Three weeks after firing Zinetula Bilyaletdinov in the wake of the Sochi Olympic disappointment, the Russian hockey federation has hired HC Dynamo Moscow bench boss Oleg Znarok as its new national team head coach.
Znarok, 51, has been the coach of Dynamo since 2010 and led the team to consecutive Gagarin Cup (KHL playoff championship) titles in 2011 and ’12. The former Latvian winger had a lengthy playing career in Europe prior to coaching, but did briefly play with AHL Maine during the 1991-92 campaign.
“After a round of negotiations, we have decided to ask Oleg Znarok to take over as the head coach of the Russian ice hockey team”, said Russian hockey federation prez Vladislav Tretyak said, per Reuters. “We have just had a meeting with the Russian Minister for Sport, Vitaly Mutko, where it was approved that Oleg Znarok, who is experienced and has shown that he has been successful in all his previous posts, should be appointed.”
It’s worth noting that Znarok has a history with Alex Ovechkin, having coached the Washington captain at Dynamo during the NHL lockout.
Znarok will face some challenges in his new gig. He inherits a team that’s come under great fire over the last month, culminating with Bilyatendinov’s departure on Mar. 5. The team that finished fifth in Sochi was considered one of the greatest disappointments in Russian hockey history, and Bilyaletdinov’s coaching acumen came under fire in a piece from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, in which Pens center Evgeni Malkin was reportedly frustrated with many of the strategical and personnel decisions made in Sochi.
Russia managed just two regulation wins at the Winter Games, against Slovenia and Norway, and were bounced in the quarterfinal round by Finland.