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Kovalchuk deal a disaster for Lou Lamoriello and the Devils

Well, the Devils are out early again. Almost every year, the playoffs prove there are simply no guarantees. Especially in the first round, upsets will happen and I’m not even sure how big an upset this is. Philly, on paper, couldn’t match up in goal, but they obviously out-performed New Jersey.

Back in early February, I posted the following comment after the Devils traded for superstar winger Ilya Kovalchuk:

I can’t understand why the Devils, of all teams, made this move. I can’t imagine the Devils keeping Kovalchuk long-term, and I just don’t see them getting out of the Eastern conference. If this is a rental, they gave up quite a bit of their future.

In that deal, the Devils did give up a lot. Most analysts suggested New Jersey didn’t, but I’ve written consistently that I liked what Atlanta did with that move. They acquired a solid defenseman (Oduya) along with a good young rookie and former first round choice (Bergfors), who should both be strong players for years in Atlanta. In addition, the Devils gave another recent number one (Patrice Cormier) and their number one selection this coming summer. That’s three number one picks and a good defenseman for Kovalchuk.

Now, the Devils are in an awkward position. They are no longer the deep organization they once were. They are some years removed from their most recent Cup success. (Not exactly like the Leafs and 1967, I acknowledge, but...) They may be moving backwards.

They also may have to over-spend to keep Kovalchuk in order to rationalize that they didn’t just throw away four good assets for nothing. If that happens, they’ll have precious little left to spend on other much-needed upgrades.

If they lose him to free agency, then they really have given away four valuable pieces. And they didn’t even get out of the first round. They won one playoff game.

They “went for it”, and I guess you can applaud them for that. But I thought it was out of character from the get-go to get a one-way player like Kovalchuk, when Lemaire is your coach.

Lou Lamoriello is a hockey genius, but this is a deal that, if New Jersey had any fans, their fans would be talking about for years.


  1. Couldn't agree more. I thought it was a lot to give up for a rental, even if they made a conference final or something. Now... it could set them back quite a bit.

  2. Ilya Kovalchuk was not to blame for this latest Devil early exit. He still shined despite the team wilting in five games.

    The same problem that has nagged this team's post-season performance got them again in 2010. That problem is the lack of having strong enough defensemen that can clear out bodies and the puck when the team absolutely needs to have it happen. Scott Stevens was a once in a lifetime player and replacing him is much harder

    There was not a single Devil fan that talked about the trade being negative for New Jersey. The Devils grossly overpaid for Oduya in the off-season at $3m/yr. Oduya had 13 points in 67 games this season and is not very good at tying up men in front. No one was sad to see him go.

    Patrice Cormier was a second-round pick not a first. After his vicious head shot and season-ending suspension from the QMJHL, he may never see NHL ice.

    Bergfors has some talent and should average 50-60 pts per season. It is a loss, but one that can be replaced.

    The 2010 First-Round Pick is an unkown and one that could certainly haunt the Devils or could be a bust.

    The Devils did acquire Atlanta's 2nd-round pick (No. 38) in the 2010 Entry Draft and D Anssi Salmela in the deal.

    But all that being said, the Devils have never had a player that can make you get up out of your seat like Ilya Kovalchuk. If he does not come back, he will be more sorely missed than any player Lou gave up to get him. If he stays, well then I think Lou will find the right touch to find the right defensemen to help him and hopefully the Devils can shake their new San Jose East label.

    New Jersey Devils fans are spoiled by the success of the last two decades, but to see a guy skate and move like Kovalchuk in our sweater was something I will not soon forget. Winning another Cup would be great, but the sense of urgency just is not there.

    But, what do I know, I am just the lone New Jersey fan among the 17,000 at our rink this evening.

  3. Thanks for the correction re Cormier. You're absolutely right, he was a second-round choice.

    As you mention about the upcoming draft, there is no guarantee any of these young guys will "make it" or have an impact. But there is no reason to believe Cotmier can't play at the next level. I don't sense the suspension will alter that. Downie came off a suspension in junior and is now an impact player with the Lightning.

    As I've posted before, I'm a big Kovalchuk fan, in terms of just watching him play. A tremendous talent, for sure. I just didn't and don't like the deal for new Jersey, particularly if he walks in free agency.

    Lou "went for it" as I mentioned, and hey, sometimes those deals can work big-time. I was just reiterating my opinion about the deal. That's part of the fun and back-and-forth dialogue on a blog such as this one. Here, we mostly comment on the old days, but I sometimes talk about current hockey and this was one of those instances.

    Others have also written (and we didn't post their comments because of the language used and the gratuitous and unnecessary name-calling) taken me to task for my comment about my comment "if New Jersey had fans..." or words to that effect. My comment with regards to New Jersey fans was not intended to be a “knock” on Devils fans, more my disappointment that the team doesn’t seem to attract more fans despite its success and great new building. Everyone in the hockey world recognizes (including me) what a great franchise New Jersey has been, and what a tremendous GM Lamoriello has been. (I don't always like how he deals with coaches, but that's a discussion for another day.)

    Brodeur could have left years ago for bigger money, obviously, but has been loyal to Lamoriello and the organization. That's to be applauded. The Leafs could only wish to model the success New Jersey has earned.