With the 2011-12 season sadly in the rear-view window, it’s once again time for The Rat Trick to take a look back at those who had the biggest impact on the the Florida Panthers. Over the coming days, we’ll look at review everyone who had key roles in the past season and give them the dreaded letter grade.
Dmitry Kulikov is the man that some love, some hate, while most are split right down the middle. After a standout rookie year two seasons ago, Kulikov had a comparatively rough sophomore season, where his increased role on the team a little too often fostered poor decision making and defensive lapses. The potential was still there however, and GM Dale Tallon made sure not to deal away the Russian defenseman with the rest of the deadline deals last year. He was one of the few guys on the previous roster that Tallon thought he could build into a franchise cornerstone.
This year’s Kulikov was mostly improved; still a little shaky defensively, but he did much better on a more relaxed role on the team. He had his ups and downs, but overall his year was solid. Here are his stats for your perusal:
Games played: 58
Kulikov’s season, in retrospect, might be most fondly remembered for his performances in the “skills competition”. During the shootout period, he had two memorable goals: one against the Flames, where he improbably extended the game for Stephen Weiss to win in the next round; the second was a goal against the Buffalo Sabres after a marathon seven-round shootout. He used a sweet forehand-to-backhand move before roofing the puck for both goals. Judging by his shootout goals, Kulikov has skills to burn out on the ice.
The games played stat took a hit this year, and hopefully that is not a harbinger of things to come. Kulikov has missed time in all three seasons he played, and required knee surgery mid-season this year. The defenseman missed almost eight weeks while recovering. Needless to say, Kulikov is much more valuable on the ice, so for the remainder of his career Kulikov needs to focus on being healthy and not overexert his body. It’s pretty upsetting to say for a 21-year-old with a bright future ahead of him, but Kulikov needs to make this a priority.
But when Kulilov is on the ice and playing, he can do many things well. However, I am hard-pressed to think of something tfor which Kulikov is the best on the team. He doesn’t have the offensive creativity, speed, passing skills, or durability of Brian Campbell. He doesn’t have the stick skills or defensive awareness of Mike Weaver. He lacks the shot of Jason Garrison or the leadership skills of Ed Jovanovski, and he certainly can’t hit like Erik Gudbranson. His abilities are great, but not exactly outstanding on this team. But on the bright side, he’s a good second option for various scenarios, and Coach Kevin Dineen felt comfortable having him on the ice at almost all times.
Final Grade: B-. Kulikov’s grade could have been higher based on his improvement and his clutch moments, but his knee injury knocked him down a few pegs. Plus, I’d never hear the end of it from Paige if I gave Kulikov an A.
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