Lost Sheep: The Story of Andrei Kostitsyn

Sebastien TremblayCorrespondent INovember 3, 2009

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 1:  Andrei Kostitsyn #46 of the Montreal Canadiens waits for a faceoff in a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on October 1, 2009 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario. The Canadiens dfeated the Leafs 4-3 in overtime. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Claus Andersen/Getty Images

Andrei, since arriving to North America a few years ago, has felt like a "lost cause." Lots of people agree and as many don’t. Everybody has their own reason to determine the value of a player, talent, raw skills, size, grit, passion, dedication, pride in your game, contribution to the team and level of competitiveness.


But is he really a lost cause? Is he what all first round pick dread the most, a bust?


First, to give you an idea of what I call "passion and competitiveness," obviously, Ovechkin displays it every single time he hits the ice or you only need to look at a few successful fourth line players.

Now I’m not saying a player needs to throw himself on the boards or do the "sticks on fire" dance every time he scores. But passion can be felt and makes a difference in many many ways. Notably, in the dressing room and then on the ice.


Are you angry when the coach leaves you on the bench? Are you angry when missing an open net? Are you angry if you lose your spot on the top two lines? If yes, you’re on the right track. That means pride just stepped in…


Remember Steve Begin? He never has he had the hands to be a top line player. But he still made it to the NHL and had a good career thanks to the enormous quantity of competitiveness and hard work he displays every night.


Now I’m looking at Andrei Kostitsyn’s play and it seems emotionless, without passion and at this point, he is less valuable to the team than the likes of Glen Metropolit, Travis Moen, and even Kyle Chipchura, who was often tagged as a player who would never gain a regular role in the NHL.


Now, I’m not asking him to smile at cameras. He’s not comfortable with media, fine. Who cares! Markov is not comfortable either…but can anyone say he’s playing with no passion? Nobody would dare, he’s one of the best in the league.

To reach that plateau, you need to be competitive, have the desire to be the best and improve. Can anyone say he can feel that from Andrei K?


Andrei is struggling. He’s struggling to find his place on the team and to determine what type of player he really wants to become. I feel bad seeing him try desperately to finish his body checks and play physical.

Who asked him to be gritty? Jacques Martin? Certainly not, he’s been saying since the season started Andrei needs to shoot more. That’s the sign of a player who lost his game, see Maxim Afinogenov the last two years for another example.


What I call struggling, is a player who is not improving. Do you believe he'll ever be a player worth a 10th round selection? We don’t have the luxury in Montreal of having low draft picks who become stars. So when you pick a guy 10th overall, you expect some level of competitiveness, any level. It’s just not there now.


But now let’s just look at the other side of things. Is Andrei Kostitsyn given a fair shot? And what brought Montreal to draft him 10th overall?


Jacques Martin has tried to put Andrei K with the best forwards the team has to offer. He played first line minutes, had the best linemates possible and still, came out empty handed. But like a lot of journalists and critics, I feel Kostitsyn simply wants to be elsewhere.


Even though he’s not been productive, he’s kept his spot on the first two lines maybe 75 out of 82 games last year and for the first eight games while guys like Latendresse, D’Agostini and Pacioretty are waiting for their chance.


Andrei K went as far as say he was unhappy about his playing time, that he played only seven minutes per game and that was the reason of his struggles. Looking at statistics, Kostitsyn averaged 14 minutes of playing time per game. When he was dropped to the fourth line, he played seven minutes. Two games before, he was on the ice for 17 minutes.


He got zero shot on net while playing on the first line.


To his defense, Trevor Timmins had all the right reasons to draft him. For those who didn’t know, Andrei K was ranked around 18th to 25th overall in the draft and, if not for medical reasons at the time, would have possibly been a top five pick.


Those medical problems were that Andrei had epilepsy/seizure problems. Not knowing whether those problems would carry over into his 20s became a factor and his ranking dropped. Montreal’s doctors were very confident they could find the right treatment and medication to solve that problem. And it did.


So Montreal took a chance on him at the number ten spot. Andrei Kostitsyn has arguably one of the best shots in that draft, I’d say equal to Jeff Carter but was considered a better skater and had that "wow factor" that Timmins was looking for, the kind of player that could wow the crowd with his moves.


And he actually did a few times. Andrei K has a few highlight goals under his belt including this one against Atlanta, this one against Washington…and this one, an Ovechkin style goal while falling and turning around.


Does he have talent? Hell yes he does. Is he using it? Yes, he is actually. But now you got to ask yourself why it’s not working for him…and to me, it all goes back to the complete lack of passion in his game.


Andrei probably feels he can do a lot better given the ice time and the linemates. A couple years ago, he seemed poised for a break out year and finally reach the 30 goals mark we so desperately want him to reach.


The fact is this, Andrei Kostitsyn is a good player with huge upsides, but he’s unhappy in Montreal and being the quiet Bielorussian guy…he shuts up about it and deals with the consequences. He should probably take a page off his brother’s book, Sergei, and ask for a trade. But with his value so low…Gainey won’t risk it now.


Something tells me we will see Andrei Kostitsyn in the top 10 goal scorers eventually. He might even reach the 40 goals mark. But not in Montreal, and not until he figures out what player he wants to be.

It’s the same for every player in the NHL, when things don’t work out, you need to go back to the basics and shot from every and any angle. Andrei has been dropped to the fourth line and seems VERY unhappy about it…but isn’t really doing what management tells him to do.


Will this motivate him to do better to regain his spot on the top two lines or is this going to be his downfall before he gets traded? Time will tell but I don’t think Bob Gainey will wait too long and risk loosing him for nothing in a couple years as a free agent.


He knows the value of his winger and probably prefers he breaks out here in Montreal, but his price tag is high for what he currently brings to the team. So trading him now would be exchanging one dollar for 50 cents. The only one who can now help Andrei K…is Andrei K. But once he comes out of this prolonged slump, teams in need of scoring power will line up to get his services.


Is Andrei a bust? I wouldn’t go that far. He’s shown flashed of brilliance and dominance but consistency and dedication seems to be the issue here. Not his talent. You can have all the talent in the world, but if the effort isn’t there…you end up like Alexandre Daigle…overpaid and under-performing. Let’s hope for us he comes out of his slump before Gainey get’s really tired.


As for me, I like the guy, I do! I think he has so much potential and could be such a dominant player. But maybe not in Montreal, where he seems to be regressing. But with Kovalev gone, he could be that guy that gets the crowd on it’s feet and dazzle the league. He has that chance here in Montreal, but will he grab the opportunity?