There is much to be said about the current state of the New Jersey Devils as it appears the franchise is headed for their first season without a playoff berth in 13 years. With the firing of rookie coach John Maclean just days ago, the lack of defense in front of veteran Martin Brodeur and the team’s new poster boy for it’s misery, Ilya Kovalchuk, the Devils have become the laughingstock of the NHL.
Fans and critics alike have pointed fingers to the contract that was given to Kovy over the summer which will make him a Devil for the rest of his career. The whole “with great power comes great responsibility” spiel has been bestowed on the sniper as his big money contract warrants him to carry the team on offense. While the team spirals out of control it seems most have put the blame on Kovalchuk while ignoring other ridiculous contracts the team has to honor(Brian Rolston anyone?)
Despite being second in scoring on the Devils roster (in both goals and points) the new scapegoat is blamed for just about everything team related. MacLean fired, Kovalchuk. Martin Brodeur letting in more goals than usual, Kovalchuk. Mattias Tedenby food poising, Kovalchuk. As the list of sorrows continues to grow Kovalchuk still does his job and even sticks up for himself.
Flash forward to earlier tonight when he received a possibly dirty elbow from Maple Leafs captain and lover of sloppy seconds Dion Phaneuf. Instead of waiting for someone to step in for him, Kovalchuk dropped the mitts for the second time this year and went toe-to-toe with a player who has been in over 25 career scraps. While the fight wasn’t exactly all hay-makers it showed that a player of Kovy’s magnitude is not afraid to mix things up when his team needs a boost.
Kovalchuk squared off against the likes of Mike Green in the second game of this season and has repeatedly taken on New York Rangers and Dion Phaneuf hater, Sean Avery. What’s more interesting is that his fight marks the ongoing trend of Russian NHL stars using their hands for something other than scoring. Pavel Datsyuk, Evgeni Malkin, and Alexander Ovechkin have all fought this year as have other non-Russians who like to talk about it to HBO while on a road-trip.
While his team continues to lose their edge and just lose in general, Kovalchuk unlike most Devils has actually contributed in most aspects of the game. I’m sure if he was asked to suit up in net he wouldn’t say no. While the backlash continues to rain down on one of the league’s most premier players both professional critics and “those who pay his salary” should be reminded that is only year one of the Kovalchuk era in the Garden State and that it has to get bad before it can get good.
Below is the scrap/man hug of tonight’s game: