Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.
Too much money. Too many years. Questionable commitment to defense on a team that historically leans on it big-time. Only making the playoffs with the Thrashers once in nearly a decade. That kind of thing.
But no mention whatsoever was made of the fact that Kovalchuk burns through coaches like few others in the league seem to do. He went through three different bench bosses in the first two years he was with Atlanta, and had another one before he finally got traded to New Jersey.
Hell, John MacLean is already his second coach there in something like 30 games.
Or maybe people just didn't think it'd be a problem. After all, Lou Lamoriello goes through coaches like, well, Ilya Kovalchuk does. Since 2001, there have been 10 coaching changes in Jersey, including Larry Robinson and Lou himself each getting two turns behind the bench.
The argument could be made that Kovalchuk is an un-coachable player, on a team that is likewise resistant to stability behind the bench. If Lou is as hard to please as his hiring-and-firing record says he is, then sure, MacLean's holding onto his job - and perhaps the Devils dressing room - with a grasp that's tenuous at best.
(Coming Up: The Blackhawks miss their meat; Ron MacLean off base on Rick Rypien(notes); Rene Bourque's(notes) on fire; another shorthanded beauty from Eberle; Carey Price(notes) continues to silence critics; John-Michael Liles(notes) might make history; Datsyuk's dramatics; Sean Avery's(notes) manliness is criticized; Scott Harntell cuts his mane; Semin on English; more Dan Ellis(notes) problems; and is this the worst trade ever proposed on the HF Boards?)
And really, what was MacLean ever going to do to Kovalchuk? Make him a healthy scratch until he starts taking shorter shifts and getting in the way of shots? At times you have to simply accept that this is, was and always will be the kind of player you're dealing with. You can call him one-dimensional, but he's so good in that one dimension that he's still one of the most valuable players in the league.
Look at Alex Ovechkin(notes) (and I know he's slightly better in his own end than Kovalchuk for the simple fact that he ventures into it occasionally, but bear with me). He plays crazy minutes most nights, takes long shifts, plays a bit too recklessly at times and probably shoots more often than he should. Yet Bruce Boudreau would never, and could never, deign to bench him unless he did something particularly terrible away from the rink. And even then probably he'd only sit out a period.
There are some guys that are frankly above being a healthy scratch, no matter how poorly they play or what they do wrong in the coach's eyes. Clearly, benching Kovy did nothing to spark the team. It's fairly troubling, at least from the outside, that MacLean refuses to tell even the other players what Kovalchuk did to earn a seat in the press box for Saturday's
6-0 6-1 drubbing. That can't be the way to handle the situation, right?
The Devils' problems so far this season have extended far beyond Ilya Kovalchuk, obviously. And even if they didn't, what's MacLean going to do instead? He can't keep scratching one of the highest-paid players in the league, the one that sunk the team into this salary cap hell. And he can't, in his mind, let Kovalchuk keep behaving... well, however he was behaving.
So he's at an impasse, like so many of Kovalchuk and Lou's coaches before him. Nothing he can do at this point, aside from pulling six or seven wins out of thin air over the next two weeks and letting Ilya call his own shots, is going to keep him behind that bench.
Might as well start packin' up the office now then.
What We Learned
Anaheim Ducks: Prior to Saturday's thumping at the hands of Detroit, Randy Carlyle said he believed Lubomir Visnovsky(notes), at 25-27 minutes a night, was playing too much. By reining him, Carlyle thought might be able to shore up the team defense a bit. So he only played 21 that night. Ask Henrik Zetterberg(notes) how it all worked out.
Atlanta Thrashers: Opponents are really going after Alexander Burmistrov. It got so bad against Tampa that his entire line ended up in the penalty box for trying to protect him. Steve Downie(notes) has that effect on people though.
Boston Bruins: On Saturday, the Rangers scored on Tuukka Rask(notes) twice in 27 seconds, both on deflections. Said the Bruins' apparent backup, "You haven't played in two weeks, then that happens, you're like, holy [expletive]." Holy [expletive] indeed.
Buffalo Sabres: The Sabres have outscored opponents 15-7 in just four games on the road, the most recent being Saturday's 6-1 bombing of a Kovalchukless New Jersey. But at home? They're getting outscored 17-9 in five games and have yet to win a game there.
Calgary Flames: Yeah, Rene Bourque had a hat trick Friday against Columbus, but lookit how all those goals came about.
The Blue Jackets are just awful.
Carolina Hurricanes: Sergei Samsonov(notes) returned to the 'Canes lineup on Saturday against Phoenix. He missed the first two games with a strained neck, then played two more until taking a stick in the face and missing another. So, in what way will he get injured in his next game? My guess is owl attack.
