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Is this where I say I was wrong about Kovalchuk and Lamoriello?

Those of you that drop by here fairly regularly may have heard me comment a few times in the past with regard to the Devils acquiring—and then re-signing—Ilya Kovalchuk a couple of years ago.  It has always struck me that he was not a “Devils” kind of player.  He came to his new team with a deserved reputation as a coach-killer, a guy who went his own way and basically refused to commit to his defensive responsibilities.

(That all said, I loved watching Kovalchuk as a Thrasher over the years.  On those not-very-good teams, he stood out with his high-end talent, great shot and nose for the net.  He was a delight to see in action, if you didn’t care about the outcome from a team perspective.  It could be argued, of course, that he was simply doing what he did best, and it wasn’t his fault the rest of the team did not do their jobs better in Atlanta...)

In any event, as talented a player as he was/is, I thought it was the wrong thing to do to pay a guy that much money on a long-term deal.  I don’t like any of these 10-year deals.  Virtually no athlete is going to be worth, in 7 years, say, what he might be worth at his prime.   (Even in baseball, where there is no “cap”, I think it’s madness for teams to pay players like Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols the kind of money they received this past winter.  I mean, even if we accept that sports is what it is, and that it’s a given that athletes make absurd amounts of money....then if you're going to get crazy, over-pay them for four years, tops.  Why do teams want a guy on the payroll 10 years from now—and still be paying him 20 million a year when he clearly won’t be worth it?)

So, I figured, and said so often here, that Lamoriello was wrong, and would regret his error in signing Kovalchuk the way he did.  After the last two springs, when the Devils were not really serious Cup hopefuls, I felt pretty smug about my comments.  And I thought they weren’t going to be much this season.  I mean, c’mon.  Brodeur was 50 (or seemingly close to it), right?  I couldn’t name three of their defensemen.   Elias was almost as old as Brodeur.  They had another new coach (Lou goes through a lot of them…).  I just couldn’t see anything going right for this team in the near future.

Eight months later, it sure looks like my "predictions" were wrong—very wrong.

Now, for me to completely acknowledge the error of my ways, the Devils will have to conclude their mission—beat the Kings and win a Stanley Cup.  But regardless, I should at least concede that Lamoriello, a Hall-of-Fame NHL executive, may just know a bit more than me about how he should build his hockey team.

So here we are:  Brodeur is still not bad.  Some young forwards have blossomed nicely.  Parise is outstanding.  Their defense is better than anyone thought it would be.  Under DeBoer, the Devils don’t trap the way they used to, though they remain hard to play against.  And Kovalchuk is a better, more mature and more well-rounded player now than he ever was before. 

Is that age?  Playing with a good team?  Is it DeBoer?

I don’t know and don’t much care.  But who would have thought Kovalchuk, playing through injuries,  had any leadership qualities about him at all.  Nonetheless, he seems to have some, eh?

I wonder, too, if his Russian national team winning gold at the recent World Championships has given him an extra bit of incentive—not that guys need much extra incentive when they are playing for a Stanley Cup.  But it’s a big deal, a very big deal, for European teams to win a World Championship in hockey.  That Russia did it so convincingly this year without him must have stung a bit, though he would likely never admit that.

But he has something in front of him, in our part of the world,  that is just as big, or bigger—a Stanley Cup.  This is the closest he’s ever gotten. He, his coach, his teammates—and Lamoriello—deserve credit.

So I’ll say it:  while the deal won’t make sense for me in five years, I was wrong. 

I said it.


  1. Your second-to-last line saved the thought. The issue was never Kovalchuk's talent and his ability to improve a team - the deal will look great for the next 5-7 years and then after that look so-so and then an issue the rest of the way. The same as all these mega-term deals.

  2. Good on you for owning up! Now if just one of the yammering talking heads, inked stained wretches or radio mike jockeys would just have the common sense that you do Michael and admit that they were wrong by a long shot then their respective media outlets may actually start to build some credibility (they all have a long way to go).

    Well done, you were wrong and you said so.

  3. Thanks Bmaximus- you were gentle in your rebuke!

  4. No reason to be sorry Michael, you looked as the deal as a whole, which it is. Sure the Leafs were good pre-All-Star game but we all saw how that turned out. I'm sure the Kovy deal will look the same way, even if it does bring a Cup, that is 102 million or whatever they paid for it; and that was one guy.

    I hardly think this was a Lou signing either, I'm sure it was a kin to the DiPietro signing by Snow or rather Charles Wang.

  5. Thanks Skill2Envy (and well-said regarding the Leafs this past season)....I think you're absolutely right, the Kovalchuk signing was likely an owner-driven agenda. But I'll credit the Devils with nudging Kovy to play the way he is now, helping the team reach their goals.

  6. I think the real test will be Parise this summer. He is such a huge part of that team if he walks I think NJ will wallow around in mediocrity. Much like the Sundin Leafs: too good to tank and too bad to go deep. Then the untradeable Kovalchuk and goalie-less Devils will start to see the error of their ways, but if it gets them a cup this year they will probably decide it was worth it...for a few years anyway :)
    No way to know whether this deep push encourages Parise to stay or not, I'm just saying he will be a factor in the 'Kovalchuk signing good/bad meter.

  7. I think you're look into the future may well be prophetic, Chris C....but as you say, if the Devils win the Cup this spring, they will no doubt (and perhaps rightly) trumpet the Kovalchuk signing as a major success- even if things go off the rails down the road.

  8. Kovy and Devils was, at the time, the strangest couple imaginable in hockey. His contract was, and still is, something I'd never thought I'd see Lou doing. It had "disaster" spelled all over it. It's still going to burden the organization down the line. But Lou wants to win. While the times of team dynasties are pretty much done, Kovy is certainly going to make the Devils more competitive now and in the near future. Should the team win a cup while Kovy's contributing, the deal is worthy of being considered a success.

    Lou knew he was taking a serious gamble when he first traded for Kovy, after that there was no alternative but to give him the deal he wants. From an outside wievpoint, it was bordering on the insane. But as things stand, LL has every right to feel smug. If the Devils go on to win the Cup, Kovy's deal won't look bad at all. And even if they won't win it, it sure looks like Lou did it because he wants his franchise to be a winner, not just a well-run business.

    And I'll tip my hat to that.

  9. You've hit the nail on the head, CGLN. The deal seemed to make little or no sense, but if they win, well, what can you say except it helped the Devils become champions again.