Frozen Vulcan: Senator Kovalev

Posted by Ottawa Sports Guy3 CommentsJul 07, 2009

Kovalev: A move that doesnt inspire much confidence in the GM

Question: right from the beginning of Sens training camp last season, what was the team’s glaring weakness as stated by those in the know?

Answer: a puck-moving defenceman.

Time and time we were told that the Senators could not get the offence going because as soon as the puck was played deep into their end, opponents pressured its nervous and granite-handed defencemen into turning it over. Without the ability to get the puck out of the zone the forwards were forced to retreat deeper and deeper in order to lend a hand, leaving them wide open to neutral zone turnovers. Even to this layman’s eyes, the lack of a sure-handed offensive defenceman was more than obvious.

Apparently, Senators GM Bryan Murray disagrees.

Murray’s answer to this dilemna is to sign an aging right-winger who’s being run out of town by his former coach and GM for lack of effort. This from a team in the midst of a saga involving a disgruntled superstar upset that his new coach expects an equal effort at both ends of the ice, game in and game out. Take a look at this quote and try and determine who the subject might be:

“The reason we took him off the line was, he wasn’t giving that line any forechecking,” (team’s) coach said. “I think (he) can skate a little quicker than he has been. He’s just got to give us a little bit more away from the puck, do a little bit more forechecking and play the body a little bit better.”

That was John Muckler on Alexei Kovalev in 1998. Now what about this one:

“We’re trying to get out of a situation that is not easy, and until we get 20 guys playing, it’ll be tough,” the coach told reporters before adding that he plans to speak to the player regarding his recent troubles.

That was Guy Carboneau commenting on Kovalev’s apparent lack of effort in February of this year. Finally:

“Nothing different (was asked) than from the rest of the team. You want to see consistency in effort, consistency in practice and to play a team game,” said (the coach). “All you have to do is look at the Stanley Cup final to see what can be accomplished when you play as a team.”

That last one was Cory Clouston commenting on the Heatley disgruntlement saga.

It baffles me that Murray would bring in a player with Kovalev’s reputation just as he tries to get rid of a player who would rather play elsewhere than for a coach who demands effort. And on the other side of the coin: what the hell is Kovalev thinking?

Of course I’m excited about the prospect of what Kovalev can bring, that brilliance that he clearly possesses on some nights, but what the Sens needed wasn’t another aloof offensive artist in the Spezza-Kovalev-Heatley mold, it was a puck-moving defenceman.

That need has yet to be met! If the season starts with the same defensive corps it ended with, Sens fans are in for another year of hurt. One can hope that the Heatley “sweepstakes” will yield such a prize, but if the scuttled  deal with Edmonton was any indication, Murray hasn’t identified that need as pressing, or the options available to him are paltry.

I don’t know, but for a guy who came to this team as a head coach, managed to oust the GM in order to replace him, and has now assumed many of the responsibilites of the outgoing president (whose reasons for leaving are still shrouded in mystery), I’d expect something a little more inspired than a two-year deal to for Alexei Kovalev.

3 Responses to "Frozen Vulcan: Senator Kovalev"

  1. Lola says:

    I wish I was more excited about this signing but I have visions of him farting around, not feeling like playing etc etc and the team spinning out of control. Many of Kovalev’s attributes are ones that people accused Emery of having and yet he was considered “poison”.

    I feel mgmt in Ottawa has truly lost the plot.

  2. Steph D says:

    I’m an eternal optimist, but I think some of it is needed to balance out this sea of pessimism.

    First off, you finally got around to the key point at the end of your blog: “the options available to him are paltry”. If not Kovalev, then who? What puck-moving defenseman was available on July 1st? And no, Jay Bo doesn’t count, he signed with Calgary before then, and everyone knew Scott Niedermayer wasn’t leaving Anaheim. Who does that leave out there? Komisarek? Beauchemin? Neither are gifted puck-movers.

    While the need was still an important one, it was improved dramatically last year with the acquisition of Chris Campoli. If Erik Karlssen comes in with anywhere near the talent he’s purported to have, then the Sens will have 2 solid PMDs on the roster.

    Now as far as Kovalev goes, I’ve got my own reservations on how he’ll gel with the team in the room. Some of those comments from Murray, that almost implied Kovi doesn’t have to show up every night, are scary propositions. But I think we’re talking about a player who was fed up playing in that market, without much help from his teammates, and needs a fresh start. Ottawa could be the tonic he needs to get his game back on track. The best part is the 2-year term. So he’ll ride the high of being on a new team in the 1st year, and then be in a contract year in the 2nd. And I have faith in Clouston to be able to keep him in line. He wouldn’t give an inch with Heatley, and shouldn’t have any reservations doing the same with Kovalev.

    Put me down as cautiously optimistic about Kovalev’s prospective season, but very much behind Murray’s decision to sign him.

  3. Devin Parrish says:

    Aki Berg will solve all of the Sens problems. That, I can guarantee.