If you blinked, you probably would have missed it. To be fair, though, if you kept your eyes open waiting for Ottawa Senator Alex Kovalev to get his game going following the Olympic break, you would have long since fallen asleep before he netted the game-winning goal against the Washington Capitals on Tuesday.
The goal, a deflection on a power-play in overtime, was indeed his first point since February 14. He currently has 48 points on the season, with 18 goals, which is still embarrassingly far from the disappointing 65 (26 goals) he scored last year with the Montreal Canadiens. Is anybody really surprised?
I would suspect Ottawa general manager Bryan Murray isn't, as, and this is just a guess mind you, I'm relatively sure he knew the player he was getting when he signed Kovalev last off-season. I mean, if he is surprised, he sure as hell didn't do his homework then, because this story of Kovalev pulling this incredible magic act of being able to disappear himself, yet remain physically visible at the same time? Very old. And if Murray didn't do his due diligence, then all I can say is that $5,000,000 per year is a lot to give up in this salary-cap era on a name, which is essentially all Kovalev is, an easily recognizable name. I'd also like to point out that it's not $5,000,000 per year, but per half-season, but many might not agree with me on that point, so let me try to convince you:
Remember that night when he scored four goals and five points, this season (January 3, against the Philadelphia Flyers, if you don't)? Seems like ages ago, doesn't it? Now, how about that stretch of 12 games following the Olympics, during which he was held pointless (pointless!) and accrued a +/- rating of -10? Also seems like ages ago, doesn't it? That's because, in addition to his vanishing acts, Kovalev possesses the uncanny ability to turn hot and cold so often to the point of appearing to be in a perpetual luke-warm state and being able to convince fans he's a decent player.
He has had one superstaresque season in his career, in 2000-2001 with the Pittsburgh Penguins when he had 95 points (playing on the same team as Mario Lemieux and an in-his-prime Jaromir Jagr, by the way). It would seem he has been wrongfully building his reputation and making a living off that one year ever since.
His 2007-2008 season with Montreal, when he had 84 points? Not bad… very good, actually, but does it justify the label of superstarseque? Not even close. I mean, the dude, who everyone says stickhandles like a dream, has never even scored 50 goals, which is the modern measure of goal-scoring talent.
So, what's my conclusion? Kovalev is the most overrated player in the game. I just don't get it. I mean, yeah, he's alright. But the next time someone says something to the effect of, "but he's so talented! He's the most talented player in the game!" I will not be held accountable for my actions.
If he's so gosh darn talented, where does he hide the talent all the time? Because all I saw during his four-plus years in Montreal was a player who occasionally stole a game for his team. That describes about every player in the league today, as anybody on any given night can get a few bounces and earn first-star honours with a good game.
More often than not, however, I saw a player who liked to hold onto the puck and try and do everything himself. Some times he succeeded. Most other times, he got stripped of it, getting carried away trying to be too fancy in the offensive zone.
I will admit that at the right price, I would love to have him on my team as a second liner (for parts of his time in Montreal, he actually held the distinction of being the highest-paid fourth-line player in the game), due to his almost-to-the-degree-of-being-funny lack of consistency.
So, Ottawa is stuck with him for the remainder of this year and next year as well. For the most part, I guess Murray can't be blamed all that much for the acquisition as his team has been playing well enough as a whole (ironically enough, just as inconsistent as Kovalev it would seem). Power to them.
I guess, in a way, power to Kovalev as well, for being able to fake it for so long. It admittedly does take talent to be able to pull something like that off, I guess. If only he used that talent for good and not evil… sloth is a kind of evil, right?