Mikhail Sergachev, Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning’s Sergachev Becoming a Leader With Recent Comments

It’s not often that you find a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning making controversial public statements. As a rule, the Lightning have been guarded when it comes to doing things that draw unwanted attention. But recently, defenseman Mikhail Sergachev made comments about the Toronto Maple Leafs’ victory over the Lightning in last season’s playoffs. Sergachev later said his comments were misinterpreted due to poor translation from Russian to English.

The original report of his comments came from the Instagram account NHLBreakers, which claimed that in the interviews, Sergachev called out the Maple Leafs and their fans for celebrating their first playoff series win since 2004, stating that the team deserved no credit for their victory. Sergachev later said that his words were not correctly translated from the interview he had with the Russian website Sport24. “If you don’t speak Russian, don’t use Google Translate as your first option then spread misinformation,”

Sergechev’s Interview Misinterpreted

The reporting from NHLBreakers stated that Sergachev was critical of the Maple Leafs by refusing to give them credit for defeating the Lightning while also condemning them for over-celebrating the victory. The translated statement from that interview quoted the 25-year-old by stating: “Wow, Toronto wins one series in 19 years and then immediately loses. They deserve no credit. No other team would celebrate such a thing.”

Tampa Bay Lightning Mikhail Sergachev Toronto Maple Leafs Mitch Marner
Tampa Bay Lightning defenceman Mikhail Sergachev trips up Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Mitch Marner (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)

Sergachev then took to Instagram to offer some clarification of the interview comments, which started with “LOL, if you don’t speak Russian, don’t use Google translate as your first option and then spread misinformation!”

The former first-round draft pick of the Montreal Canadiens also clarified the exchange:

“Question was ‘Toronto played very physical which got couple of your defensemen hurt, is that true?’

And I said, ‘No it just happens sometimes people get hurt by accident, and I don’t want to give them credit’ Rep: ‘Why not give them credit?’ Me: ‘Why? I don’t think they deserved them’ Rep: ‘For the first time in 19 years passed first round’ Me: ‘Here true, good on them! But didn’t go thru second round, I don’t see a reason to celebrate.’”

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Sergachev did say that he felt the Lightning statistically outplayed the Maple Leafs and should have won but recognized that the opposite was true last season. He also emphasized that he believed the Leafs didn’t play dirty to win their series in six games, but the injuries that happened played a part in helping them come out victorious.

Stepping Up in Leadership

Sergachev stepping up and defending the play of his team highlights the increased role in leadership that he has started to develop over the last couple of seasons. This was especially apparent in that first-round playoff loss, as the former Windsor Spitfire played nearly 27 minutes in each of the six games, stepping up when fellow defenseman Erik Cernak was injured after taking an elbow to the head from Maple Leafs forward Michael Bunting. Sergachev also stepped up when Victor Hedman and Ian Cole suffered injuries in that series, leading to them missing time in the lineup.

Mikhail Sergachev Tampa Bay Lightning
Mikhail Sergachev, Tampa Bay Lightning (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Sergachev is also starting to become more comfortable as a vocal leader on the team. As the leadership core of Hedman, Nikita Kucherov, and Steven Stamkos are all now in their 30s, he’s starting to demonstrate leadership on and off the ice that should eventually help him step into a larger role when current leaders are no longer on the Lightning roster.

Sergachev Going Forward

The Lightning are starting to get the production from Sergachev that they had hoped for when they acquired him in a trade with the Canadiens for Jonathon Druin six years ago. Last season, he led the Lightning defenders in ice time and points and started playing a more significant role on the power play. His average of 23:48 ice time in the regular season represents over a minute more ice time compared to last season.

Mikhail Sergachev, Tampa Bay Lightning
Mikhail Sergachev, Tampa Bay Lightning (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

It is no surprise that Sergachev is taking in on and off-ice lessons in leadership from Victor Hedman. In an interview with The Athletic, the young defenseman has credited Hedman as one of the players who have been instrumental in his development. “He’s the hardest practice player, always goes 100 percent. Always is on it, always focused. That’s why I admire him, and it makes me a better competitor. I realized that. I wasn’t a good practice player, I wouldn’t try in practice. I was waiting for the game. Now what I do in practice translates to my game.” (‘Up Close With Mikhail Sergachev’, The Athletic, April 17, 2023)

Related: 3 Syracuse Crunch That Could Crack the Lightning Lineup

True leadership does not develop overnight. It takes some time to cultivate the respect and trust needed for a player to emerge as a leader of a team. By defending his team and the misperceptions that occurred during an interview, Sergachev continues to demonstrate that he is prepared to take on a larger leadership role in the future when the need arises.

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