AlexanderRasputin

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  1. Congratulations to everyone on another brilliant GHL season! As usual, discussions AND ADDITIONAL TROPHIES are welcome. You know the drill. GOLDEN CUP CHAMPION: SLAUGHTERVILLE RED TIDE (Alexander Rasputin) Conn Smythe Trophy (Playoff MVP): ARTEM PSCHENICHNIKOV (Red Tide) - 23 points - (13GP - 9G/14A/+18) An absolutely dominant performance from the sophomore offensive defenceman, involved in everything positive the team created, and putting up monster performances when it mattered, such as a 5-point game in the GHL cup final series. GHL East Champion: SLAUGHTERVILLE RED TIDE (Alexander Rasputin) *NEW GHL POINTS RECORD (185) GHL West Champion: SHEBANDOWAN NATIVES (Antti Aikko) Managers of the Year: Mark Z (NEW CASTLE KNIGHTS) - West Alexander Rasputin (SLAUGHTERVILLE RED TIDE) - East ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ ART ROSS TROPHY (Most League Points) JUBA DESSANE (Bangers) - 86 points OVECHKIN TROPHY (Top Goalscorer) JERALD WHITELY (Trojans) - 38 goals GRETZKY TROPHY (Best Playmaker) JUBA DESSANE (Bangers) - 63 assists VEZINA TROPHY (Best Goaltender) SAGIV SCHUPPAN (Red Tide) / COLBY GLORIA (Stealheads) *SHARE TITLE ORR TROPHY (Best Offensive Defenceman) ARTEM PSCHENICHNIKOV (Red Tide) - 85 points *RETAINS TITLE NORRIS TROPHY (Best Defensive Defenceman) ARTEM PSCHENICHNIKOV (Red Tide) ORR - Points leader among defencemen NORRIS - Calculated with the following formula among D-men [BKS - GVA + TKA], PER also taken into consideration, removing +/- for more fairness SELKE TROPHY (Best Defensive Forward) NICOLA MOUTON (Red Tide) Calculated with the following formula among F: [PTS + BKS - GVA + TKA] Hits and +/- also relevant. LADY BYNG TROPHY (Most Gentlemanly Player) JEREMIE CLINE (Stealheads) Calculated with the following formula [PTS - PIM] HART TROPHY (League MVP) ARTEM PSCHENICHNIKOV (Red Tide) *RETAINS TITLE CALDER TROPHY (Best Rookie) ANDREAS BARDET (Ghosts) - 58 points GOOD SAMARITAN AWARD (Most Giveaways) MIROSLAV PAJTINKA (Plastic Attack) - 28 GVA ROID RAGE TROPHY PIERROT RIDDLE (Knights/Yale Men) (Most Hits + PIM + MP) BEST BREAKOUT PLAYER AWARD ZIKMUND KUPEC (Rage) - Doubled his points output since transfer to Rage, top 5 in league scoring with 76 points LATE-BLOOMER AWARD ZIKMUND KUPEC (Rage) NOTABLE RETIREMENTS Will update as they show.
