New Era for KHL: 2014-2015 Comes With Changes

The 2014-15 KHL season came with new adjustments, rule changes, teams joining and falling out, and excitement all around. The biggest change of all was hybrid icing, which is really a huge struggle for KHL’s referees.

At first it looked like they understood the rule changes, but as the season carried on, things have really turned around and now teams can just keep complaining about how bad the level of officiating in the KHL is.

As we all know, the KHL wants to compete with the NHL for the tittle of world’s best hockey league, so they decided to add more games to the regular seasons schedule (from 54 to 60 games), but most of the coaches just laughed about this new addition because it meant that a few teams could play each other only in the Gagarin Cup finals.

Teams in the same division play four games against each other and two games against other teams from the same conference. Teams are set to face opposite conference teams only once, with one division at home and the other on the road, which would make a total of 52 games. Due to the increase of games (the league stated that 8 more games will be added, 4 from both conferences), match-ups were decided by geographical placement. 2014-15 will be the longest season in the short, seven-year history of the KHL.

As reported during the summer, Helsinki Jokkerit, Toljati Lada and HK Sochi became a part of the league, which meant more teams, but then the most unexpected thing happened: HK Spartak Moscow decided to transfer to VHL due to their financial problems. Additionally, Donbass Doneck wasn’t able to guarantee safety and financial requirements due to the political situation in Ukraine.

The KHL really wanted Donbass to stay, so they decided to put club on ”pause”. Later, Donbass Arena was demolished, robbed and almost burned down. Thankfully team staff reacted immediately and froze player contracts, allowing them to sign a one year contract with any team in the KHL.

Lev Praha had exciting 2013-2014 season, made it to Gagarin Cup finals (where they lost to Metallurg Magnitagorsk), but none knew it was last game for them in the KHL. Praha was another team with financial problems; the team lost sponsors, so they sold out their best players and left the KHL.

The KHL is very famous with their import players. In a meeting of Russian Ministry of Sports stated that Belarussian players raise the level of the league and interest around Europe, so it was decided that all Belarussian players that sign their contracts with a KHL team this season will no longer be legionnaires. It’s same thing with Russian players around Belarus leagues, which is another step towards a farm club type system from my point of view.

There were a number of high profile KHL signings this summer as well. Some people play for pride, some for a chance to win the world’s most famous trophy The Stanley Cup, and some are into sports just to earn money

The biggest signing of the summer was a true fight between both leagues, NHL vs KHL, St.Louis Blues vs Avangard Omsk . This time the KHL won when forward Vladimir Sobotoka signed a 3-year contract with Avangard Omsk, which ofc ourse refused to reveal how much money Sobotka would get.

Many believed his contract is for $12 million, which obviously makes more gross profit due to the low tax rate in the KHL, and Sobotka’s hope to get Gagarin’s Cup really wasn’t the reason of signing.

Meanwhile Stephane DaCosta got tired of not getting a leading role with the Ottawa Senators, so he came to the KHL as well. CSKA Moscow offered him a contract right after there IIHF World Championships, where Da Costa had three goals and six assists in eight games for France.

The forward tried to make sure he got a legitimate NHL contract from Ottawa, which didn’t happen, so he accepted CSKA’s offer right before training camps started.

After the season began, and Medvescak had its struggles (including a change of head coaches) their GM decided that he has to fill the forward group after losing Jonathan Cheecho. So, they called Ville Leino, who agreed to sign what seems to be a two-year contract which obviously makes him trade bait for trade deadline day. After joining the team, Leino stated that playing for the Buffalo Sabres was the biggest mistake of his career, claiming that Buffalo will be losing for a long time, and shared his happiness about being in Europe. So far through two games, Leino has one goal. and one assist.


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