So this is what happens when a patient man losses patience!
Bob Gainey, well known for his serenity and calm, looks to have had enough of his team's delinquent on ice displays, and has identified a main culprit, and ordered him to undergo 48 hours of self psychology.
Good call. And overdue.
Alex Kovalev, a player many of us like, want to like, tolerate, and are often frustrated by, has unveiled a similar raw nerve in Gainey, and the reaction was a swift and potentially divisive one.
Still, it had to be done.
The Kovalev problem has become a dynamite keg and Gainey could smell a fuse burning. What he has just done, is drag the explosion into an empty field, where when it goes off, it will cause less damage to the surroundings. A little tinkering has been done to the wiring in hopes that it implodes.
This is hardly how Gainey would choose to proceed with any other player. Then again, Kovalev doesn't operate on the same mental plane as other mere mortals. He thinks, operates, and reacts differently, and this extreme measure, at this extreme point in frustration, is what was deemed by Gainey as the safest way to proceed.
Of course, Kovalev is humiliated, and his pride is hurt. But it is not a moment for Gainey to mince words. His assessment was as direct as he has ever been:
"The team has no need for his services the way he’s playing. He’s tired and not playing with any emotion. He is the kind of player who is judged on production, goals scored, and points. How he gets there is the place where the confusion is. To score and help others score goals, a player has to do many different things to make that happen. The small, mundane, mandatory things to help the team is a harder thing for some players than others."
Twice I have been asked in the last hours, "What are the Canadiens thinking, doing this with their best player?" I have a problem with the wording of this question. I'm not absolute on who the Canadiens best player is this season, but it damn sure isn't Kovalev.
Twice I have been asked in the last hours, "What are the Canadiens thinking, doing this with their best player?"
I have a problem with the wording of this question. I'm not absolute on who the Canadiens best player is this season, but it damn sure isn't Kovalev.
In a solid hockey player, there is no wavering between the conviction of the heart, the committment of the mind, and the will of the gonads backing it all up. Kovalev has been unable to display these traits all at once at any time. He is an individualist in a team game. An on ice abstact artist. An enigma inside a paradox divided by a riddle. Not the best player by any stretch.
As Gainey so succinctly put it, Kovalev the confused, is not a player who can help this team at this particular point in it's struggle. Kovalev has eliminated himself, by his play and possibly his attitude, in being a part of any solution for now and for good. You can bet that not only did Gainey tell him this, but that there was a whole lot more said in equally bracing terms.
In essense, Gainey told him exactly where the bear shits.
So what happens now?
Can Kovalev come back from this?
Will he be traded?
Can he be traded?
How would the team react if he comes back?
The answers to these swirling turbulant questions, Gainey says, will be answered in part by the weekend.
I can't see it that soon.
Unless there is much more sewage under the bridge than we know.
There have been two completely unconfirmed details that may or may not come into play at this flashpoint. One, is that Gainey has been attempting to deal Kovalev for two weeks now, with no apparent suitors. The other is a speculated contract stipulation that Kovalev has a no trade clause for the Western Conference. Yikes!
As I see it, Gainey may be forced to either allow Kovalev all the reflexion time he can if the team starts winning without him, or have him back in the lineup as soon as Saturday if it doesn't.
Either eventuality would not be surprising.
If the Western Conference clause is true, and Gainey is unlikely to trade him to any possible playoff team in contention, what use do Atlanta, Tampa, the Islanders, the Leafs or the Senators have for Kovalev?
If he returns to the team with this whole embarrassing episode swept under a rug, the problem won't disappear. I suspect that many players on the team, despite what they publicly state, are applauding this move. I can't imagine that with a season on the line that they can turn the other cheek at this point.
If Gainey is set on getting rid of Kovalev, we might be witness to a trade similar to the one in which Vesa Toskala was traded to Toronto two years ago. In that deal, it was quite plain, that if the Leafs wanted Toskala, they had to take on the Mark Bell burden.
So I see something like Bob calling Long Island and saying, "Look, I need a place to bury Kovalev for 28 games. He likes the New York area. He's clicked with Mark Streit in the past. If you take him, I'll throw in Kyle Chipchura if you send us a second rounder in 09."
That could well be the best proposition he gets.
There was an opinion that as All Star Game MVP, Kovalev had some markee value in places. I gather with the way things explode out of Montreal that such a window of opportunity has passed.
Gainey, if Kovalev fails to fix his own head, could always send him home for good, salary paid in full.
That's quite a wound to lick.
He mostly surely has the option of informing Kovalev that he will play him right up to the trade deadline, and that he will be playing for his next contract with another franchise in that span. Such a thought may motivate both Kovalev and a potential suitor into seeing a fit somewhere.
That might be the most sensible short term solution.
In either of all these eventualities, as far as Kovalev in Montreal goes, you can stick a fork in his butt and turn him over - he's done!