  2. Thanks to both of you - this has been reported as a bug to Anders and will be looked at ASAP.
  3. Some nice men in Adidas suits came to my door and politely asked me to remove his picture.
  4. Hah yeah, I definitely like how my fellow Russians look like Russians.
  5. In my opinion, one interesting cosmetic feature GPHM is missing are player faces. Given how we as managers build relationships with our players and how player Traits play into developing that further, player faces are a logical next step. That said, this is a very challenging feature to integrate into the game, though I know Anders has thought about it. In the meantime, having played with it in the past, I decided to create FIFA - style player cards to commemorate my current GHL champion Red Tide squad. Not all players will be included, but the key figures are there. The player attributes are lifted straight from GPHM. The player faces - the interesting part - are all generated through an AI algorithm called a GAN (generative adversarial network). In other words, none of these are real people, except in my (and now your) mind, when playing GPHM. So rejoice - you now get to meet the players that you face on a weekly basis, in person. Images are attached - have fun. I certainly did, putting them together. If anyone wants to do something similar for their team, reach out - I'll see if I can help. Cheers! Alex
  6. Congratulations to everyone on an epic Season 7! As usual, discussions AND ADDITIONAL TROPHIES are welcome. You know the drill. GOLDEN CUP CHAMPION: SLAUGHTERVILLE RED TIDE (Alexander Rasputin) Conn Smythe Trophy (Playoff MVP): ROGER MULLER (Red Tide) - 18 points - (17GP - 9G/9A/+8) Following his breakout regular season, Muller continued to be hot in the playoffs, centering the Tide's most effective line, and playing a key role on both the PP and the PK. He led the team with 11 TKA, and shared the lead with 2 PPG and most combined special teams time. GHL East Champion: BIG DELTA STEALHEADS (Paul T) *NEW GHL POINTS RECORD (176) GHL West Champion: PITTSBORO PLASTIC ATTACK (Makate Naekfor) Managers of the Year: Makate Naekor (Plastic Attack) - West Paul T (Stealheads) - East ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ ART ROSS TROPHY (Most League Points) ELOUAN SCOTT (Red Tide) - 97 points *NEW GHL RECORD *RETAINS TITLE OVECHKIN TROPHY (Top Goalscorer) RAPHAEL BOLDUC (Bad Apples) - 46 goals GRETZKY TROPHY (Best Playmaker) KIERON MONTGOMERY (Bad Apples) - 57 assists VEZINA TROPHY (Best Goaltender) JEAN-FRANCOIS SHORE (Rage) ORR TROPHY (Best Offensive Defenceman) ARTEM PSCHENICHNIKOV (Red Tide) - 88 points *NEW GHL RECORD NORRIS TROPHY (Best Defensive Defenceman) PIERROT RIDDLE (Goldville Knights) *RETAINS TITLE ORR - Points leader among defencemen NORRIS - Calculated with the following formula among D-men [BKS - GVA + TKA], PER also taken into consideration, removing +/- for more fairness SELKE TROPHY (Best Defensive Forward) ELOUAN SCOTT (Red Tide) Calculated with the following formula among F: [PTS + BKS - GVA + TKA] Hits and +/- also relevant. LADY BYNG TROPHY (Most Gentlemanly Player) LISAKKI JARVELA (Yale Men) Calculated with the following formula [PTS - PIM] HART TROPHY (League MVP) ARTEM PSCHENICHNIKOV (Red Tide) CALDER TROPHY (Best Rookie) ARTEM PSCHENICHNIKOV (Red Tide) - 88 points *NEW GHL RECORD GOOD SAMARITAN AWARD (Most Giveaways) AADEN BABIN (Ithaca Doom) - 32 GVA ROID RAGE TROPHY CECIL BRANCO (Shebandowan Natives/Bodmin Bangers) *RETAINS TITLE (Most Hits + PIM + MP) BEST BREAKOUT PLAYER AWARD JUBA DESSANE (Bodmin Bangers) - 93 points after never scoring above 63 LATE-BLOOMER AWARD SEET ESKOLA (Eastern Outlaws) NOTABLE RETIREMENTS YAN SHARSHIN (Red Tide) JOAQUIM HARTER (Rome Trojans)
  7. Also, upon further reflection, I don't even fully agree with the opinion that increasing team salaries will affect hoarding. It will affect average team strength and the ability of managers to stack their teams, sure - but what does it matter when you can sign the same player on a two-way 2M contract (instead of, say, 1M), and still stick him in the minors, and be on the hook for only 200K? A hard roster limit, in my opinion, is the only legitimate solution to this problem. Everything else won't have nearly as much of an impact.
