Tuesday Afternoon Grab-Bag: Kovalev Speaks

Found somewhere in the Laurentians instructing a group of adolescents on the finer art of mailing it to prolong a career and play until they’re 50 years of age, Alexei Kovalev has finally appeased Don Brennan and had this to say about the addition of Sergei Gonchar, “I often played with him in the national team and I welcome his presence (on the team). I’ll try to help his acclimation to his new environment.” (Ed. note: Kovalev supporters relax. It’s a joke.)
Speaking of Kovalev, Ken Warren touched upon him in an article for the Ottawa Citizen detailing how Ottawa’s veterans will have to carry this club if they’re to improve upon what was, by most objective standards, a remarkably average team in 2009-10.
Kovalev, always an enigma, has added yet another dimension to the puzzle after a summer rehabilitating a knee injury that kept him out of the playoffs. As a $5-million player, he was a bust in the regular season. Forget about the one three-goal game and the one four-goal game. He had separate goal-scoring droughts of 15, 10 and 12 games, scoring in only 12 of his 77 games. Maybe the motivation of being in the final year of his contract will inspire him.
Or, as tired as the contract year argument may be, the possibility exists that Gonchar can wake up Kovalev. (Ed. note: As an aside, Chris Kelly is the most recent player over at the Senators’ official website who has come out and publicly lauded the signing of the offensive blueliner. I believe the only one who’s left to comment on the situation is Jesse Winchester. Can you tell it’s been a slow summer?)
As I wrote earlier, the difference between a good Kovalev season and a bad one has been his power play output. (Ed. note: At least in recent history.)
Given the circumstances, many will lazily look at Kovalev’s impending unrestricted free agent status and say something along the lines of, “He’s a Russian entering a contract year. Of course he’ll be better this season.”  Looking past his free agent status, a deeper look at Kovalev’s numbers reveal some consistency. In four of the past five seasons, Kovalev has put up a varying 65, 84, 65 and 49 total points. However, in these same seasons he’s produced 32, 35, 31 and 35 even strength points respectively.If the addition of Sergei Gonchar can help return Kovalev to his previous power play point norms, there’s reason to assume that he can turn into the prominent power play specialist that this team needs. And if he doesn’t, whatever. He’s gone at the end of the year anyways and management can use the $5 million in cap savings to improve the team.

With the discussion leaning towards expected point production, it’s only fair to plug Sportsnet’s Chris Nichols latest fantasy hockey column since he spends a significant portion of it covering some Senators players like Kovalev, Erik Karlsson, and Elliott/Leclaire. (Ed. note: Plus he has the added benefit of having a sweet last name.)

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