Can Kovalev the Artist Paint A Bright Picture in Ottawa?

Dave MorrisContributor ISeptember 22, 2009

With the unrelenting waves of media and fan hate for the now-departed Dany Heatley commanding hockey consciousness in Ottawa, the arrival of Alex Kovalev was somewhat obscured. The outspoken Alex’s comments about wanting to finish his career in Montreal caused some Senscentrists to panic.   

But those who have followed the career of Alexei Alexeyevitch Kovalev know that the Modus Vivendi of "L’Artiste" is to both dazzle and bedevil fans and foes alike. Kovalev has always been known as an exceptionally talented player, but his commitment and consistency have also been the subject of scrutiny and sometimes scorn.

Watch an Alex Kovalev hockey video and you'll be amazed by the tricks he does with the puck. Watch Kovalev play over the course of a season and you`ll be astonished by how he can change a game, but wondering why he doesn’t do it more often.

Former Canadiens great and current radio colour commentator for Montreal’s CJAD, Ottawa native Murray Wilson, provided some insight into the character of Kovalev in a recent phone interview with Ottawa radio station Team 1200.

“You’re going to love Alex in Ottawa,” he said. “He’s a very proud man, and a very misunderstood man. But he can do dynamic things few players can do, and he does make his teammates better. He’s excellent with young players as well. If and when things go badly for the team, though, Alex will often take it on himself and tend to brood.”  

Knowing that he is a marquee player, the sensitive ego of Alex Kovalev enjoys the attention. If he wants to please his new employers and his new fans, one can assume he is motivated to perform at his best this year.  The trading of Dany Heatley was perhaps, a good thing for Alex Kovalev; the advertising for the Ottawa Senators featuring him, complete with heroic facial expression and dramatic lighting, suggests AK27 will be an important weapon in the Senators’ arsenal.

It can be assumed, quite logically, that Eugene Melnyk lobbied Bryan Murray to sign Kovalev precisely because Alex is an entertainer. That Kovy can be relied upon to contribute 25 goals and an equal number of assists, mitigates the loss of Heatley both on the ice and at the box office.

Wilson also pointed out, however, Kovalev’s age works against him. “He just doesn’t have the speed he used to, so it’s important that the coach recognizes his strengths—including Alex’s impressive physical qualities—and minimizes the downside. And Alex is always dangerous on the power play.”

Combining with Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek as he did in the recent exhibition match against Tampa, Kovalev’s strengths were indeed leveraged.

But as the season goes on, will The Artist be part of a brighter picture this year for Les Sénateurs? Or will the palette of puck prestidigitation pale if the playoffs prove to be, once again, beyond the possible?

Hockey fans in Ottawa will soon see for themselves.