  8. Don't disagree with skater limit and salary increases. But I think we are starting to veer off course. The intent of @zinnyzxx's original post was to highlight some examples of why teams promoting to GHL are currently f*cked when it comes to squad strength. Yes, the salaries are part of this, but there are two equally culpable elements: 1) Smart relegating managers trading away one-way assets ahead of time, preventing them from going to FA, and 2) Hoarding players. The former can't be fixed unless we do something with transfer windows. The latter - can. In the case of Fury above, the players aren't exactly GHL quality, and I have no problem with having a full AAHL-LEVEL team in the minors. Where I do completely support @zinnyzxx, is in the case of the other teams he mentioned, who have players in their minors who would walk into the top 6 of any recently promoted team. Yet, they are out of GHL rotation entirely, and the hoarding teams experience zero penalty, team confidence or otherwise, for keeping these players in AAHL - a league way below their level. It would be less egregious if the managers in questions actually DID something with those players, but more likely than not, they just stay in the minors for a significant portion of their careers, and maybe a few eventually make their way out. This is damaging to the in-game economy. It's one of many elements that contribute to this damage, to be sure - not the only one - but it is the simplest to fix, in my opinion. So let's give @zinnyzxx some support and have Anders set a roster limit.
  9. Roster limits is legitimately the only sane and easy solution to this and it should be implemented ASAP.
  10. Good call - forgot this one. Adding.
  11. Congratulations to everyone on a brilliant Season 13! Here come the season awards! As always, feel free to discuss. _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ GOLDEN CUP CHAMPION: WINTERSVILLE LANCERS (Anders Granberg) Conn Smythe Trophy (Playoff MVP): Andreas Naf (Lancers) - 15GP / 6G / 13A / +4 GHL East Champion: VERMILION BLACK DEVILS (Alexander Rasputin) GHL West Champion: WARMAN FIGHTERS (Wick Schozen) Regular Season Champion: VERMILION BLACK DEVILS (Alexander Rasputin) - 185 points. * NEW GHL RECORD Manager of the Year: Anders Granberg (Lancers) - Defeated top 3 regular season teams in Black Devils, Hawks, Fighters en route to the Cup ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ ART ROSS TROPHY (Most League Points) DIETER HAUK (Black Devils) - 102 points *Retained Cullen Jolly (Doom) Dmitry Yakimov (Golden Flyers) OVECHKIN TROPHY (Top Goalscorer) DERRELL LAMPKIN (Outlaws) - 45 goals Sergey Parshivlyuk (Bandits) Dieter Hauk (Black Devils) GRETZKY TROPHY (Best Playmaker) SVEN KELLER (Black Devils) - 63 assists Simon Mineault (Outlaws) Dieter Hauk (Black Devils) VEZINA TROPHY (Best Goaltender) NIKITA MINEYEV (Black Devils) [51-10, 2.04 GAA, 92.8 SV%] *3x in a row Kajetan Krajci (Lancers) Nicola Desroche (Razorbacks) ORR TROPHY (Best Offensive Defenceman) SVEN KELLER (Black Devils) - 86 points *3x in a row *NEW RECORD NORRIS TROPHY (Best Defensive Defenceman) CEDRICK DIGNARD (Razorbacks) ORR - Points leader among defencemen NORRIS - Calculated with the following formula among D-men [+/- + BKS - GVA + TKA], PER also taken into consideration SELKE TROPHY (Best Defensive Forward) CAMIL MCAULAY (Outlaws) Calculated with the following formula among F: [PTS + BKS - GVA + TKA] Hits and +/- also relevant. LADY BYNG TROPHY (Most Gentlemanly Player) SERGEY PARSHIVLYUK (Bandits) Calculated with the following formula [PTS - PIM] HART TROPHY (League MVP) DIETER HAUK (Black Devils) *Retained title CALDER TROPHY (Best Rookie) JANTZEN LORENZEN (Barbarians) - 68 points GOOD SAMARITAN AWARD (Most Giveaways) FRANK WEICHERT (Lynx) - 29 giveaways NEWTON AWARD (Highest Plus/Minus) YURY NIZAMUTDINOV (Vermilion Black Devils) + 71 *Retained title ANTI-NEWTON AWARD (Lowest Plus/Minus) IVO WEBER (Shadows) - -39 ROID RAGE TROPHY ALEXANDRE MCGLASHAN (Nightmares) (Most Hits + PIM + MP) LATE-BLOOMER AWARD YEGOR SIYANKOV (Black Devils) - 40/39/79 points JOHN SCOTT AWARD DMITRY YAKIMOV (Golden Flyers) - 87 points
