painstaking hard work. We have such people-dynasties in the supervisory board. Our philosophy of winning comes from early childhood, from children who are under pressure at any level. This is a sport of high achievements. So far we are coping and bringing victories to our native club.

About the return of Ivan Fedotov

Ivan Fedotov has signed a contract with Philadelphia, it is put on hold now. Until July 1, 2023, Ivan belongs to this club. Since we do not encroach on NHL contracts, and they do not encroach on ours, therefore, we would not like to give expanded information on Fedotov. Ivan and I met a few months ago, talked about the future. He has the desire, and we have the opportunity, for him to stay in Russia and play for CSKA for several years. But today Fedotov is in CSKA and has a contract with a North American club. We are trying to make sure that he is in our club in the future.

About parting with Reideborn and playing goalkeepers in the season

There is information that some hockey players may lose their citizenship of Kazakhstan. We have signed a contract with Darren Dietz, he has dual citizenship. We are not extending the relationship with Artem Sergeyev, so we can sign another defender. We had an agreement with Reideborn, but taking into account the new information, having Klasson and Dietz as mercenaries, we are considering the option of transferring another foreign defender. We had to sacrifice Reideborn. During the season, we were unhappy with the performance of both goalkeepers. The head coach approached me with this problem. We had a meeting with him and goalkeeping coach Sergey Naumov, who defended the plan to prepare for the playoffs. It worked.

About foreign players in the KHL

Those foreigners who continue to play in Russia under their own conditions are fighting guys, they tolerate all sorts of things. Some of them even financially help our guys who are in the zone of a special military operation right now. Our club is in the first row in this matter.

About strengthening the coaching staff

In an hour and a half, Sergey Fedorov and Boris Petrovich Mikhailov and I are meeting on the composition of the coaching staff to prepare for the meeting of the supervisory board. There are thoughts to strengthen the headquarters, we have discussed this issue. For now the question is open. We hope that the supervisory board will be held in the near future, as soon as Igor Ivanovich Sechin is free.

SERGEY FEDOROV:

— I assess the season positively. I would also like to thank our supervisory board. It contains great people: Mikhailov, Tretyak, Bure. Of course, thanks to Igor Ivanovich Sechin, our leader. This is a man of steel will. I am personally grateful to him for his instructions, directions, and support. For the wisdom and patience he shows despite his busy schedule. The coaching staff did a great job. The season was difficult, I will not say that everything was easy. Thanks to the guys for their dedication, hard work, will and understanding of the fundamental things that we will try to work out even better next season. 27 games in the playoffs out of 28 possible - it was difficult not only for the players, but also for their relatives and friends, as well as our fans. The season is long, complicated, and interesting. I think we managed to bring the team in good condition both for the regular season and for the playoffs. Although it was difficult for us, and each episode was close to failure. But the guys gathered and played the most important matches by 120 percent. Congratulations to everyone who supported CSKA, our team and management, the club's employees. A huge victory in the year of the 100th anniversary of the Central Sports Club of the Army.

About the nomination for the best coach of the season award

It's a great experience - to learn how to endure. There are many directions in the word "endure". There are many factors that affect the result. Our coaching staff always has their own points of view. In this regard, I also had to endure and understand what everyone means. We were meshing during this season. I think we succeeded. I want to congratulate Zinetula Bilyaletdinov and Igor Larionov with the nomination for the title of the best coach of the season. This is a prestigious prize. Last year I managed to take it, but it was the result of the work of many people around us. I am proud of the fact that I am in such a group of coaches.

About the most difficult playoff series

We can agree with the opinion of the players that the most difficult series was against Lokomotiv. Igor Nikitin has been working with the guys who make up the backbone of our team for a long time, so they probably say that. From my point of view, all the series were complicated in their own way, had different value.

About a possible job in the NHL

Working in an NHL club is impossible for me in the near future. As for the rumors about Detroit and Columbus, no one called me about it, it wasn't close. This topic is spinned out of the thin air. I still have a year of contract with CSKA. But even after it ends, I have no plans to conquer North America.

About the Hockey World Championship

I will not follow the Hockey World Championship. If you need any information, we'll see later. We give them a dose of their own medicine. The lineups of the teams change a lot from season to season. But all the trends of modern hockey are clear enough. Five players in attack, five in defense, speed and movement.

About the team's return from vacation

To work well, you need to have a good rest. I think the more rest our guys get, the better. We will discuss this issue in the next week or two. The request is to collect players not so early.

DENIS DENISOV:

— We work in the sport of high achievements, where everything is evaluated by the result. If there is a result — it means that we coped perfectly. The main characters are the guys who were on the ice, the coaching staff and the management. The CSKA society helps to achieve similar results and will work to repeat them.

We have a system built in our club, starting with the CSKA Hockey School and ending with the first team. When we educate the players, we instill in them a sense of winners. We bear the burden of responsibility for the CSKA brand. We are trying to support it with our work. As for burnout: someone can already take some rest, and someone should continue to work. This is the CSKA system — the work does not stop for a second. The CSKA society is focused on results. The guys who come to us want to win first of all, and then everything else.