Is it too early to declare the Ilya Kovalchuk era in New Jersey an unmitigated disaster? Probably but I’m calling it anyway.
Kovy is the Devils’ worst signing. Ever.
It’s hard to fit a square peg into a round hole. It’s even harder to fit a cherry picker – I mean freelancer – into a team system. And that shootout whiff Wednesday night was the proverbial nail in the Devils’ early season coffin.
The end is near.
But will it be the coach or the general manager who pays the price? I suspect it’ll be the former but it really should be the latter. After all, Lou Lamoriello is the guy – regardless of all those rumors that his owner made him do it – who’s on the hook for that deal.
Just think of the price that Lou and the Devils paid for the luxury of Kovalchuk’s services. The rental cost was Niclas Bergfors, Johnny Oduya, Patrice Cormier and a first-round draft pick. And yes, Bergfors continues to outperform Kovy on the stat sheet.
Then we had a summer of drama with one rejected contract followed by a 15-year, $100 million deal. There’s no parole from that sentence. And who can forget the sanctions that went with that rejected deal? A first-round pick, a third-rounder and a $3 million fine.
So, what do the Devils have to show for their decisions? Three goals and eight points in 15 games for the talented one. A tie with the pathetic Islanders and Oilers for last overall in a 30-team NHL. And no cap flexibility for at least a decade.
Oh ya – there’s also that lovely game where they were forced to roll a 15-man lineup because of cap mis-management.
I’m still hoping – no, praying – that I’m wrong. And that the disaster zone in Newark will soon be lifted. One of my fantasy teams depends on it.
Let’s see who caught my eye this week.
Bryan Allen, D, Florida (1 percent owned) – The calendar turned to November and Allen became a new man. It was almost a Clark Kent to Superman transformation – no points in his first nine games and then five in his next four. I can’t see this lasting – he’s 30 and better known for his bruising than his scoring. But this former fourth-overall draft pick could provide some short-term help for your blue line, particularly if you’re willing to take high-risk chances on the waiver wire.
Artem Anisimov, C, NY Rangers (13 percent owned) – I played a draft-day hunch on this guy in one of my keeper leagues and snagged him cheap. But I doubted his effectiveness in single-year leagues, at least for this season. I shouldn’t have, at least based on what he’s done so far. His two goals Thursday night not only earned him the game’s first star but also gave him 13 points in 16 games. He’s no Anze Kopitar but heading into play Thursday night, he had the same number of points and more power-play points as the talented King. He’s sorely underrated right now.
Danny Cleary, RW, Detroit (8 percent owned) – Lard tunderin – My favorite NHL Newf is at ‘er again. His two snipes Thursday night stretched his goal-scoring streak to four games (five goals) and his point streak to six (nine points). He’s re-establishing himself after last year’s disappointing stanza and it’s clear he still has that quick wrister and dogged determination. Ride him while he’s streaking. Just bear in mind that this will be a short ride – he’s 32 and he’s played a full season just once in his career.
Alexander Edler, D, Vancouver (70 percent owned) – I don’t get it. Heading into action Thursday night, Edler was owned in just seven of every 10 leagues. But he was sitting tied for 12th in the league in scoring from the blue line. And he’s rounding into a No. 1 defender – go figure. I doubted him last year, too. And there’s still a part of me that thinks he’s just another 40-point guy. But right now, he’s someone who should be rostered in every single Yahoo! league. Check your wire to see if your league is among the 30 percent that have been sleeping on this guy.
Kurtis Foster, D, Edmonton (36 percent owned) – I’ll admit it – I wasn’t a believer even after his 42-point effort last season. Sure, he has one of the hardest slap shots in the league but it’s not exactly accurate. But for all the time I’ve spent waiting for the bottom to fall out his game it hasn’t. His power-play assist Thursday night stretched his point streak to four games and four points; three of those points have come with the man advantage. The Oil will be erratic which means his plus-minus will take a beating. But his output won’t be far behind fellow Oilers’ defender Ryan Whitney (80 percent owned) and he’ll come a whole lot cheaper.