  12. II “Fogelberg. Hardest decision I’ve ever had to make. Wiktor has been our best player this season and was my first signing, and the Vermilion top career scorer. He is synonymous with our team. He has always given us everything.” Alexander is in a black suit and tie, appearing on a popular sports talk show. He’s casual, relaxed, exchanging banter with the host - but with this last question, his manner becomes serious. It has been one week since the Devils completed yet another trade, sending Vermilion’s first-ever GHL FA and team mainstay Wiktor Fogelberg to Admire Syndicate for veteran sniper Yegor Siyankov. Rasputin continues. “But we’ve been talking last season and this season - and we agreed that Wiktor deserves a bigger role. He’s a star in this league, and, in his prime now, he should be the star of a team. We have a lot of competition on RW, and with Mitchel coming in to be the playmaker for Dieter, the maximum we could give Wiktor was 2nd line. It wasn’t fair to him and it wasn’t fair to us to keep a player here against his will. We looked for the right fit, and signing with Admire allows him to take centre stage at an ambitious new team. We wish him success, and he will always have a home here at The Chasm. Team legend. And if I hear one fucking “boo” in the crowd when he comes back to visit, I goddamn swear that fan will be getting a home visit from me to personally tear up his season ticket.” Why Siyankov, the host asks. Alexander nods. “From a Devils perspective, Siyankov is a player I’ve admired for a long, long time. A true legend in the league, and a fellow SKA St. Petersburg man. He’s the veteran force we need to replace Sylvain’s [Monciau-Desormeaux] leadership, especially for our Russian core. We stumbled a bit without that leadership up front. Model professional, fantastic physical condition, 88 points two seasons ago - he’s still got it at 35. Elite, elite sniper and playmaker with an absolutely insane release. They called him “007” back home in St. Petersburg, you know? Always dressed in suits, and always shooting to kill. He once made a bet with Pavel, an assistant coach then, that he could go 5 straight games 1 shot - 1 goal. “He went 6,” Rasputin adds, laughing. “In the last one, he got a hat trick.” With Hauk, Mitchel, and Siyankov, Vermilion might have the best top line in the league right now. The team’s focus this season on adding elite offensive and playmaking skill to the Black Devils is complete. Keller and Siyankov have a lot of pressure on them to fit into the team culture and learn how Vermilion plays with half a season left, but Rasputin is confident they will make the team proud. But a mid-season slump, brought on by new arrivals and the residual effect of the long playoff run last season hits the team and hits them hard. Mineyev is tired and the team's performance suffers as a result, as they fall behind the upstart Frost Giants. A reset is needed and Rasputin drives the team bus into the Alberta mountains, down through Banff, and into cabins in the wilderness, where the team throws their phones in a bin, throws on traditional Russian fur coats and hats, and spends a weekend in the snow, sauna, and the cold mountain air. After returning from the trip, the Devils coaches make some key adjustments to the team’s play. They dial the offence back slightly, move starting positions of players further back in the zone and have Keller or Hauk carry the puck in rather than pick it up up ice from a lead pass. On the whole, the defence now plays less aggressively and relies on positioning and stick work. The emphasis is made on defencemen not getting caught out of position, and on an accurate first breakout pass. With the league-best forward lineup the Devils now have, Rasputin intends on having the forwards do the offensive work, with the defencemen, barring Keller, relieved of the responsibility of driving play with incursions into the opposition zone. This works well. The Devils gain speed, putting the losing streak in the rear view mirror, making up the 9 point difference to leaders Frost Giants, who are having a brilliant season led by none other but Monciau-Desormeaux and veteran Russian Pavel Statnik. Siyankov clicks on the first line, combining well with Gadsby and Mitchel and is lethal on the PP, playing at a point per game pace. Keller provides scoring and possession from the back, and Hauk benefits, hitting 30 goals with his trademark powerful rushes up the ice. Mitchel, in a powerforward role, routinely demolishes opposing players, taking away the puck, feeding and scoring in equal proportion - a juggernaut player with no weak spots, unleashed and free to play on his terms on the Black Devils. Vermilion demolishes arch nemesis Harrow at home 6-1, and now faces Fairford as the conference leader in a crucial match to put more distance between them and the challenger. The Black Devils take the win - and the season turns. Mineyev, always strong in the second half of the season, is delivering on his promise and playing his best hockey in a Devils jersey, taking home 3 shutouts in 4 games. Two short losing streaks follow, but the Black Devils stay the course and lock up their 4th straight East title. The team are Corsi darlings, one of the few cases where advanced stats are backed by results. Star Dieter Hauk has a breakout season, putting up 40/40 for a point per game performance. Mineyev finishes at the top of the league with 45 wins. Despite not capturing the President’s Trophy, the Devils ride out major personnel and tactic changes with minimum performance loss. But the playoffs are a different beast entirely. And, in the team’s 5th GHL season, despite all the regular season success, they will ultimately have to define Rasputin’s entire career with the club. Alexander, yet again, stands in front of throngs of people and reporters on a warm spring morning. Surprisingly, he does not have much to say. “We’ve beaten this topic to death, my friends. I will not speak down to you - we all know what’s at stake. This legend we’re building together, this myth of our team - it is facing its crucial plot point right now. My players know it, I know it, you know it.” “I can’t say I don’t feel the pressure,” he laughs mirthlessly. “But it is my duty to uphold our pact, and I intend to do that until the end. My players, all of us, intend to do that until the end. You have stood behind us all this time, because the Black Devils are more than a club. We are a story, a myth. And a good myth has no choice but to either die or become a legend. I think I know which one I would prefer.” A powerful cheer rises up from the crowd. Alexander nods and puts his hand up. “By the winds of Veles, our battle here has just begun. We need your voices to tear the roof off of this fucking place, to intimidate our opponents, to give our boys strength. Are you with us?!” An absolutely enormous “YES” roars up out of the crowd, fists in the air, martial and ominous in its power. In a true rock and roll fashion, Alexander cups his ear and bellows “I can’t fucking hear you!” After a heartbeat, a cataclysmic roar explodes out of the throngs of Vermilion supporters, decibels washing over the entire town. Arms out, Alexander closes his eyes and nods. The horned priest shifts imperceptibly behind him. As they walk off the podium, the sense of latent energy, expectation, in the air lingers, not dissipating. Tomorrow, the campaign will begin.
