Alexei Kasatonov

Many hockey fans watched Alexei Kasatonov during his 7 year NHL career. What many of them might not have realized is that they were watching one of the all time greats.

Alexei joined the New Jersey Devils at the age of 30, after a storied international career. However his best days were behind him at that point. While he had a couple of good seasons with the Devils, his play deteriorated and soon he bounced around the league with Anaheim, St. Louis and Boston.

Alexei's hockey resume is stacked. Three Olympic tournaments (1980, 1984, 1988), winning 2 golds and 1 silver. Five times he was a member of the World Champion squad (1981, 1982, 1983, 1986, 1989). He was even named the best defenseman in 1983 World Championships and was a 5 time tournament all star. He was also a standout in 4 Canada Cup tournaments. In the Russian leagues he was a star by the age of 16 when he joined SKA Leningrad before joining the famous Red Army team two years later. While with the Red Army, he helped the team win 11 national titles.

Kasatonov joined the New Jersey Devils half way through the 1989-90 season where he was reunited with Slava Fetisov. Throughout the 1980s with Red Army and the Soviet national team Kastanov almost always played beside defensive partner Fetisov. The pair was considered to be the best defensive tandem outside of the NHL, and better than most in the NHL.

So you'd think they'd be happy to be together again right? Wrong. The two despised one another to the point where they refused to talk to one another. They kept as far away from each other as they could. The dispute started back when the two were still playing for the Red Army. The players were demanding to be treated better, to have more freedom, to be allowed to play outside of Russia. Of course this was during the days of communism and such outbreak was not tolerated. Fetisov and Igor Larionov led the rebellion, but Kasatonov didn't support their stance. He was even accused of spying on his teammates and reporting back to the hockey and government authorities.

Despite their passionate indifferences, the pair played exceptional hockey together, both internationally and later in the NHL.

Kasatonov finished his first NHL "half season" with 6 goals and 21 points in 39 games. He was also a +15 and seemed to adapt quickly to the NHL and the North American style of play. Some even said he was doing better than Fetisov, which was a bit of a surprise as it was always Fetisov who got a lot of publicity during the 1980s, at least here in North America.

Kasatonov had two strong seasons following his rookie NHL year. He scored 10 goals and 41 points and had a team high +23 in 1990-91. He followed that up with a 12 goal, 40 point effort in 1991-92.

Things started going downhill for Alexei as he registered the lowest totals of his NHL career in 1992-93. It was becoming obvious that age had caught up to the legendary skater, and his best days were behind him.

Despite his poor season, the Anaheim Mighty Ducks claimed Kasatonov in their Expansion Draft. He appeared in 55 games with Anaheim and was even invited to the NHL All Star game as the Ducks representative. However Kasatonov was traded later in the year, to St. Louis where he played in 8 games plus 4 playoff contests, scoring twice.

The Boston Bruins signed the veteran in 1994. They had hoped the veteran could help out another great defenseman - Ray Bourque - in leading the Bruins to the next level. He was solid defensively in the 1995 lockout shortened season and appeared to be back on track, but he appeared in only 19 games with the Bruins in 1995-96 before finishing the year in the minor leagues.

Alexei left North America to play one more season back in his native Russia in 1996-97. He is now a  part of the Russian Ice Hockey Federation and was the general manager of the silver medal winning 1998 Olympic squad.

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