Michael Frolik, RW, Florida (13 percent owned) – Frolik slipped under the radar for most of us on draft day – coming off an underwhelming sophomore season and playing on a really bad team will do that for a guy. And his first seven games (two assists) only served to reinforce that thought. But five games ago, he potted his first goal of the season and he hasn’t stopped. He’s on a five-game scoring streak, including goals in three straight and eight points total, and that was good enough to put him squarely into top spot on the Yahoo! player rater heading into action Thursday night. He’s still on that bad team but this former top-10 draft pick looks like he’s finally adding consistency to his arsenal of elite vision, great hands and defensive diligence. Get him on your roster.
Johan Hedberg, G, New Jersey (5 percent owned) – Everyone loves Moose – he has a great attitude and he’s extremely affable. He also has some talent, as witnessed by his success in Atlanta last year. Martin Brodeur’s bruised right elbow means Moose is the man in New Jersey right now. And I can’t help but remember that Marty’s last “bruised” elbow turned into a torn ligament. I’m not saying that’s the case this time – the blocker elbow doesn’t take the same torque as the catching one does. But it wouldn’t hurt to pick up Moose on a purely speculative grab. The Devils won’t stay this bad. And starters don’t grow on trees. You can always drop him later if Marty’s elbow really is just bruised.
Cody McLeod, LW, Colorado (4 percent owned) – McLeod cracked the top-20 in PIMs last season but he’s really stepped it up even more this year. He’s firmly in the top-five in sin-bin points with 51 PIMs in just 14 games. He likes to fight; he just doesn’t win many of them (Tuesday’s tilt with Steve Staios aside). But win-or not, fighting majors go a long way to padding your PIM points. He’s rather one dimensional but sometimes that’s all you need.
Dominic Moore, C, Tampa Bay (3 percent owned) – Vincent Lecavalier is hurt. Again. But there’s no faster or smarter guy to step into Vinny’s skates than Mr. Moore. He already has seven points in his first 10 games and has the potential to deliver solid, second-line numbers in the right situation. And this feels pretty right to me. Snag him and pray Simon Gagne gets healthy fast. Those two would be an unbelievable pair.
Mark Recchi, RW, Boston (5 percent owned) – The Recchin’ Ball had an outstanding game Wednesday night (one goal, two assists) and now sits with nine points in 12 games. Sure, he’s on the down side of a Hall of Fame career. And he’s old enough to be Tyler Seguin’s father (Jordan Caron’s, too). But it was just two seasons ago that he tallied 61 points. He won’t have too many games like Wednesday night. But another 45 points with solid power-play production is possible. And that could make him occasionally relevant in deep Yahoo! leagues.
Peter Regin, C, Ottawa (2 percent owned) – The Great Dane was tabbed as a pre-season sleeper but he got off to a sluggish start (three points in 12 games). And that got him dropped by everyone but his relatives and family friends. But he has quietly picked things up with three, two-point efforts in his last four games. I love his smarts and two-way skills. And I’m impressed with his willingness to drive the net. It looks like his breakout just had an early-season delay.
Sergei Samsonov, LW, Carolina (2 percent owned) – Samsonov had his four-game point streak snapped Thursday night in that drubbing by the Flyers. But his six points in those four were as good as any other left winger not named Alexander Ovechkin, Rick Nash or Bobby Ryan over that same span. He actually looks like he’s engaged out there, something that he has struggled with in the past. I like him in the short term but watch for signs of distraction. And dump him when he flips into disinterest. Trust me, it will come.
Back to Kovy.
Don’t get me wrong – I think he’s one of the most impressive goal scorers of this past decade.
But that whiff on Wednesday will be the thing of legends. It the kind of flub that would have earned him the illustrious weenie-of-the-week award in my men’s league. It’d rank right up there with the guy who actually told his us he couldn’t make the following Wednesday’s game because he had to get ready for the Barbara Streisand concert two nights later.
Lie, man. You’ve never lived that down.
And neither will Ilya Kovalchuk.
Until next week.