  13. Congratulations to everyone on a magnificent Season 12! Here come the season awards! NOTE: I am making a judgement call on a couple of the awards and attempted to be transparent as to formulas - but feel free to discuss. _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ GOLDEN CUP CHAMPION: PINEHURST RAZORBACKS (PhoenixTF) Conn Smythe Trophy (Playoff MVP): Dominik Oresnik (Razorbacks) - 16GP / 7G / 5A / +9 GHL East Champion: VERMILION BLACK DEVILS (Alexander Rasputin) GHL West Champion: WARMAN FIGHTERS (Wick Schozen) Manager of the Year: DR. WENDT (Tignish Animals) ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ ART ROSS TROPHY (Most League Points) DIETER HAUK (Black Devils) - 107 points *NEW RECORD Cullen Jolly (Doom) Simon Mineault (Outlaws) OVECHKIN TROPHY (Top Goalscorer) DIETER HAUK (Black Devils) - 49 goals Sylvain Monciau-Desormeaux (Frost Giants) Pavel Statnik (Frost Giants) GRETZKY TROPHY (Best Playmaker) DANIEL SILLE (Frost Giants) / SIMON MINEAULT (Outlaws) - 59 assists Dieter Hauk (Black Devils) Jean-Felix Rainault-Blanchard (Buccaneers) VEZINA TROPHY (Best Goaltender) NIKITA MINEYEV (Black Devils) *Retained Title Austin Mathew (Golden Eagles/Lynx) Haider Jannel (Hawks) ORR TROPHY (Best Offensive Defenceman) SVEN KELLER (Black Devils) - 79 points *Retained title NORRIS TROPHY (Best Defensive Defenceman) GABRYEL BELZILE-GAGNON (Razorbacks) ORR - Points leader among defencemen NORRIS - Calculated with the following formula among D-men [+/- + BKS - GVA + TKA], PER also taken into consideration SELKE TROPHY (Best Defensive Forward) CLIFFORD SPIERS (Doom) Calculated with the following formula among F: [PTS + BKS - GVA + TKA] Hits and +/- also relevant. LADY BYNG TROPHY (Most Gentlemanly Player) CLIFFORD SPIERS (Doom) Calculated with the following formula [PTS - PIM] HART TROPHY (League MVP) DIETER HAUK (Black Devils) Clifford Spiers (Doom) Gabryel Belzile-Gagnon (Razorbacks) CALDER TROPHY (Best Rookie) JAZEPS PAEGLE (Tigers) - 73 points *tied record Thor Dam (Black Devils) GOOD SAMARITAN AWARD (Most Giveaways) MICHAEL MONROE (Animals) / RIKU JARVENPAA (Indians) - 33 giveaways NEWTON AWARD (Highest Plus/Minus) YURY NIZAMUTDINOV (Vermilion Black Devils) + 77 *New record. *Retains title ANTI-NEWTON AWARD (Lowest Plus/Minus) DANIELS KANEPS (Indians) - -37 ROID RAGE TROPHY MICHAEL BUXTON (Golden Eagles/Animals) (Most Hits + PIM + MP) LATE-BLOOMER AWARD ANTON VERESCHAGIN (Frost Giants) - 83 points
  14. Congratulations to everyone on yet another fantastic season! I am making a judgement call on a couple of the awards, but generally, there was clear consensus, and as usual, discussions AND ADDITIONAL TROPHIES are welcome. You know the drill. GOLDEN CUP CHAMPION: CEDAR RAPIDS MINUTEMEN (Richard Armour) Conn Smythe Trophy (Playoff MVP): Viteszlav Predajna (Minutemen) - 13 points - (14GP - 5G/8A/+1) GHL East Champion: BIG DELTA STEALHEADS (Paul T) GHL West Champion: ENIGMA RAGE (Wendel Clark) Manager of the Year: Richard Armour (Minutemen) ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ ART ROSS TROPHY (Most League Points) ELOUAN SCOTT (Red Tide) / JEREMIE CLINE (Stealheads) - 84 points OVECHKIN TROPHY (Top Goalscorer) ELOUAN SCOTT (Red Tide) - 40 goals GRETZKY TROPHY (Best Playmaker) PATRICK GORNELL (Red Tide) - 54 assists VEZINA TROPHY (Best Goaltender) ZACH WOODLEY (Eastern Outlaws) ORR TROPHY (Best Offensive Defenceman) GUSTAVS KUNDZINS (Bodmin Bangers) NORRIS TROPHY (Best Defensive Defenceman) PIERROT RIDDLE (Victoria Lions) ORR - Points leader among defencemen NORRIS - Calculated with the following formula among D-men [BKS - GVA + TKA], PER also taken into consideration, removing +/- for more fairness SELKE TROPHY (Best Defensive Forward) RICHARDS AUNINS (Battlin Bears) Calculated with the following formula among F: [PTS + BKS - GVA + TKA] Hits and +/- also relevant. LADY BYNG TROPHY (Most Gentlemanly Player) JOESPH RACKLEY (Enigma Rage) Calculated with the following formula [PTS - PIM] HART TROPHY (League MVP) ELOUAN SCOTT (Red Tide) CALDER TROPHY (Best Rookie) DANICK GRAHAM (Marietta Sand Storm) GOOD SAMARITAN AWARD (Most Giveaways) COLE ADAMSON (Eastern Outlaws) ROID RAGE TROPHY CECIL BRANCO (Shebandowan Natives) (Most Hits + PIM + MP) LATE-BLOOMER AWARD BRENDAN ROWLETT (Enigma Rage)
