Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Oh, Kovy!

I know a lot of people are happy Bob Gainey has sent Alex Kovalev home, either to re-ignite the listless winger's desire to play hockey or to put the finishing touches on a trade that sends Kovalev away for good. I agree Gainey had to do something dramatic to get the team's attention during this horrendous slide. And I agree the "something" had to involve Kovalev who's been the most obvious slacker on the team. Last year's 84-point team leader who played with passion and drive just about every night has become disinterested. This year his production seems to be in inverse proportion to his lazy penalties and giveaways. I know Kovalev has always been guilty of the latter, but as Gainey himself said yesterday, if he was putting up points, the deficiencies in his game would be overlooked. As it is, though, without the points, the bad habits are much more glaring and are a poor example for young players who look to the veterans for guidance.

Although I know Gainey had to move, I'm not happy about it. I'm really sorry it's come to this. Kovalev has to be one of the most colossal wastes of talent in NHL history. There's not a player who's shared ice with him who doesn't marvel at the man's fantastic skills. He's been called the greatest puckhandler in the game today, a force, brilliantly creative on the ice and unbelievably talented. Yet he continues to lack the effort needed to put the talent to its best use. It's like having a gorgeous sports car in the driveway with an empty gas tank: it looks great, but it's not going to get you where you need to go.

So, I'm sad to see Kovalev seemingly headed out of Montreal. I'm sad the Habs' most talented player doesn't have the dedication to use his talent to help the team every night. I'm sorry he'll go down in history as one of the Hall of Fame's greatest "might have beens."

I suppose there's still a chance Kovalev has really been sent home to rest his aging, possibly injured, body for a few days, and that the rest will do him good. Perhaps he'll be back on Saturday feeling better and with a great desire to show everyone who doubted his heart that they were wrong. Somehow, I doubt it.

A man of Bob Gainey's stature doesn't take such a drastic measure against an employee in public unless the bridge isn't only burned, but the ashes have been swept up and a ferry installed in its place. I think Kovalev won't play for the Canadiens again unless no team will meet whatever minimum price of draft picks or prospects Gainey's willing to accept for him. And if it comes to that, if there are truly no takers and Kovalev remains a Hab, I think it will be disasterous. Kovalev pouted two years ago when he was demoted to the fourth line for his lacklustre play. I dread to think what his reaction might be if he's reinserted into the lineup after a public humilation by his boss.

I hate that it's come to this. I know something had to give. But I can't help thinking the Canadiens' problems go deeper than Kovalev. He's just the saddest, most public symbol of the whole sorry mess.

9 comments:

Topham said...

I'm surprised you're not happier. You always express your distaste for Kovalev.

Anyway, as you mentioned there may be a possibilty that Gainey gets offered less than he deems acceptable for Kovalev.

I really don't see the disaster that has come from this particular move. The Habs without (a functional) Kovalev are not a contender for the Stanley Cup, so what's the difference if he gets traded for a second round pick or not. May as well gamble on Kovalev and hope from here.

We're already gambling five years on Price's suddenly brittle personality, what's another wager?

If Gainey can pull out a miracle and get a goalscoring winger for Kovalev, then all the better to our GM. But the man couldn't even get decent return for an all-star goalie, so hope is waning.

J.T. said...

Boy, you're not my biggest fan, are you?! I don't have a distaste for Kovalev as an individual. But as a player who has fantastic talent and who rarely deigns to use it, yeah...that tastes pretty rotten.

The potential disaster of this particular move is in Kovalev's reaction to it if Gainey can't trade him and must instead reinsert him into the lineup. If that happens and Kovalev decides to really try, that's one thing. If he decides to sulk and drag the team down lower, that's a problem.

As for the Huet return, there's a big difference between a goalie and a goalscorer when it comes to deadline deals. By the deadline, barring injury, most contending teams are set in goal. But almost anyone is willing to add more firepower. If Gainey had let Huet walk for nothing, it would have been disgraceful. As it stood, there were two takers for Huet...Ottawa and Washington. Gainey chose to send him to Washington because Ottawa was more of a playoff threat to the Habs. Gainey had to take the best deal available, after considering the return and the consequences to his own team.