Chicago Blackhawks: The 'Hawks have now dropped two straight, losing to St. Louis and Columbus on back-to-back nights, the latter at home. They also only scored four goals across the 120 minutes, prompting Joel Quenneville to remark, "We left some meat on the table." If only they hadn't traded Dustin Byfuglien(notes).
Columbus Blue Jackets: Columbus prospect Will Weber, currently playing at the University of Miami, was badly injured on Saturday when an opponent's skate cut his neck. "[T]he opponent's skate blade cut Weber on the left side of his neck just below the jawbone from his chin to his ear." Yikes. At last check he was in stable condition.
Dallas Stars: Even though they lost to Nashville and were handed just their second loss of the season, the Stars were pretty happy with getting shut out. Marc Crawford said, "We had six or seven 'Grade A' chances and just couldn't cash in," as though that's a positive.
Florida Panthers: The Florida Panthers retired their first number ever on Saturday night. No. 93 will hang in the rafters forever in honor of... Bill Torrey? Okay sure whatever. He deserves it. After building those... Islander... teams. Yup.
Los Angeles Kings: Proof that you can turn anything into a competition: The Kings and Avs each vowed to donate a dollar to breast cancer research for every tweet containing "#GOKINGS" or "#GOAVS "that was sent out during Saturday's game. "Kings won the competition against the Colorado Avalanche by a margin of 29,374 to 13,876," Rich Hammond wrote.
Minnesota Wild: Cliff Fletcher says he's happy with the team's progress this season. Where, I guess, "progress" means being sub-.500 because at least they haven't lost six of their first seven like they did last season.
Nashville Predators: The Predators were supposed to give the Nashville Metro Sports Authority some documentation on the team's net worth on July 1. They haven't done that yet though. They're also trying to refinance a $75 million loan. Hockey in Nashville: it's TOTALLY working!
New Jersey Devils: Johan Hedberg(notes) made his debut for the Devs this season, and only lasted 28:17 because he gave up four goals on 15 shots. Fans were making mock cheers every time he played the puck without letting it end up in the net. This was in a home game.
Lookit the hard work on that first goal. Beautiful.
New York Rangers: Sean Avery can't win. He's either a coward because he doesn't stand up for his teammates, and when he does he's still derisively criticized for his manliness.
Best part is the "NOT!" by Andy Brickley.
Ottawa Senators: Bad news for the Sens as they continue to struggle: Jason Spezza(notes) will now stay out of the lineup with a groin injury until he's back to 100 percent, but that might be in a game or two.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Yeah, sure, Sid Crosby's probably the Pens' MVP and will be forever, but how about Kris Letang(notes) having eight points and playing out of his mind defensively? Kid's been very, very good.
San Jose Sharks: Todd McLellan, not a happy man after being shut out against Calgary. "In the first period, there probably could've been two pucks on the ice and we wouldn't have had either of them." Please tell us more about this new and exciting way to lose.
St. Louis Blues: A fun fact: the Blues have won 10 straight in St. Louis. I can't believe it either. And why? Well have a look at this first shift in OT. Once the puck goes into the attacking zone, it never comes out.
That's impressive stuff right there.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Prior to last night's game against the Preds, the Lightning's first this year, Dan Ellis said he wasn't looking for revenge in his start. However, his plot against escrow is nearing completion.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Maple Leafs Hotstove writes, "You have to wonder if the Leafs got a bit ahead of themselves after the 4-0 start." Nope. You don't. They, and the rest of the Toronto media and fans, definitely, certainly, absolutely did. For sure. They've gotten one point from three games since.
Washington Capitals: Not unlike Ichiro, Alex Semin makes a big thing out of not understanding English when everyone knows he does. Witness this instance of him responding to a question before it's translated for him.
Gold Star Award
Rene Bourque played two games and scored five goals this weekend. Calgary won both of them. Gotta figure that's not a coincidence.
Minus of the Weekend
You don't normally see an edition of Coach's Corner where Ron is the one making the asinine comments, but here he is blaming the media for the Rypien incident.
Even Cherry doesn't know what the hell he's talking about.
Play of the Weekend
Perfect HFBoards trade proposal of the week
User "thadd" is bringing the heat.
Thomas - (Must waive NTC)
Fleury - (Must waive his NTC)
Savard- (Must waive his NTC)
Bruins 2011 first rounder
Edmonton's 2011 first rounder
This might be the all-time worst anyone ever came up with. And that's saying something.
Yeah yeah, I love Grimby. Can I have another bumper sticker, dude?