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The Kovalchuk deal keeps on costing the Devils; Optimism or pessimism about the Leafs?

Whether the decision is fair or appropriate by the NHL to penalize the Devils, (and that should be debated) what is clear is this:  The Kovalchuk trade, and subsequent re-signing in free agency, continues to cost the Devils.

As I’ve posted previously, I love watching Kovalchuk play.  He made a struggling Atlanta team worth watching many nights over the past several seasons.  He brings an attitude to the rink which helps make him an elite talent.  But I’m not sure he was—or is—the best fit for the Devils.

The trade cost them some young talent to begin with—Bergfors, Cormier, Oduya and a number one— and now two more draft choices will be gone over the next few years, including another first-rounder.

 Now, in and of itself, losing those two “penalty” draft choices over a period of years is not necessarily significant.  But given what they have already given up, how much they will have to actually pay him and what they will now have to shed in salary, the cost for Kovalchuk, in the end, will be very high. (What kind of trades will Lou be able to make now, when other GM’s know he has to move players?  These signing and arbitration delays have caused organizational uncertainty and valuable ‘lost’ time.  That can’t be good for the Devils, either.)

My concern from the beginning, from a New Jersey perspective, is that Kovalchuk is a wonderful talent but not likely the right fit for the Devil system of play.  Not that you can't mix in high-end forwards—who doesn’t want that— but is he the “right” talent for that mix?  And especially now, with a new, if very capable, first-year coach?

I admire what Lamoriello has done over the years.  I’m not a fan of how he has moved coaches in and out, but he has built a team that contends virtually every year.  That’s not easy to do in that market, competing with the Rangers, but he has outpaced them by a wide margin, and has more Cups to show for it.

The Devils are still a good team, despite losing Stevens to retirement and top performers to free agency over the years.

I just wonder if, with Martin Brodeur surely nearing the end of his outstanding career, will the price paid for Kovalchuk—now and in the future— simply be too much?


I heard a radio commentator today address the how he sees the Leafs doing this season, and he made a simple statement that is hard to argue with.  He indicated that he sees little reason for pessimism, but little reason for optimism, either.  He suggested that building hope based on the team’s “improved” performance over the last few weeks of last season may not be merited.

 I certainly agree that late-season splurges by a team out of the playoffs is rarely a sign of things to come.  On occasion, history tells us this can happen (I remember when Eric Lindros was very young with the Flyers…they were out of the playoffs but finished the season strong, and they were a contending team for years after…)  But I’m not suggesting that will happen for the Leafs.

When I’m feeling hopeful, I’m more focused on having two capable goalies for an entire season, and a core of veteran defenseman who should, in theory, play better this year than they did last season— if they simply play to their careers “norms.”  Throw in emerging youngsters Gunnarsson and Schenn and they may just be OK on the back end.

We all know how things unfold up front is a different story.  Not enough “top-six” forwards, lots of guys fighting for “bottom-six” spots.  But let’s see how things play out.  Training camp hasn’t even started yet.

1 comment:

  1. This team will be really fun to watch and I think compete far more intensely at every position than we've seen in a long time.

    If they can have a real good start to the year than anything can happen. This team for sure, over the past 3-4 years at least, has the greatest potential but also is young enough to run into prolonged issues. They could really go either way and I think that's why people are having a tough time predicting their fate.