Alex Kovalev is playing the worst hockey of any of the Montreal Canadiens. It must be true. I've heard that so many times in the past few days. Alex Kovalev has no heart. Kovy is lazy. Alex is a "cancer in the dressing room". That's the phrase I've heard most so, for sure, that must be true.
I've even heard a respectable sports analyst join the kick-Kovy-when-he's-down party. He finished by saying that the Canadiens had "gone the extra mile with him."
But are those comments really true? If so, there are a few things that don't make sense.
Apparently, having consistent, compatible linemates for Kovalev to play with is way beyond 'going the extra mile'. Tom Kostopoulos and Steve Begin are simple, hard working, north-south players but is there a coach on earth that thinks they are a good match for Kovalev's style of play? Oh. I guess there is one...Guy Carbonneau.
Does 'going the extra mile' mean giving the team's best players more ice-time to help get the team out of their funk? No, apparently not. On this team 3rd and sometimes 4th line players get more even strength ice-time than the most talented players. So Max Lapierre plays more 5 on 5 hockey than Alex Kovalev. As much as we appreciate the improvement in Lapierre, if he is getting 1st line TOI, the Canadiens won't be winning.
Since the lockout, there is only one player in the NHL who gets a higher percentage of his points on the power-play than Alex Kovalev. It is just shy of 50%. So if the Canadiens power-play isn't working, that would mean that 1/2 of his points would be drastically reduced. So, in that light, maybe his point totals aren't so surprising. If we know this fact, surely the Canadiens coaching staff knows it too. Don't they??
So, if the team has 'gone the extra mile', what have they done to improve the power-play? Gainey: nothing (until the Schneider trade) Carbonneau: absolutely nothing.
If power-play scoring is such a concern, was it a smart move to send Sergei Kostitsyn to Hamilton. Going into tonight's game, SK74 was tied for the team lead in power-play goals (excluding Lang who is on injured reserve).
And let's set aside the 'if we only had Mark Streit' nonsense. Mark Streit did not play well the last month of last season and struggled in the playoffs. In the playoffs, the Flyers and Bruins analyzed the Habs power-play scheme and designed a way to defend it. The Canadiens coaching staff did nothing to adjust during the playoffs...they did nothing over the summer...and have sat by and watched as this season's power-play has plummeted to one of the worst in the league.
Now there is a report from a covert Russian source to journalist Marc de Foy through RDS that Kovalev has broken his silence. (Let's take all of this with a grain of salt given that it is being reported via the dual filters of a notoriously unreliable Russian press and an agenda-driven French press.) RDS is focusing on Kovalev's alleged comments about off-ice activities. But Kovalev apparently also talked about the confusion caused by bizarre line combinations and the poor communication by the coach.
Alex Kovalev has categorically denied that he spoke about his teammates. He says he would never do that. Kovalev spoke directly to Darren Dreger at TSN. (In the other report RDS says they talked to de Foy, who talked to an unnamed Russian source, who talked to Kovy. So who do you believe?)
Line shuffling has already been addressed. Communication by the head coach seems non-existent until he wants to toss one of his players to the vultures of his press buddies. This isn't a new issue. Clearly Guy Carbonneau doesn't understand Alex Kovalev. Or perhaps Elliotte Friedman is correct, Carbonneau doesn't understand this team.
This article shouldn't be misinterpreted as an attempt to defend or exonerate Alex Kovalev. I am simply posing questions about shared responsibility, and the possible reasons behind Kovy's behaviour. Alex has been slow, predictable and looked disinterested. But should Kovalev 'bear the cross' alone? Has everything been done to motivate him?
When the 'cancer' has been excised, what happens when the patient is still sick?
And when does the coach take some responsibility for the team's problems? When does the coach start to become accountable? When is he going to face some scrutiny for his actions and for his lack of action?
So what's the next move? Here are the words of Alex Kovalev, "I'm nobody. I don't control anything here. All I can promise is hopefully I can come back and play better and help my team. I have no choice."
from Habs Inside/Out
posted by Kevin Mio at 17h20 EST on Feb 18
According to RDS, citing Russian newspaper sources, Alex Kovalev does not expect to play another game for the Canadiens this season and has decided he will definitely not return to the team next year.
Kovalev also blames the actions of the younger players away from the ice for the team's problems and says the information that was revealed recently is onlt the tip of the iceberg.
Kovalev also said he wouldn't be surprised if he is traded soon by the Canadiens.