Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Kovalev's Benching

From The Guys Who Liked Him, Even In 2007

As someone who hasn't had a knife out for Kovalev this season, I think my take on the Bob Gainey move and subsequent press conference may be different to certain others:

"The GM thinks his coach can get this team into the playoffs minus the Canadiens' most gifted and and popular player. "

Robert L:
"Canadiens GM Bob Gainey caught everyone offguard by announcing that forward Alex Kovalev has been sent home while the team decides what to do with his services."

MA Godin:
«C'est lourd pour lui en ce moment», a déclaré Gainey lors d'un point de presse improvisé durant l'entraînement de l'équipe, cet après-midi.

The truth will always be that one hears what he wants to hear. Some people went to watch that interview hoping to hear that Kovalev would be traded. They found the quotes they needed to reinforce their stories.

I went in (and we've never apologised for being the steadfast Kovalev support since the outset - pre-bandwagon 07) hoping that the news would be lighter and positive for Alex and the Canadiens' union. I certainly heard some things I thought would suit my story.

I can't tell you what the other guys think, I sent you their links. I can only tell you my read:

Gainey respects Kovalev

The element that came through with the greatest clarity for me in this whole affair is that Gainey benched Kovalev. In doing so, he circumvented the coach (deliberately) to show his respect for the player. He was wise to do so given Carbonneau's history and still terribly abrasive persona.

The other thing I noted was the length that Kovalev was discussed. This was not a: "He's benched, there will be no further comment" situation. Gainey went to great lengths to explain to the media wolves in his second language that this was a special move. He spoke of Kovalev and Carbonneau not being on the same page; but he spoke of how the losses and burden of the centennial was weighing on Alex (not Carbo, I should note).

At the same time, he was firm. He asserted that the current Kovalev is not someone that the team needs now or in the future. What Bob Gainey also knows and expresses is that Alex Kovalev is irreplaceable as an entity. And while he knows Kovalev functioning at his best is irreplaceable, he seems to recognise that Kovalev searching for his desire and methods might not be the best thing for the team right now.

Watching Bob Gainey's interview in French (where he does an admirable job, completely wading through the intricate questions), I have no reason to do anything other than take what he said at face value.

When he says he asked Alex to have a rest. I believe he asked Alex. When he said he will speak to Alex over the next two days, I believe him. When he says he will re-evaluate the situation prior to Saturday's game, i have no reason to doubt that he is being forthright.

If there is one topic to be discussed over the next two days it is not the no-trade clause that some would desperately hope it to be. I think it will be how Kovalev should perhaps submit to Carbonneau's plan from here until some future point when he is consulted about how to get out of a jam - how he needs to work through the channels on the team and not take the plight of everyone into his own private world to come up with a solution.

Kovalev trade

Gainey did address the topic on everyones' minds - the possibility of a trade with Alex's involvement. As any good GM would note, he said that he must be open to all possibilities (marks for that, trading Price - I thought you said all?), but he also hinted that no one was exactly burning up the lines to acquire Kovalev in his "off" year.

In saying that, he alludes to the fact that trading Kovalev to a team at his request would be a position of weakness. I don't read Boone's "addition by subtraction" in the comment, but then I'm biased the other way...

I think Gainey would prefer a useful Kovalev to a draft pick. I think he feels he would not be able to get fair value at this point and he'd rather make the best of this asset he has.

This is man management.

Markov next

In addition to the knives flying for Kovalev and suddenly SK74 after his demotion, I have seen a lot of Andrei Markov is next type comments (no doubt from fans of Mr. 7 Hits Nightly).

If Markov must go in these peoples' minds, I don't want to be a fan of the same team as them. They do not appreciate the hockey I like. They see years of toiling with the dump and chase again in the hope of an Alberta Cup final.

On that note, I sign off. Today has been eventful. In some ways I wonder whether it's not all just a load of propaganda to get the media talking about something other than losing or hopelessness. After a day like today, I feel better about our GM. But one day in 12 months, I hope it's enough...

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