Ottawa Shouldn't Be Surprised Alex Kovalev Is Consistently Inconsistent

S BCorrespondent IDecember 9, 2009

22 Feb 2002:  Alexei Kovalev #27 of Russia flies through the air as Doug Weight #39 of the USA takes control of the puck in the men's ice hockey semifinal during the Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games at the E Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. USA defeated Russia 3-2, advancing to the gold medal match against Canada.  DIGITAL IMAGE. Mandatory Credit:   Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

It's funny when a player gets signed and ownership gets upset when the player plays the way that they have their entire career.

It's like getting angry at ice because it's cold.

Ottawa ownership is disappointed in the slumping Alex Kovalev, whose last goal going into Tuesday night's game against Montreal was Oct. 29. Owner Eugene Melnyk has been complaining his top players haven't stepped up enough.

When Ottawa signed Kovalev, they were probably looking at his last two seasons in Montreal, when he had 26 goals and 39 assists in 2008-09 and 35 goals and 49 assists in 2007-08β€”relatively solid numbers for a 36-year-old guy who entered the league in 1992.

That's always been the book on Kovalev; he can look like an amazing player in two-year increments. But when you look at larger chunks of his career, you really get a feel for its ups and downs.

For instance, if you look at the season before his 35 goal season in Montreal, you find an 18 goal campaign over 73 games, hardly stellar numbers.

And let's be honest. Kovalev's time in Montreal was largely successful. If you look at his second tour of the New York Rangers, you see an even greater study in futility, mainly in the form of just 23 goals and 32 assists in 90 games over two seasons.

And Kovalev's first tour of New York wasn't much more spectacular. Which is how he wound up traded to Pittsburgh during the 1998-99 season.

Kovalev went on to flourish in Pittsburgh, playing some of the best hockey of his career, even putting up a career high 44 goals and 51 assists during the 2000-01 season. In fact, he played well enough for the Rangers to want Kovalev back, which is how he wound up, once again, in New York.

And then, surprise, he wound up getting traded out of New York.

That's the pattern of Kovalev's career. He plays well at one stop but plays horribly at the next. And to add a little variety to his career, even those successful stops are frequently punctuated with awful seasons.

So with all of this data showing a very clear pattern with Kovalev, does anyone in the Ottawa organization really have a right to be mad at him? Or are they really mad at themselves for somehow believing Kovalev would find the consistency, as a Senator, that's evaded him pretty much his entire career.

This hubris of ignoring patterns seems to be a pattern in the Ottawa organization, as they took Jonathan Cheechoo from San Jose as part of the Dany Heatley deal, despite Cheechoo's steadily decreasing production. Three years removed from a 56-goal season, Cheechoo has just three goals in his first 28 games for Ottawa, putting him on pace for his lowest goal total since his rookie season.

Ottawa management saw the goal production dropping each year and still seemed to think they would somehow be exempt from a slump now entering its fourth season.

When GMs think they're better than player's performance patterns, they very rarely, if ever, find success.

Melnyk had every right to ask his stars to start scoring but he might have also asked GM Bryan Murray to step his GM game up, too.


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