It's been tempting to say the least. And I almost started to bite. But now I think I'm going to pull back and not jump on the "run Alex Kovalev out of town" bandwagon.
I realize I may be defending the undefendable here but it's much more interesting to look at the other side of the coin.
Now I'm not saying Kovalev hasn't been bad. Frankly, he's stunk out the joint.
But realistically, how long can the slump last?
Kovalev is simply too good of a player to be this bad for that long. And then you look at the schedule. It's not even Christmas and nowhere near the point where you can write off a player's season.
Fans in Montreal aren't stupid (insert snarky comment here). They don't hold protests to try and force management to keep a certain player every day. So there is something special about Kovalev whether you like him or not.
And Ottawa fans shouldn't be surprised by the way Kovalev plays. It's way too easy to jump to the conclusion that he just doesn't care. Honestly, that's a bunch of bull s**t. Not every player plays the game the same way.
It's like how a young man said to me in an email not long ago: "Look at Heatley. The puck is behind the Senators net and he's floating out there by the Sens blueline doing nothing." Sometimes people new to the game don't understand how a team needs at least one player up high to not only take away a possible point shot but to be an outlet for a defenseman to break the puck out to. That's just hockey 101. Some fans see the game only one way where visuals are everything and that if you're not pouring pints of blood out into the corner on every shift then you are somehow cheating the team and its fans.
Kovalev has always been the same player. He's as stubborn as a mule and no coach has been able to change him. He's a guy who will create offense sooner or later but can be inconsistent with a bum rap for not caring on certain nights. That's just way too easy a conclusion to pass the smell test.
Nobody makes it to the NHL and stays in the NHL without "trying hard". Kovalev cares but he's not going to turn into Mike Fisher just because the media and fans calling the phone-in shows are having a seizure of hatred for the enigmatic star.
Yet we could have seen this coming. Ottawa is not a town known to tolerate skill players who don't show humility on a daily basis. Hall of Famers like Patrick Roy and Brett Hull would have been run out of Ottawa had they played here. Heck, people don't even like Chris Neil in this town. Kovalev is not going to apologize for being the player he has always been. He's just not that type of personality.
It's sort of sickening to see some media trying to sucker him into a controversy by asking what jersey he would wear into the Hall of Fame were he to be inducted. You don't wear jerseys when you go into the Hall of Fame, obviously, so the question was merely a sucker trap that Kovalev answered honestly. Of course he said Montreal. He shouldn't have said anything but when you are put on the spot, a lot of us would say something we would regret later.
In short, I guess I just don't see the point of joining the circus in running another guy out of town. Haven't we seen this before? It's just ugly and it doesn't benefit the team, the player or the fans. And it's just plain boring after a while. The torches must be burnt low by now. They've done a lot of burning over the years in Bytown.
This is not a hard prediction to make because it's just so obvious: Kovalev will get better and help the Ottawa Senators win hockey games going down the stretch.
He's just too good for that prediction to not come true.
No one was more surprised than I was to see the Senators grind out a 2-0 win over the Flyers tonight, especially when it looked like the Flyers had gotten angry and taken out all their recent troubles on the Islanders a few nights ago. Obviously, they haven't gotten everything straightened out yet and that may not be a surprise after all. Peter Laviolette has only had 3 games to put his mark on the team. But like our good friend Kovalev, you can bet that the Flyers will eventually turn this around.
But how about that game anyways? With scoring down across the league in the past little bit, it was unpleasant to watch it so intently over 60 minutes tonight.
Sometimes you just have to wonder. How hard can it be for the best hockey players in the world to score goals. Or even just hit the net?
What a colossal bore.
Black Aces Senators 3 Stars
1. Brian Elliott
2. Nick Foligno
3. Anton Volchenkov
3 Stars Season Scorecard
(3 points for 1st star, 1 point for 3rd star)
Alfredsson – 19
Michalek – 14
Spezza – 13
Fisher – 12
Elliott – 10
Neil - 7
Leclaire – 7
Ruutu - 5
Winchester - 5
Volchenkov – 4
Kovalev – 3
Phillips - 3
Carkner – 3
Kuba – 3
Regin - 2
Foligno – 2
Lee – 1
Donovan – 1
Kelly – 1
Shannon – 1
Karlsson - 1