  15. Season 10: GHL 1st place: 47-5-7-21 5th Consecutive GHL East Title I The massive, suffocating pressure with a golden tint hangs heavy over the Black Devils from the first minute on the ice. The players are seasoned, mentally strong, so outwardly there is little to no impact - but even to an untrained eye, it is visible that the skating is just a bit slower, the decisions less instinctive. Sticks are gripped harder, mouthguards chewed with less intensity. Less “you know”s pepper the interviews of Vermilion’s Canadian players. And it also shows in the standings. With 18 games played, the Devils are already at 6 losses - and trailing the conference leaders by 3 points. Among the highlights are a narrow 2-1 away loss to the archrival Hawks, the Vermilion top 6 coming out bland and frustrated in a tight defensive game. A willful 6-5 shootout victory over the Western rival Fighters, Hauk taking over the game and winning it in the shootout, puts some needed spice back into the current run, but it is clear - the pressure to win is doing the squad no favours, and not everyone on the team is handling it well. Hit hardest is Calder-winning sophomore El Madkouri. After a few pointless games, he is demoted to the bottom 6 to try to find his game, Rasputin unhappy with his lack of offensive zone effort. Unhappy, El Madkouri pushes his luck, with an open practice confrontation with Rasputin. This proves to be the wrong decision. “I don’t give a damn what you do OFF the ice as long as what you do ON the ice is at the standard I expect from this goddamn team!” bellows Rasputin as El Madkouri tries to insinuate his off-ice behaviour is the reason behind less ice-time. “Get out there and do some fucking WORK.” But El Madkouri’s attitude will not allow him to put his head down and work. Fan opinion is divided - a mercurial talent isn’t going to be a smooth ride. But with his outbursts, El Madkouri is taking the already hard-pressed team off-course, and taking the spotlight away from Hauk. With Sylvain gone, there is a leadership void in the squad that Hauk must fill quickly. After weeks of conversations with El Madkouri, then several closed-door conversations with Rasputin and Drougge, Hauk gives his verdict. Rumours already swirl around interest from Blazers, Tigers, bottom of the table Indians - and Hazzard Blizzard, a top western rival containing two incredibly attractive assets in superstar defenceman Sven Keller and veteran sniper, Russian legend Yegor Siyankov. Blizzard scouts are seen at Devils games, and hot takes on a potential massive trade begin to fill the news. Rasputin refuses to be drawn into commentary. “El Mad is our player, a Devil, and the chance of him leaving is about as small as whatever you’re packing in those trousers.” He winks at the asking reporter, who also cracks a smile. El Madkouri skates with the team, on the 2nd line, performance not improving, as shouts of a mega-deal with Tigers involving multiple players and a 1st began to get louder and louder. But when Rasputin inevitably stands before the press, the announcement surprises many. “The trade is one for one,” solemnly states Alexander. “El Madkouri to Indians for Yury Nizamutdinov.” Nizamutdinov was the #2 pick after Hauk two years ago, a now 20 year old superstar defenceman with elite skating and an aggressive physical presence. Nevertheless, he has a preference to play a Lidstrom-style finesse defensive game - and is extremely good at it, maintaining a positive Corsi on a consistently underperforming Indians team. Rasputin sees him as a foundational piece for the Russian core of the Devils dynasty. This addition makes the Vermilion defence elite, contending for the best rearguard in the league with Harrow and Warman. And they are not yet done. “Yury is a killer. You know the hockey myth of Scott Stevens-type defencemen who intimidate guys so much, they straight up avoid them on the ice? Yeah, Yury is a step above that. Watch.” Rasputin flicks on an LCD on the wall of the press room, and a highlights compilation of Nizamutdinov laying out players in the Russian juniors, then the SHL, then GHL begins to roll. The results are impressive. Massive, otherworldly