Ilya Kovalchuk "Controversy" Easy To Forget, Devils Performance Is Not

levinakl@levinaklCorrespondent IIIOctober 25, 2010

Ilya Kovalchuk and the Devils are searching for answers to turn around their slow start before they begin to wonder where their season went.
Ilya Kovalchuk and the Devils are searching for answers to turn around their slow start before they begin to wonder where their season went.Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

In this world of immediate gratification, sometimes a story can get overblown with all the "buzz" created on sites like Twitter or Facebook, etc. 

Rumor has it that Ilya Kovalchuk missed a mandatory team meeting before a team morning skate on Saturday before a game with the Buffalo Sabres.  As a result of either missing or being late for the meeting, Head Coach John MacLean made Kovalchuk a healthy scratch for the game. 

Granted, the Devils did not help matters by disclosing anything of consequence to the media, but the Devils decided to keep it an internal matter, and called up LW Alexander Vasyunov to play in Kovalchuk's spot.  The Devils played a horrible game on Saturday night, which certainly did not help stifle the story in the slightest.

There was talk he was ruining the team, and that he wasn't a team player.  The fact remains, he missed a meeting and was penalized for it.  Had the Devils disclosed this immediately, there wouldn't have been any issue.  As we all know, General Manager Lou Lamoriello like to keep things "in house," and that's what was done.

Now, the real issue for everyone to begin to take stock with is the fact the Devils have now played nine games of their season, which is over 10 percent of the amount they will play this season.  And, their grand total for goals scored is a whopping 15. 

Yes, 15 goals.  No typo, no April Fool's Joke, with a team comprised of the likes of Zach Parise, Kovalchuk, Travis Zajac, Patrik Elias, Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner, all healthy, and all playing (with the one-game exception for Kovalchuk), they have not been able to muster more than 1.6 goals per game.

Is it time to panic yet? 

No, but it's getting very close to that time. 

A big five-game (six overall, after yesterday's 3-1 loss to the Rangers, leaving five left) West Coast swing starts Wednesday in San Jose, and the Devils must do whatever they need to do to begin to play as a cohesive unit.  There was a ton of turnover and new faces added to the mix this offseason, but enough is enough already. 

The frustration has already set in, it's pretty clear.  Getting on the road and bonding as a team may be just what the doctor ordered.

The Devils need to get themselves some wins, plain and simple. 

Anyone who wants to single out Kovalchuk, John MacLean or Martin Brodeur isn't being accurate.  It's been a complete team breakdown, as players who generally score goals, are not scoring.  They are getting chances, but aren't finishing.  It's causing a snowball effect on the entire team from the forwards on back to the goalies. 

New Jersey needs to put together a full 60-minute effort night in and night out, and the results should begin to take care of themselves.

While it isn't time to panic just yet, a disastrous trip in San Jose, Anaheim, Los Angeles, Vancouver and Chicago would make it time to panic.  Anything below .500 and the Devils will really have to begin to wonder how their season is disappearing seemingly before it even got started.

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