Namestnikov discusses playing for Russia and his future with the Lightning
Vladislav Namestnikov talks about the results of the NHL season, playing for Team Russia, and growing up in a hockey family.
Tampa Bay Lightning forward Vladislav Namestnikov was recently interviewed by Marat Safin. You can read the original article in Russian at Sport-express.ru.
This Russian-to-English translation was provided by Igor Nikonov (@nikonov_igor). If you are using this translation, please credit the translator.
Safin: Tampa’s management tried to do everything to save the team last summer. The result of this season was expected to be at least as good as the previous ones.
Namestnikov: All season long we tried to play as best we could, even when nothing worked at all. Everyone who came from the AHL [American Hockey League] fit in with the team without any problem. We fell just short of making the playoffs.
Safin: You didn’t always get into the lineup this season.
Namestnikov: Yes, but this is an aspect of the work. I tried to learn maximum from it, not to get angry and just continue working.
Safin: You played at the World Cup before the season. How did you feel and what did you gain?
Namestnikov: That was my debut with the national team. I’m glad that I made it on this level, at a tournament where the world’s best players gathered. I’ve really learned a lot. I hadn’t known anyone on the national team before, so I met the guys for the first time. Simply being on such a team was amazing. The atmosphere reminded me both of a Russian and an NHL team. But still the Russian atmosphere prevailed.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Safin: It seemed that Jon Cooper required you to work more on the defensive side this season.
Namestnikov: No, all the directions were the same. Every line is expected to get back on defense. You can create offense as soon as you gain the puck.
Safin: Nikita Kucherov assumed the role of the absolute leader this season. How did he react to becoming a more important person on the team?
Namestnikov: I think he had already been playing this role. Maybe not everything went smoothly at first, but then he began to score more and more. I don’t think that was because of the other players’ injuries. He just started to play better.
Safin: The last games of the regular season were like post-season games. You had no right to make a mistake.
Namestnikov: That’s true. The entire team fought and worked unsparingly. We won the last three games of the season, but so did Toronto.
Safin: What is your current physical condition? There is an opinion that the players were exhausted because of the last two hard seasons and simply didn’t have the strength to play this year.
Namestnikov: I wouldn’t say so. Everyone feels normal. I don’t think that was the reason why we didn’t make the playoffs. We had about two months between the seasons. It’s enough to recover.
Safin: Did playing at the World Cup before the season affect your condition?
Namestnikov: No, I think it even helped. We arrived in Tampa ready and got in shape right away. It was easier to start the season.
Safin: You have one more year remaining on your contract. Do you think there will be changes at the Lightning?
Namestnikov: It will depend on many factors. The NHL Expansion Draft is in two months. No one knows what might happen. Many players are to be re-signed. So it’s difficult to make predictions. Be that as it may, we will keep trying to win the Stanley Cup.
IIHF World Championship
Safin: What are you expecting from the World Championship?
Namestnikov: This will be an absolutely new experience for me. I really want to play there. But you need to get into the lineup first.
Safin: Did you have any problems with the Lightning because of getting an offer from the national team?
Namestnikov: No. We had a meeting with the GM. Steve Yzerman asked me if I was going to the World Championship. When I said yes, he told me that he had played at the World Championship too. Not only didn’t he object but he even advised me to play there.
Safin: Did you manage to come to your hometown Voskresensk before joining the national team?
Namestnikov: No, I arrived on April 18 and immediately went to Novogorsk.
Safin: Do you have any relatives left in Voskresensk?
Namestnikov: My grandfather and grandmother live there. I visited Voskresensk two years ago and didn’t have the time to come again since then. I wish I could go there more often.
Safin: You started playing hockey in the USA, didn’t you?
Namestnikov: Yes, I played there until the age of nine and then moved to Voskresensk, my father’s hometown. I signed with the London Knights when I was 17 years old.
Safin: You have a big hockey family. Do you discuss hockey when you get together?
Namestnikov: My dad (Evgeny Namestnikov) watches all my games, gives some advice. My uncle (Vyacheslav Kozlov) also texts me, asks how I’m doing. We haven't seen each other for a long time, but we correspond regularly. He doesn’t give any advice like my dad, just cheers me up. He doesn't get to watch all my games, simply doesn’t have time.
Safin: You are a representative of two hockey schools: American and Russian. Which one is better in your opinion?
Namestnikov: I don't have a definite answer. My brother plays hockey in the USA. He is 12 years old. I like the way his development is going. But I learned a lot when I played hockey in Voskresensk. So I can’t say which school is better. It’s hard to compare. I can see only one difference: there are higher requirements from the early age in Russia. As for more adult age, the difference perhaps is only in physical training. Everyone trains individually in the USA, while in Russia it’s mostly in groups. But exercises and methods are almost the same.