hits sending players to the Shadow Realm, superb board presence - and a surprisingly even-keeled balance between committing to the hits and choosing defensive stickwork and positioning instead. A veteran mindset that most players don’t learn until their late 20s combined with the intensity and instinctive knowledge of when to change the course of the game with a big hit. “This is a player that will be a cornerstone of our defence for years to come - our own Konstantinov” finishes Rasputin. Nizamutdinov makes an immediate impact, leading the team with 17 hits and +8 in the next 8 games. But the Devils now hit their usual “mid-season blackout”, losing 6 out of 7. And Alexander knows that he has to do more now to shake the team out of its lethargy. Days after the Nizamutdinov trade, he has his opportunity. On the market is one of the absolute superstars in the league, 26 year old former #1 draft pick D Sven Keller. Long known to be the best all-around defenceman in the GHL, Keller has had some success on the Blizzard, scoring 30 in a recent season, but a coaching change and this season’s midtable obscurity has made up the minds of both team and player. But the Blizzard are asking a franchise-level return for a franchise player - something not many teams in the league can afford. Opportunistic as always, Alexander readies a move. Interest by the Hawks, and a few failed lowball attempts aimed at Keller further increase the Devils’ interest. The Vermilion press is worried. It is clear that to push this deal through, core players on the Devils squad will have to leave, potentially disrupting the team’s chemistry, leadership structure, and on-ice flow. Any big trade at this point in a title challenge is incredibly risky. Equally risky is the proposition of running two elite offensive dmen, with Keller and Drougge comparable in performance, each leading the league in points at times. After passing the Hawks GM in the Hazzard offices after yet another failed Harrow attempt to get Keller at minimum value, Rasputin smirks and walks in. He does not reemerge for a full 24 hours - but when he does, the trade is complete. For D Sven Keller, a top 5 player and consensus best dman in the GHL, the Black Devils give up star D Davin Coronado, and two young high-potential players. ex-high 1st round picks, thought to be part of the team’s future core - playmaking winger Andre Dugdale and defensive dman Walid Kyer, recently acquired for a 1st round pick. Aside from Coronado, replaced directly by Keller, no core assets were moved, and despite the steep value involved in mortgaging some of the team’s future to win now, the return is worth it. Rasputin is elated. “This is a coup. Keller and Nizamutdinov are a match made in hockey heaven. Sven has, now, a team that finally matches his ambition and talents - with no disrespect to Hazzard, who have a fantastic organization. We now have, no question, the league’s top D pairing. For us not to win now would be an affront to the hockey gods. All due respect to the players we shipped out - they are consummate professionals, they’ve moved our team forward, and they will move Blizzard forward.” “As for us,” he continues, “You all know what we’re aiming for this season.” With the new defensive arrivals, Rasputin makes adjustments to Vermilion’s offensive play. With so many lethal weapons and elite skaters at his disposal, Alexander and Bure move average starting positions of players further back in the zone, with the aim to have Keller, Hauk, or Koch carry the puck in rather than pick it up up ice from a lead pass. Aside from physical powerhouses Nizamutdinov on the 1at pairing, and mainstay Drozd on the 3rd, the defence is less aggressive and now more reliant on positioning and stick work to regain possession. This gives the team as a whole more agility, structure, and space for quick counterattacks by the offensive players, who have the freedom of the opposition ice to create their sorcery. Midway through the season, rebuilding on the fly, the Black Devils sit in the usual 1st place spot, only 2 points up on a surprising new challenger - newly promoted Frost Giants, led by none other than ex-Devils captain, GHL legend Sylvain Monciau-Desormeaux.