Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Schwartz Journal of Hockey.

Launy “The” Schwartz is your faithful bucket sporting host and regular contributor to HockeyBarn.com. After 25 years as a player, fan, coach, and now a goalie instructor, he brings to you his keen and sometimes off centre view about the game that defines him.

The Kovalev Identity, Supremacy, & Ultimatum. 

If you were to ask just about any player or goalie to name one of the most gifted players in the NHL, it’s likely the name Alexei Kovalev would fall off the tip of his tongue.

Kovalev has the skill set of a highly trained assassin. His snap shot can be unloaded with deadly accuracy from locations where most players wouldn’t even attempt a shot. He can dangle the puck in the corner and escape even the burliest of armed guards. On a breakaway he strikes fear in to the heart of even the most hardened goaltender. 

Too bad when Kovie shows up to play, he doesn’t always put these gifts on display.  And therein lies the problem in Montreal.

Let’s do some target practice…

1. Now, Kovalev is set to receive his senior’s discount at the Canadiens’ gift shop. At 36, most players his age begin to lose the speed and ability to control a game. Look no further than his countryman Sergei Federov.

2. After this season the Russian becomes an unrestricted free agent. He currently skates away with $4.5 million a year. Most players’ fair market value is based on their previous season’s performance. For many of us, we only have to look at the standings in our fantasy pool to know he’s not producing at last year’s pace. (Thankfully, for me, Jeff Carter has picked up his slack… 

3. Many players have their trademark moves in their career. Kovalev’s trademark move is going up and down in stats. As the first Russian ever to be drafted in the first round, he would make his NHL debut in 1992/93. Kovie’s 38 points in 65 games wasn’t too shabby for a rookie. He wouldn’t show his full potential until he got traded to Pittsburgh in 1998. A 95-point season in 2000/01 prepared fans and the League for great expectations.

4. What Kovie’s up, must Kovie down…. He would return to the Rangers in 02/03 with a torrid point per game average, and his offensive output had virtually disappeared upon his trade to the Habs. But, in typical Kovalev form he would dazzle once again in his new uniform, falter a year later, and then recover once again with one of his best seasons. His off-years have not always been that bad statiscally, but when compared to his talent and potential, very disappointing. 

5. In a city where hockey is arguably akin to religion, and the Arch Bishop is Bob Gainey, Kovalev’s Priesthood with his team may seem sacrilegious. ‘C’ or not, he has to lead the prayer service for the faithful, or else he may be forced to find another church to pray in.

Many pundits proclaim Kovie will return to form after his sabbatical, and fail to mention that this is at the very core of the problem. His “form” is inconsistent. It’s not about returning to form. It’s about breaking it.

Now the question for Gainey is how to proceed? All things considered, it’s a huge gamble because Alex is set to go on his standard killing spree after a year of dormancy. With the trade deadline approaching, who knows if the Habs’ GM is willing to bank on his sniper hitting the target.




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