Kovalchuk’s Numbers: As we all know, Ilya Kovalchuk played most of the season in Atlanta before coming to NJ on Feb 4th. In 49 games played in Atlanta he had 31 goals and 27 assists. In the 27 games he appeared in for NJ, he had 10 goals and 17 assists. In the series against the Flyers, Kovalchuk has 2 goals and 4 assists.
My Thoughts: Kovalchuk certainly got his fair share of critism during his time in NJ this season. When a guy of his talents only scores 10 goals for his new team combined with an early exit from the postseason, the critics are certainly going to show up. In my view the critism thrown his way was a little unfair.
Reason #1 – If you look at his numbers, he was basically a point-a-game type of player after his arrival. Sure, we’d all love to see that translated into the goal column but I personally don’t care if you are putting the pucks in the net or creating oppurtunities for your teammates to do so, the bottom line is that he was contributing to his team.
Reason #2 – If you have ever played the game of hockey (or any sport really) you know how important chemistry is when it comes to success. Kovalchuk was never allowed to really find chemistry because of Lemaire’s constant line shuffling.
Reason #3 – I don’t care who you are, whenever you switch teams there is a learning period where your production numbers may go down. The Devils play a different game than Atlanta so Kocalchuk had to learn a whole new system, learn to play with new guys and off the ice he was away from a certain comfort he had come to know playing in Atlanta…home!!
Kovalchuk’s Future: We don’t know what it holds. He will certainly be the most sought after guy on July 1st and Lou has promised to do everything he can to try and keep him. I would certainly like to keep him and find a place for him on this team where he scores 50 goals a season, which he is capable of doing but at the same time, I don’t want to be a team whos only threat consists of him because we overpaid for his services and can’t afford to give him the support he needs.