At the start of the season, the New Jersey Devils signed high-scorer Ilya Kovalchuk to a $100-million, 15-year deal in order to get themselves back into contention for the Stanley Cup.
But instead of producing goals, the Russian winger has been shooting blanks and demoralizing the rest of the team. So much so, that the Devils are struggling just to stay out of the NHL cellar.
And the prospect of 14 more years of this is not making the sausage and peppers go down any easier at the Prudential Center. In fact, the place is starting to look like a ghost town. How can the team pay Kovalchuk when no one wants to see him or his teammates play?
Desperate times call for desperate measures. Here are 10 suggestions:
1. Change His Name to Bobby Hull
The Hall of Fame legend knew what to do when he got into a slump: Beat the bejesus out of the first opposing player he hit. Kovalchuk knows how to use his dukes. Now’s the time to get them going under an assumed name. Plus, if he’s wearing Bobby Hull’s name and number, there is less of a chance he will be booed by the fans. That is, the few that remain.
2. Soothe Opposing Goalies
The fastest way to cool down a hot goal tender is with an injection of your favorite sedative. Luckily, the NHL doesn’t use metal detectors before the game, so the occasional syringe can easily slip through the boards. Let Dainius Zubrus do the deed. He has the best hands.
3. Make Him Become an American Citizen
Maybe it’s Kovalchuk’s Russianess that has put him off his game. Throughout history, Russians have been known to start something and not finish it. Take communism for example. Anyway, if Kovalchuk were an American citizen maybe he’d be more of an entrepreneur. And as every American knows, entrepreneurs know how to score goals.
4. Put Him in Goal
Let Kovalchuk try to stop 30 or 40 100 mph pucks for a few games and his shooting eye may return sooner than later. And he can’t do any worse than the aging Martin Brodeur in guarding the net.
5. Move the Team to Brooklyn and Leave No Forwarding Address
The Devils can beat the Nets to the borough of choice. The advantages: They’ll pick up a few new fans, and leave Kovalchuk cooling his heels as he tries to figure out how to use the GPS system in his Escalade.
6. Encourage Him to Try a Different Sport
Kovalchuk seems to have lost his ability to accurately hit the net, but he still has the power of his slap shot. Perhaps he’d be better off playing baseball. It’s rumored that the Mets need some power in left field.
7. Move His Locker Closer to the Steroid Cabinet
Could Kovalchuk’s lack of performance be the result of a sudden absence of chemical enhancements. There’s a simple way to find out.
8. Accuse Him of Being a Russian Spy
Earlier this year, the Obama Administration demonstrated what happens to Russian spies accused of operating in America. They are sent back to Russia within a week. If that should happen to Kovalchuk, that 15-year contract might as well have been signed by Boris and Natasha.
9. Trade Him for Oliver Perez
The New York Mets have a similar problem with Oliver Perez, a left-handed pitcher who has fallen out of love with the strike zone. Swapping sports might let each of them get their aim back.
10. Introduce Him to a “Soprano”
As the HBO show depicted, New Jersey has no shortage of wiseguys who are very attuned to the results of sports competitions. It is not in their interest to see the demise of the New Jersey NHL franchise. Perhaps they can convince Kovalchuk to play up to his full potential.
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