Kovalchuk: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly Money Making Machine

Peter BojarinovAnalyst IJanuary 12, 2010

UNIONDALE, NY - JANUARY 02: Ilya Kovalchuk #17 of the Atlanta Thrashers plays the puck against the New York Islanders during their game at the Nassau Coliseum on January 02, 2010 in Uninodale, New York. The Islanders defeated the Thrashers in a shootout 6-5. (Photo by Andy Marlin/Getty Images)
Andy Marlin/Getty Images

I’ve always been a fan of talented Russian Ilya Kovalchuk; he’s been deadly with the puck every moment he crosses the offensive blue line.

His shot is one of the best I’ve ever seen, and giving Ilya the puck in the right moments is almost a 100 percent chance of rewarding your team a goal.

Statistically, he’s the best goal-per-game player this season, and he’s been around the top of the league since he’s reached the NHL, even leading the entire NHL in overall goals since 2003.

If I had the choice to pick my team, and money was not the question, he would be there. When it mattered he would be there, on the power play, in the dying moments of the game, and in a Game Seven in overtime, I would want Ilya to have the puck

Though not all sides to this Russian Sniper are a good one.

Since becoming a loyal follower of the Atlanta Thrashers, I’ve come to notice reoccurring themes:

-        Kovalchuk must be on the ice at all times (not including penalty kills).

-        If you are not Kovalchuk, why do you have the puck? Please find him and deliver it to him as soon as possible.

-        Kovalchuk does not have to play defense, nor is he good at it.

This is very noticeable in each game for the Thrashers. The opposition then tries to concentrate on covering Ilya, which hurts Atlanta, as well as Ilya’s plus/minus has never been a plus, which is because he’s never used his talent to become a two-way player.

He rarely comes all the way back to his own zone, and when he does, he doesn’t cover his man well. It’s pretty awful.

Though Kovalchuk’s still in a learning phase, he’s become a better leader and gained more experience. Maybe sometime soon he can learn how to play the body and be more competent in his own end.

Ilya Kovalchuk’s contract is nearing the end, and he and his agent feel that he deserves upwards of roughly $10 million in 10 years in a new contract. That would make him the highest player in the NHL, higher than Ovechkin, Malkin, and Crosby.

His lack of effort and skill in the defensive end alone would not be worth it, nor does his offensive talent bring fans to the seats in Georgia.

I feel that if the ownership is an issue for Ilya staying in Atlanta, he should come out and tell the fans and the media. If it’s only about money, then I think he’s only dreaming.

Ilya is an amazing player, and he deserves what he gets, but there should be a limit.

The ugly fact is:

To all the takers in the Ilya sweepstakes, buyers beware: would you put one-fifth of your teams’ salary in a one-way player for the next ten seasons?