No, the New Jersey Nets did not somehow swing a deal to land LeBron James. No, they didn’t lure Chris Bosh. No, Chris Paul isn’t coming to play for the Nets either. However, they are keeping one of their own. Well, kinda. The Nets aren’t, but New Jersey is.
Ilya Kovalchuk must be a savior. He must be Sydney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin rolled into one. He must be the player who’s going to make people think of Wayne Gretzky as just a great player.
If there’s anything this summer should have taught us, it’s that the way sports fans and management officials judge greatness and value has changed.
How else to explain what we’ve seen with NBA free agency, and now this absurd contract handed to Ilya Kovalchuk.
Ilya Kovalchuk is an elite talent. Is he an elite player? That’s debatable. He’s clearly a superior goal scorer, but what else is he?
You need more than elite goal scorers to win at the top level of any given sport, ask Argentina’s national soccer team.
Ilya Kovalchuk is 27 years old, and has spent 8 years in the NHL. In those 8 years he’s lost 8 playoff games and won a total of one. Yes, one. No, he hasn’t just been a part of one playoff series victory, but one individual playoff GAME victory.
And this is a guy who’s worth 100 million dollars? A guy you want to tie yourself to for seventeen seasons?
Can Ilya Kovalchuk be an explosive goal scorer and difference maker on a championship team? Well, at present he can. Can he be the “man” and carry a team to the finals and help his squad skate off with Lord Stanely’s tropy? There’s not been any evidence yet to support that.
His supporting casts with the Thrashers weren’t the best in the game. However, they were good enough to do more than fight for their playoff lives at the end of the season only to find themselves on the outside looking in at the conclusion of all but one of Kovalchuk’s seasons (though it is arguable that with Kovalchuk the Thrashers may have been able to sneak into the playoffs last spring).
The Thrashers lost 40 games or more in each of the last two of his full seasons with the club. Back to back seasons of a mere 76 points and 4th place finishes followed up a 2007 division championship.
About those 2007 Thrashers that won their division. That was a roster that was certainly talented enough to make a run in the playoffs. Marian Hossa, Bobby Holik and Scott Melanby, if you recall, were part of that squad. That team lost 11 overtime games. That’s an awful high number for a team with a sniper like Kovalchuk.
Oh yeah, that team also got swept quickly out of the playoffs by the Rangers in an embarrassing manner.
So, again, Kovalchuk is who you want to get yourself in bed with for the next 20 years? That’s who you want to hitch your wagon to?
There are going to be goals in the regular season, some exciting moments, and fun play to watch. But how many wins will their be? How many deep playoff runs?
Not to mention, Kovalchuk can offer that explosive scoring ability at this point in his career, but for how much longer can he provide such goal scoring ability? Remember, he’s already played 8 full seasons, and he’s 27.
So by the time this deal runs out, Kovalchuk will be in year 25 of his career, and be 44 years old.
This isn’t golf. This is the NHL. You know, the sport that ends in June, and starts up again in September. There is no offseason, the regular season is a grueling 82 games. The style of play is rough, and physically taxing. Furthermore, Kovalchuk is a target. He’s an elite goal scorer, and a player other teams gameplan to be physical with, to take him away from his finesse game. At what point does the beating he takes night in and night out start to show up in his athletic ability, and ability to do what he does best on the ice?
Seems like quite a big gamble to me.
But it’s not just the New Jersey Devils taking a huge risk here, Kovalchuk is putting himself out there too. He’s just agreed to spend the next two decades of his life in Newark, New Jersey, playing for a franchise that has fallen from it’s perch as the model NHL franchise. It no longer enters every year as a serious threat to represent the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup Finals. Since the lockout, the franchise has gone from contender, to playoff field filler. And Kovalchuk wants to spend 17 more years there?
I wonder if the Devils and Kovalchuk both know just what they are actually getting into bed with. I also wonder who will be the first to start feeling regret, and what, if anything, can be done about it.
If Kovalchuk and the Devils don’t bring home multiple Stanley Cup titles, and Kovalchuk isn’t consistently among the league’s leaders in goals scored and points, and his name isn’t in MVP discussions, this is a deal that, simply enough, becomes a failure.