With Alex Kovalev in the news for all the wrong reasons yesterday, I couldn't help but wonder what could have been.
In 2009, then Canadiens' general manager Bob Gainey offered Kovalev a contract. He was to be the next captain of the Habs. The forward and his agent played hardball and, so as to not miss out on acquiring the necessary right wing the Canadiens needed, Gainey moved on.
Rather than ending up with Kovalev--a problem for the past two years--Canadiens' fans were treated to just the opposite: Brian Gionta.
Gionta has brought experience, pride and drive to the team. Because of his exemplary leadership skills, the entire team around him never gives up.
Some fans were up in arms when the Habs announced the five-year, $25 million signing on July 1, 2009. A small team had just gotten smaller. They wanted Kovalev.
I bet they wouldn't be so keen on taking him on their team now, especially after the way he left the NHL, pinning his sub-par play on everyone but himself. Accountability is not a word that Kovy is familiar with.
In two seasons with the Canadiens, Gionta has scored 57 goals, leading the team this past season with 29.
Though he is only 5'7" (generously), he drives to the net on a regular basis. He's endured a lifetime of people telling him that he's too small and he's out to show them otherwise.
Brian Gionta never takes a shift off, let alone a game. At no time has his character been put into question, and, because of all of his attributes, he was named captain of the team before the start of the 2010-2011 season.
He is the anti-Kovalev.
There is obviously no telling what Kovalev would have done on the Canadiens had he remained on the team and been given the captaincy. Maybe he would have flourished, but there is always the possibility that he would float around some nights and look completely uninterested. I know that when he was still playing on the team, I wasn't surprised to see that: I expected it.
I was not part of the rally for Kovalev that gathered in front of the Bell Centre in 2009; I was happy to see him go. I had grown tired of his antics and was looking forward to the new blood on the team.
With Brian Gionta, you know exactly what you are going to get night in and night out and for that, I am grateful.
Jason is on Twitter: @jhytel