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Opposing Views on the Return of Kuz

Photo courtesy of Jess Star (

How will Evgeny Kuznetsov be received in his first game back at Capital One Arena, this time as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes? Will there be cheers…or jeers? Let’s talk about it.

All Cheers, No Jeers

Since making his NHL debut a decade ago, Evgeny Kuznetsov was a crucial part of this Capitals team, putting up big goals, making impressive plays, and authoring one of the biggest moments in franchise history (leading to THE biggest moment a month later).

As one of the team’s second wave of “young guns” in the early 2010s – alongside players like Tom Wilson, Dmitry Orlov, Jakub Vrana, and Andre Burakovsky – Kuznetsov gave the Capsanother scoring option and more depth up the middle. Endlessly endearing, a little goofy, and frequently unpredictable (in ways both good and bad), the pros of having Kuznetsov on the team and watching him perform often outweighed the occasional frustration at some inconsistency in his game, whether he was busting out the eagle celebration or executing the slowest (and most hilarious) shootout attempts known to man.

Then 2018 rolled around, and he found a new level to a game that had already been pretty damn good, following up a career-high 83 points in the regular season with a dominant 12-goal, 32-point run to the Stanley Cup Final and the first championship win in franchise history. And in that incredible run, no moment stands out more, or is more memorable – and more crucial in cementing his legacy as a Capitals legend forevermore – than this one:

Yes, Kuznetsov’s departure at the trade deadline was perhaps a year or two too late, and there’s no question that his up-and-down performance since the Cup run and the drama that followed have had some negative impact on the team. The Kuznetsov we saw toward the end of his time in DC bore little resemblance to the goofy kid they drafted in 2010, let alone the soaring eagle from the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

But 10 years is a long time to spend with one team in the NHL, and despite the sour ending, it’s hard not to think of the sweet times and the way Kuznetsov endeared himself to so many (even while being endlessly frustrating at the same time). When he takes the ice at Cap One tonight, expect a hero’s welcome…if only for a moment before he becomes the enemy.

Some Cheers, Some Jeers

Yes, Evgeny Kuznetsov scored the biggest goal in Washington Capitals history and was deserving of the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP in 2018 (which, of course, isn’t to say that the actual winner was undeserving). It’s impossible to imagine the Caps winning the Cup without Kuzy’s contributions.

And yet.

Just a few months later he told all of us and the world that he wasn’t really interested in being the best player he could be, which might’ve been a major red flag on a player entering the second year of an eight-year deal, but in the wake of the Cup, it was just Kuzy being Kuzy. And that’s what we got on the ice as well for a few years – Kuzy being Kuzy, with decent point totals, flashes of the brilliance that led the Caps to achieve the unthinkable, and enough to leave us wanting more. A lot more.

Then came last year and the wheels were fully off the wagon. Instead of Kuzy simply not reaching his potential, he became an active detriment to the club, on the ice at least, leading up to this year’s separation from the team and subsequent trade to Carolina. Incredibly, moving Kuznetsov had become addition by subtraction.

With Kuznetsov, there’s certainly some “Curse of Elite Talent” going on, and we aren’t (nor should we) glossing over the off-ice issues, internal dynamics, trade request(s), and so on that inform a situation and about which, frankly, we as outsiders know so little. But how things end matters. No doubt there will come a day when that bitter taste is gone and all that remains are memories of 2018. For now, though, with a resurgent Kuznetsov suiting up for a rival club, it’s hard to fully embrace a legitimate Caps legend.

All the Jeers, Forever

As long as Evgeny Kuznetsov is a Carolina Hurricane, he is a sworn enemy, irredeemable by any previous good deeds. Period. End of story.

…okay, no rational person holds this opinion.

So let’s hear it. Are you welcoming #92 back with open arms, or does he get… something else tonight? Hit us up in the comments!

Talking Points