I don't know if every sports fan has that one guy that they kind of inexplicably like and root for even when she can't really explain why or if it's just me, but that's totally how I feel about Dmitri Kalinin. I don't know what it is, but I like the guy and the more people attack him, the more that kicks in. Over the past couple of years - this last year in particular - I've developed a strangely maternal protectiveness toward him. I just want to find him and hug him some days.
Here's the thing: I get why some people would like to move him. He's probably never going to be the top 2 guy he was supposed to be when he came to Buffalo. He clearly lacks self-confidence and no matter how much he seems to build up, one mistake is often enough to undo everything. The boy totally unravels. One mistake turns into a bad game which turns into two bad games which turns into a week or more of struggle. It's extremely frustrating for me, and I like 'Tri. I can't imagine how frustrating it is to people who don't like him to begin with.
I don't really understand how and why Kalinin has become the team scapegoat though. The second he made a bad play in the Ottawa series, message boards blew up with threads about trading him, about cutting him, about doing bodily harm to him (exaggeration on the part of overly passionate fans I'm hoping), and I don't get it. Yes, it was a terrible turnover. Yes, it led directly to a goal. But guess what? It wasn't the first time in the playoffs that a terrible turnover or penalty led to a goal for the opposition. 'Tri was one of our best players down the stretch. He was one of the only players not named Ryan Miller who showed up every night of the first two rounds. His diving lifting of the stick move against Ryan Smyth (I think) was one of the best defensive plays from anyone in blue and gold in the postseason. I suppose it's a cumulative thing - fans have watched him come undone one too many times now - but overall he had a much stronger postseason than many of his teammates. Derek Roy, a guy I usually love watching, was absolutely brutal. Jason Pominville mostly looked flat and disinterested. Can we give those two a little of the venom being spit at Kalinin. Please? It would make me feel so much better.
I suspect this is one instance where the female part of "female sports fan" really starts to poke through because I just feel for the guy. I like him. He doesn't do many interviews, but when he does he always comes across as very shy and unsure of himself. He clearly doesn't have the confidence in his English that the other Europeans on the team have. He looks desperate to get the interview with over as soon as possible. Like I said before, I just want to hug him and tell him how adorable he is. Is that so wrong, people? Is it?
This is why I can't do those player profiles many blogs do in the off-season. My entry on 'Tri would look something like this.
DMITRI KALININ, D
Struggles with confidence
Improved offensive instincts
Self-concious English speaker
Hey, maybe I should be writing these things. Atleast they'd be different.