Martin Fennelly’s hit piece on Nikita Kucherov was not okay

We adore you, Tampa Bay Times, but really?

This piece, much like the piece that Mr. Martin Fennelly and the Tampa Bay Times published about Nikita Kucherov, is an editorial. It reflects the views of some of the writers at Raw Charge, and is published with the consent of the site. Some people might disagree with us. If so, please feel free to voice your opinion in a fanpost.

Martin Fennelly has been doing his job for a long time. He’s a writer. He’s a reporter. He’s something of an analyst. He brings his special skills to the local coverage of the Lightning, including his own unique understanding of what is required to be successful in the sport of hockey. He also occasionally brings a punchy sing-song writing style that reminds me of my middle school poetry, thankfully buried somewhere in a landfill on the hard drive of an old Windows 95 PC, but that’s neither here nor there.

But after reading Mr. Fennelly’s recent article with the headline, “Nikita Kucherov needs to shut his yapsky,” (Yapsky? Really?) I’d like to tell him with all due respect:

Your latest column was not good.

I will go paragraph by paragraph through the items that I especially disagreed with.

Lightning All-Star scorer Nikita Kucherov waited until he was all the way back in Russia, preparing for the hockey world championships, before he slammed teammates’ lack of commitment during their disappointing, playoff-less season.

Fennelly doesn’t know that to be true.  And I know that because it’s impossible to gain this type of information unless the writer has observed every single private interaction between Kucherov and his teammates. It smacks of hurling arrows for clicks.

The 23-year-old Kucherov’s lips were mostly zipped down the stretch this season, his anger presumably mounting. But show some guts. Do it here. Don’t tail gun from afar. Don’t tell a Russian news outlet that some Lightning players “got their money and stopped working.” Of course, that’s translated.

“Show some guts” — is a strange thing to say to the player who literally carried this team on his back this year; who played through injury; who was so frustrated by the on-ice results that he uncharacteristically led the team in fights at one point in the season. Here, I question why Fennelly didn’t put in a call to Kucherov’s agent to talk to him directly. Was it a matter of “showing some guts?”

Also, part of me thinks it’s about time a Lightning player spoke his mind, that someone admitted what was on all our minds: complacency, invisible, but insidious, crept into the Lightning and wrecked its season.

I am confused at this point about what Fennelly actually disagrees with. If he agrees with Kucherov for speaking up, as Fennelly has done all year himself, then why the annoyance? Is it perhaps because Kucherov spoke to media in Russia, where he clearly felt most comfortable expressing his thoughts, rather than in Tampa Bay to English-speaking writers such as himself?

Non-story. But here's an important safety tip: Do your complaining it while you’re still on the continent. So, be ready to answer some questions, from your teammates, and from media, when you return to Tampa Bay. That’s part of being a leader. We’ll see if Kucherov is up to that.

Is it a story or not? I’d like to posit this conclusion after reading the column: it’s not.

Nikita Kucherov is 23 years old. He is just beginning to mature into the person that he will be. I’m confident that a few years from now, he will be talked about as a leader on the team. Right now, he’s still adjusting to his newfound stardom and to the expectations that come with it.

Yes, Kucherov could have handled this situation a little better. He could have cleaned up his quotes a bit. I doubt he’ll talk about other player’s salaries publicly again. But that doesn’t justify telling him to “shut his yapsky” and “show some guts.”

As a Lightning fan, I’m proud to have Nikita Kucherov on my team. He’s one of the most fun players in the NHL to watch and he competes as hard as anyone in the league every night. He wants to be one of the best players in the game and he is close to achieving that.

And we want to believe the same of our Tampa Bay media.