What Ilya Vorobyov was doing in Vancouver remains a very open question.
The veteran Russian hockey coach has flown back to Russia after spending a week “observing” the Vancouver Canucks.
During his week long visit to Vancouver, he took in three Canucks games at Rogers Arena: Oct. 27 versus the St. Louis Blues, Oct. 28 versus the New York Rangers and Oct. 31 versus the Nashville Predators.
Vorobyov is well-travelled. He played for Russia at the 1995 World Juniors in Alberta. His father’s coaching career, a famed coach, took him around the world in his youth as well.
He played in Germany for years — he was current Canucks commentator Dave Tomlinson’s teammate with Adler Mannheim in 2001-02.
But this was his first visit to Vancouver, he acknowledged to Postmedia.
“I’m here to watch some hockey,” he said, divulging little else about his week in Vancouver.
It could be assumed that he’s looking for work — but if it involved the Canucks, no one is saying. The Canucks themselves said they aren’t hiring the former coach of Metallurg Magnitogorsk in the KHL, despite at least one report saying so in Russian media.
“I was fired very late,” he said of how his time ended with Metallurg and why he wasn’t picked up by another KHL team in short order.
He’s got a pretty impressive coaching resume: He led Magnitogorsk to a Gagarin Cup championship in 2016, taking over from Mike Keenan early in the year. Metallurg made the finals a year later.
He was let go early in the 2017-18 season after Metallurg stumbled out of the gates, but was hired on by SKA St. Petersburg for the 2018-19 season. At the same time he was hired to coach the Russian national team.
For whatever reason, that season didn’t work out, even though his team won 49 games and made the conference finals. But he did have a young Andrei Kuzmenko on that squad — and a 17-year-old Vasily Podkolzin suited up three times as well.
“Oh yes, my old coach. It was nice to see him,” Kuzmenko told Postmedia on Saturday. But he shrugged when asked if he thought his old coach would be back in his life.
After his lone season with SKA, he went back to Metallurg, leading them back to the finals in 2022. But the team announced at the end of the season they were going in a different direction.
He has one more Canucks connection: Canucks defensive development coach Sergei Gonchar played half a season for Metallurg during the 2012-13 season, when the NHL owners locked out the players. That was Vorobyov’s first season as a KHL assistant coach under Paul Maurice who coached Magnitogorsk for that one season.
Was it Gonchar who made the connection? Who knows.
In the end, there was really only one more question to ask: would he like to coach in the NHL?
“Oh yes, of course. It’s the NHL,” he replied, flashing a hint of a grin.
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