Michael said...

2 posts in 11 days! c'mon girl, write more. i miss your insight, wit and miller-esque (dennis) metaphors. your period wrap-up analysis is the highlight of boone's live game blog (IMO)
who is JT? i'd love to watch a habs game with her and buy her a beer if i ever make it back to montreal.
keep it up.
your fan--> jew4jah

bigbird76 said...

I agree with just about everything you say JT, your blogs are always well thought out and well written. I just don't want give up on Kovy yet. I honestly belive Gainey was not trying to trade him and unless some GM calls Bob in the next few days with a deal he cannot turn down, I think Kovy will play saturday.

The way Gainey handle this is so typically un Gaineyish, I have to belive something else is behind it. I know i might be dreaming, but maybe he asked Alex to take the role of scapegoat, he does look very tired, for 2 reasons.

1. The team should come out flying against the Caps.

2. Carbo better get it together.

ps. I have always had faith in Bob, no matter what, but I am wondering if friendship with Carbo runs deeper than whats best for this club. 1-2-2 has gotta go, keep up the great work, wont be long your be the pride of Newfoundland.

Moey said...

I'm sad too, it's a waste of incredible talent, I don't like to see any of our Habs ending up like this. He didn't do himself any favors at the All Star game either, I'm sure it didn't go unnoticed by Gainey that he can crank it up a few notches when there's something in it for him, but he won't do it for the team. I'm pretty sure this won't have a fairy tale ending, it just hasn't been that kind of season. I could never in my wildest dreams predicted any of this last summer. So far it's been a real bummer.

Topham said...

JT, I wouldn't say I'm your biggest fan. But I also tend to think that posting a contrary view can bring out some new ideas from the two of us. Sometimes I play the Devil's advocate, yes. But this time is not one of those occasions.

If you would prefer that everyone always agree with you and pat you on the back, I'm sure you wouldn't be putting out thoughts on the internet for anyone to read.

I digress. Your point about Kovalev sulking is well taken. My only counterpoint to that is that it wouldn't matter whether he was here and sulked or a second draft pick was here and didn't sulk. Sure it might get us into the playoffs again, it might win us a round. But our ultimmate goal will not be closer unless a) Kovalev plays and plays well or b) Gainey can trade him for a goalscorer (e.g., Martin St. Louis, Brad Boyes or someone of that quality - not Miroslav Satan quality).

In my opinion, scenario a) is a lot more likely to occur than scenario b). I've been surprised by trades before; but it has to be said the astonishment hasn't been recent.


As for Huet, I believe you are right again. Goalies are not as in demand as scorers at the deadline (particularly if UFAs).

I don't understand this statement, though:

"If Gainey had let Huet walk for nothing, it would have been disgraceful."

Personally, I don't see how keeping Huet as insurance for 30 games or more is disgraceful compared to gambling on a second rounder (now Schneider who a) we could have had for nothing in the summer or b) will leave for nothing in the summer...).

The perceived need to trade free agents with a quarter of the regular season and playoffs to go is surprising. Even more astonishing is the way the public seems to accept this Rejean Houle way of operating (see Recchi, Damphousse, etc.).

Huet in all likelihood would not have provided the Cup. But I throw scorn on people who make too many assumptions. As they say, a bird in hand is worth two in the bush. When you look poised to win the conference one year - as the Hsbs did - you must press the advantage.

Sports is littered with losers who felt they should save their best for next time (as the Habs did) when they are more ready, and also with winners who put it on the line at the right time. Even recent NHL history shows how Carolina did well to take advantage of Staal, Cole and co all playing well to add Weight and Recchi. Anaheim repeated the trick when they pulled out the stops the next season.

Alas, the Canadiens are now learning that success is fleeting and even clinching the playoffs is precarious. By not giving their all last year (and by that I mean Gainey when he had 2 quality goalies), they may have squandered a great chance, maybe their best chance. I mean to have Kovalev playing his best hockey in years, Plekanec a 70-point man, Andrei K putting up 40-goal pace over the close of the season. Did he really think this would be status quo for years ahead?

