According to “Le Journal de Montreal” there is a rumor that forward Alexei Kovalev may become the new leader of the Montreal Canadiens. We all know that Montreal is an incredibly fierce hockey market and that the media drops a word in on just about any and every subject that could possibly revolve around the team, so it’s no surprise this rumor got some attention. It is, however, just a rumor for now. But for the sake of argument I think it’s worth looking at what could hapen if this hypothetical situation were to turn out to be a reality, what positive or negative aspects could this bring to the Habs and is Alex Kovalev worthy of the big “C”?
To begin we’ll take a little trip down short-term-memory lane and look at what might have been… Vincent Lecavalier. This drew much attention during the all-star break, so much attention that in the eyes of some sports fans, this was the time when the ship that is the Montreal Canadiens sailed south, down into the standings, losing their last 5 regular season games and making the playoffs by default (Panthers loss), only to be swept in the first round and completely outclassed by the Boston Bruins. Montreal had good reasons to get Lecavalier, one of the main ones being that they could possibly get a star french Canadian that could represent the team on and off the ice as well as be the eventual successor to Saku Koivu.Sure Montreal put up some good hockey players to get him, but it would at least have made an interesting trade. The media of course, got so interested in this that they forgot that the team on the ice was starting to fall apart and before they knew it the habs were on the brink of missing the playoffs. It seems as though the Montreal media, the same people who hyped this “centenaire” all year saying that it was THE year for the habs to hoist their 25th cup, should also be credited with the team’s downfall. There is also a coach firing, and a few players that may have been a little steamed at the team that wanted to trade them away for a star player, but with their play, something was bound to give sooner or later… So as we were saying, Montreal was willing to give up so much just for a single french Canadian, and all of the sudden they chose another European to wear the “C”? Why the sudden change of heart?
Could it be because the defending Stanley cup champions, the Detroit Red Wings, have a European born captain? Perhaps… then again maybe not.
So what would push Montreal to make a move like this? I believe there are a few reasons :
1. Saku Koivu has been a great player and a heroic battler over the years, even overcoming such odds as beating cancer. He’s worked hard to be great on the ice and is never resting off the ice, always taking time for all kinds of charities and events, a true gentleman, class all the way. Unfortunately Koivu’s downfall may be that he has never successfully led his team through playoff rounds. Montreal has had some success, but come spring their efforts have always seemed to come up short, even when they were outright favorites. The Habs may be wanting to change that, the league is young and fast and Koivu is no spring chicken, neither is Kovalev, but as we saw with Carboneau’s firing, Montreal seems ready to change, and sometimes a change is needed to move to another level. Montreal might think that a few inner team changes such as this might wake them up enough for a solid season.
2. Why not put your leading scorer? Kovalev is arguably the most offensively skilled player on the Habs squad, and Vancouver already has the “goalie as a captain” thing going so Carey Price is out of the picture. Alex has also been Montreal’s best scorer the last few seasons. Jaromir Jagr was given the “C” in New York, it could work for the Canadiens… right?
3. Although Kovalev is always an offensive threat, he is not what you’d call a team player. He isn’t reliable defensively, he shows no effort in back checking, he coasts most of he time, even while on offense, he even goes as far as faking injury or giving up on plays. This is his biggest flaw, heart. So much talent is wasted every game HE choses not to play. You can be inconsistent but he is more than just inconsistent, he just doesn’t always want to play. Shockingly, this may be a good reason to promote him to captain! Think about it : what would put enough pressure on a player to have to care whether his team wins or loses, who has to support the team and his teammates even when the chips are down, it would have to be Alex Kovalev’s responsibility to play, hard, and win. This could bring effort and passion from a player badly in need of a morale boost.
Here’s an example of Kovalev’s negative impact on the Habs, causing a loss to the Bruins in the playoffs…
As I mentioned above, Kovalev’s bid flaw is in his character, and that’s something you cant buy, and it isn’t something you can work on in practice, and it isn’t something you can work on in the gym. It is either in you, or brought out of you. If this rumor is at all true, lets hope the media in Montreal can put a positive spin on it, and who knows, maybe the Habs century season (2009) truly isn’t over yet. Remember, 2009 is the 100 year mark, next season starts promptly in October, 2009.