And Now For Totally Original Breaking News, Ilya Kovalchuk Is Reportedly Looking To Make A Return To The NHL
Look, I understand the fascination that some have regarding the prospective return of Ilya Kovalchuk to New Jersey. I just simply don't agree with it. The sledding has been undeniably tough since he officially decided he was made physically ill by the idea of remaining in America throughout the entirety of the insanely problematic contract that he spent a shitty, never-ending soap opera of a summer negotiating. Maybe watching the Devils continuously fail to ice any sort of consistent offense since their loss in the Stanley Cup Finals has deluded fans into thinking that all you need to create some is a star left winger in his prime (it's preferable if he wears #9, of course) and a 'For Hire' sniper to place alongside him. That must be what has people longing for the addition of an aging mercenary who is on the downside of his career, and - despite having a 'C' stitched above the crest of his jersey - was recently benched during a championship run in an inferior league.
If the underlying message in the previous paragraph somehow went over your head then let me make this one thing perfectly clear; I still harbor resentment for Ilya Kovalchuk. I am man enough to admit that immeasurable spite could be clouding my judgement just as the highlights from the athletic equivalent of an eternity ago could be clouding the judgment of those that think the Devils are one signature away from scooping up a point-per-game workhorse.
I know the timing of his exodus was a blessing in disguise considering the odds of him dying of old age while on the Devils' payroll were equal to that of him actually playing his way off it. I also know there's a strong likelihood that his abrupt departure was premeditated and mutually agreed upon by Lou Lamoriello. Those circumstances, however, didn't soften the blow when the New Jersey Devils' organization had a pretentious, Russian rug pulled out from underneath them on the heels of losing their captain to free agency. Regardless of whether I am forced to root for him again or not, I will never forget the sinking feeling of dejection that overcame me when I discovered the moronic retirement rumor I kept reading about really was true. Kovalchuk's narcissistic need to be the NHL's first 100 million dollar man somehow cost the franchise that offered it to him more than money. It cost them a lottery pick that - ironically enough - could have eased the pain caused by a grown man's "homesickness".
So yeah, excuuuuse me if I am a little reluctant to bend over and spread my proverbial cheeks for a guy who has gotten his and skirted the fuck out of town before. I liken the seducing mental image of Kovy ripping his patented, bar-down snapshot in a Devils jersey to sex with an ex. It's great in theory...until "giving it another try" proves to be a waste of time once you realize things have only changed for the worse. I said I would never again trust a Russian player, and I'll be damned if I am going to change that philosophy for the person whose actions had it implemented.
Now, as often as I have left grudges effect my opinion, I can't sit here and tell you that you one of the most physically gifted hockey players in history has completely run out of gas. He might not be every bit as fit, but he doesn't need an electronic wristlet to be able to count the amount of steps he's lost. The idea that shooting is the most timeless skill was concocted in basketball circles, but it holds true here as well. Ilya Kovalchuk still has a clapper that could add firepower to a struggling power play. He still has the creativity to give even the most dynamic team a scoring boost. He's still guaranteed to inject energy into a hapless building with a celebration that will probably be egregiously overzealous considering it's sure to come following a 2nd period goal during a Wednesday night loss in mid-November.
In essence, what I am saying is that Ilya Kovalchuk is an excellent...wait for it...asset, and that it exactly how he should be treated by an organization that's not going to be competing for anything - with him or without him - until after his transmission (i.e. back) has given out. Ilya Kovalchuk would be a younger, more unlikeable Jaromir Jagr. He would be a half-dedicated, less appreciative Scott Gomez. He would be a mildly productive player on a pretty bad team that serves as nothing more than a distraction to fans that are too goddamn impatient to fully invest in the big picture so they are easily amused by short term value in a vacuum.
You don't rebuild a team - from the ground up, might I add - by taking a a piece of the foundation that proved unreliable in the first place and trying to reuse it 5 years later. This isn't just an indictment on Ilya Kovalchuk's relative worth to a young, inexperienced Devils' locker room. It's an indictment on the relative worth of any and all 34 year old, puck dominant wingers with limited leadership qualities to a young, inexperienced Devils' locker room. Ray Shero has yet to piss away money and opportunity on a player whose role would be to play the dangling set of keys to the babies that can't stop crying about the Devils going through a long-procrastinated down period for the first time in two plus decades. I hope he wouldn't switch his view for someone who fancies staring at himself in the mirror a hobby, because - at this stage of his career - Ilya Kovalchuk can help a winning team win a little more but he's certainly not capable of turning a losing team into a winner.
For comparison's sake, there's a reason a significantly younger defect like Andrei Radulov ended up in Montreal instead of talented-starved Phoenix or Buffalo, and it's not because the vodka is better distilled north of the border. Whatever a vulnerable team like the Devils would stand to gain from watching their season devolve into an outdated retread of the 'The Kovy Show' would easily be outweighed by the stunting of their developmental progress. Bringing aboard a polarizing player from the past is - in no way - a move geared towards creating a more successful future, and that's what New Jersey is ultimately trying to accomplish.
Granted, it's impossible to know whether or not the player/draft pick they could potentially trade him for fits the bill as a long term solution, but I'd be more than willing to find out as opposed to giving up my bad blood for a couple more charitable victories. Especially from a team that's at least two top-4 defensemen away from sniffing the postseason. Kovy might move the needle for some people but he doesn't move the puck from the backend, so - as far as I am concerned - he can take his eroding talents to a franchise that didn't already get hoodwinked into thinking they would be around forever.