by PuckStopsHere on 10/22/12 at 12:01 AM ET
On September 7th, 2011 a plane carrying the KHL hockey team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl crashed. The entire team was killed. As a result the team did not compete in the 2011/12 KHL season. The team that is playing in the 2012/13 season that is currently underway is a brand new team full of brand new players. It is logical to think that a brand new team of players would have to work their way back up to the top of the league over a few seasons but this is not the case.
Lokomotiv Yaroslavl is currently fourth place in the league with a record of 8 wins in regulation, 5 more wins in overtime or shootout and 4 regulation losses. They are five points behind first place Dynamo Moscow who has one more game played than Lokomotiv (in the KHL a regulation win is worth three points).
The KHL is a league with strong financial differences between their different teams. Lokomotiv is one of the richest teams in the league and was willing to pay to rebuild. They brought in several former NHL players including Niklas Hagman, Viktor Kozlov, Staffan Kronwall, Sami Lepisto, Vitaly Vishnevski and Vitaly Kolesnik. During the lockout Semyon Varlamov, Dmitry Kulikov and Artem Anisomov has joined the team as well.
Money can rebuild a team in the KHL quickly. Especially when the league does not command the best players in the league so there are always outside players to bring into the league who can be stars there.
This season Lokomotiv has had very good goaltending. Vitaly Kolesnik is posting a .938 saves percentage and a 1.98 GAA and Semyon Varlamov has a .932 saves percentage and a 2.25 GAA. As great as those numbers sound they are a handful of goalies who have done even better so far this year. Their defence is solid and does not allow many top chances but only Staffan Kronwall and Dmitry Kulikov have shown significant offensive ability so far this year.
Among their forwards nobody is among the league leaders right now. Alexei Kalyuzny is the team leader with 11 points in 17 games. He is a longtime Russian player who was brought over from Avongard Omsk this summer.
Lokomotiv is off to a great start and it is a really good story to see this team be rebuilt as quickly as they have been. However this start is likely unsustainable. They brought in the best talent that they could buy but other teams with money have been able to accumulate their talent for several years and that is impossible to compete with right now. With their financial advantages Lokomotiv will finish in the top half of the league easily but i doubt they will finish as high as they are right now.
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