Had they given the chance away for a young player or someone who could help this year for example, it might be defensible. But their pick was for 2010, a player who probably won't play till 2015 if ever. By that time even Price will be getting on, and I'd be amazed if any of the core built here already remains.

You tell me Gainey letting Huet walk for nothing would have been a disgrace. I counter that 30 games of Huet on the bench (maybe even 6 on the ice like Halak played) is hardly nothing, and that the disgrace was the assumption that good timmes would always roll.

pierre said...

Mais que se passe t' il donc dans ta tĂȘte Kovy ?

There is no easy answers to that question, isn't it ?

I know that there was more cohesion to our game last night than I have seen in all year..... the sens of the players being on the same page sharing commun instincs and purposes was quite obvious..... it reminded me of the ways our team used to play under Therrien and Julien when they had to keep it together all year long in order to barely squezzed in into the playoffs.

Hard working, disciplined, two-ways ethics will be on the menu from now on...... it should have been there at the start of the season but it never really was for some strange reasons.

I think both Carbo and the players started the season with a bias about themselves as being an " offensive team " based on our experience and stats from last season and the fact that our offensive depth had been increased with the addition of Lang and
Tanguay.

I think when the season started Carbo have proposed a somewhat flexible plan to his players in order to improved on our 5-on-5 game from the previous season and to ground our game into a commun understanding and purpose but left a little too much room for improvisation..... a room where Kovalev decided to live in no matter what.

Most of the team indulged themselves in that room and it was clear that we were lacking in structure for the most part..... despite the fact that our game stunk and that we got outshot in most game still we were winning more often than not..... usually just by a single goal..... never mind that our goallys kept saving us on too many an occasions.

Was Carbo's system ill designed or were the players aloof about it all and playing for themselves ?

I think this year is simply an "off" year for Kovalev, a commun theme throughout his career, he is not getting any younger too...... the fact that he is sowewhat of a leader for our team is what makes such matter so difficult for both the coach and our team...... we've faced many different problems from many different angles and having Kovy being Kovy around as made most matters more difficult to resolved..... in the end Its no wonder that we are where we are today..... 10 losts in our last 13 games.

Can Kovalev come back with a transformed attitude ?

Is he the "new" player which we were hoping Gainey to get us ?

J.T. said...

Topham:

Obviously I'm not asking anyone to agree with everything I say. My earlier comment was meant to be facetious. :)

Anyway. I agree with you, that there certainly could have been merit to keeping Huet for the last part of last season. Especially in hindsight when we know that Price collapsed in the playoffs.

However, what I meant by "disgrace" was the unfortunate situation in which a GM, without the benefit of hindsight, finds himself with UFAs. If you keep them and they don't help the team, as was the case with Souray when the team held onto him and still missed the playoffs, then you lose him for nothing. If you let him go for whatever return you can, and he *might* have helped the team, as in the case of Huet, then you get crucified for getting nothing from your assets.

Considering the way things worked out, if Gainey had kept Huet yet Carbo still played the red-hot Price down the stretch and into the playoffs, not much would have changed for the team's fortunes. Maybe Huet could have saved the day when price faltered, maybe not. In any case, I agree he wouldn't likely have made the difference between a Cup or none...there were too many other factors involved. But if the season had played out the way it did and Gainey had received nothing for Huet when he walked in July, fans everywhere would be ranting about the disgrace of a GM failing to maximize his assets yet again. Perhaps I should have made the sentence more clear on that and said, "If Gainey had allowed to walk for nothing, it would have been viewed as disgraceful.

In any case...it's worked out to be a trade of Huet for Schneider at this point. Maybe Schneider will help enough to bring the team some stability and survive in playoff contention long enough to allow injured guys to come back and the team to rebuild its confidence before April. Perhaps, in the end, the Huet trade will end up being something good.

On Kovalev, I agree with you as well. I'd rather have a dedicated Kovalev on our side than a draft pick in exchange for him. I suspect that's Gainey's preference as well, and this cooling-off period will give Kovalev a chance to decide what he wants to do before it's time for Gainey to make a final decision on his future. I hope he chooses to play like his sweater's burning and carry the team into the playoffs.

Topham said...

It takes a lot of comment space to discover we agree with each other...

Isn't this fun?