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декабря 1997 года.
Korolev scoring goals, but his talent continues to tease
By Paul Hunter
The Russian forward is tied for the team lead in goals with 13, he skates on the top line with Mats Sundin, he is a fixture on the power play - okay, so life isn't perfect - and he has generally been a pleasant surprise for Toronto.
But there is the sense among the Leafs' coaching staff that if they could just persuade Korolev to believe more in himself, he could blossom into one of the top forwards in the league.
``His skills put him among the top 20 to 25 per cent of players in the league but he has to push himself more,'' says assistant coach Terry Simpson, who coached Korolev as a younger player in Winnipeg.
``The hard part is to get him to believe it himself. Until he takes it to heart and pushes himself to the next level, he won't fulfil that potential. We need him to. When he's ordinary, we get beat.''
This isn't the first time Korolev has teased with his talent. In Phoenix he missed the first part of last season because of a contract dispute and when he returned, he tumbled into a scoring funk.
Korolev's free fall with the Coyotes was stunning. He plummeted from the top line to a checking unit before ending the season in the pressbox. He was cut loose at season's end.
Coming off a three-goal season did not make him a hot property on the free-agent market. On the eve of training camp - attracted by Simpson's presence and the opportunities presented by a talent-thin lineup - Korolev signed a tryout contract with the Leafs.
Solid play at camp earned the 27-year-old a one-year, $400,000 contract that seems like a bargain now.
Korolev still holds some bitterness toward Phoenix and when he takes to the ice here tonight, he's hoping for a little revenge. But he also understands he helped author his own exit out of town.
``In the middle of the season, the coach (Don Hay) was not very happy with me. Everything was going wrong and I wasn't getting any points. It happens to players, but he lost patience with me,'' he says.
Giving tempting hints of what he can be only makes Korolev's inability to deliver every night more frustrating. For now the Muscovite seems destined to play as a front-line player, just one bad game removed from the pressbox.
``I think he's a better player than even he gives himself credit for and I wish he could ascend to that,'' said Toronto coach Mike Murphy.
Korolev agrees he's had difficulty reaching the next level but believes it's within reach.
``It can happen. I have to play hard every night but sometimes it doesn't
happen for me,'' he says. ``I know what (Murphy) is talking about. I can't
find it (in me) every night yet. Mentally, I'm not there yet but I think
it will happen.''