Friday, August 14, 2009

Kostitsyns Not The Sedins

Time To Separate The Brothers

If I was an NHL GM, I can't tell you how tedious I would find it to have to deal with the Sedins.

I may already have a centre, but be very interested in a smoothe skating winger like Daniel; or vice versa, I may be on the lookout for a centre but wish to fore go the wing-man brother as I have been developing players of my own who frankly I like better.

Alas, to my chagrin, I am not an NHL GM. But I am a pretty big NHL fan, and I can tell you that it still annoys me that neither Daniel nor Henrik Sedin can ever be mentioned in a separate breath. You may remember the ranking of the top 50 players in the NHL by Adam Gretz at NHL FanHouse (mainly because he underrates Markov). He committed the crime I deplore, in that he didn't even bother considering the Sedins a separate entity and clumped them both together as the #21 player in the league (making his list a top 51...).

That's been an annoyance for a while, albeit a mild one. I've certainly never felt the need to write about it until now.

The need to put the proverbial pen to paper comes from the eerie parallel I see arising amidst Canadiens fans when they address the brothers Kostitsyn (a recent example can be found here). I just want to put that to an end right now.


Kostitsyns are not twins, not even similar

While I'm not that well placed to actually tell you which Sedin is the better player or whether they are even different people, I certainly watch enough Habs games to have a good feeling about our brotherly combo.


In my opinion, the Kostitsyn boys may be brothers by name, but for skills they may as well not be.


Andrei the shooter

I still have questions about whether Andrei likes shooting, because he clearly doesn't shoot enough. However, when he does shoot we are treated to a display we have not witnessed from one of our own prospects since the late 80s – an elite shot. Andrei has quick release, power in a wrist shot and accuracy when he has time to set. He has goalscorers hands and a shot that could net him 40 or 50 one day.

Contrast this to Sergei. His shot is adequate but is not released with either the speed or the weight of an Andrei shot. His shot is NHL level, but the level that all 10-15 goalscorers in this league possess, and the level that goaltenders stop with regularity when they see it. He's no corner-picking sharpshooter.


Andrei the strong
This is another area I feel Andrei has yet to fully develop, yet one that is there in flashes for him. When Andrei gets the puck sometimes you can sense that few defencemen in the league would be able to take it off him. Through a combination of body positioning and balance he seems to be able to muscle through the situations for which he can't make himself a free corridor with a deke.

Again, Sergei couldn't be further from. When people talk about running into dead ends, Sergei Kostitsyn comes to mind for me. Though he's tricky with the puck on his stick, he gets into trouble when the defender is ready and not buying his fakes. Smaller than Andrei, it just seems to me that he isn't at all as strong and that he just doesn't possess the momentum he needs to go through a defender, even if he wanted to.


Sergei the all-rounder

here I don't mean to say that Sergei is already an all-round player, because he certainly isn't. But one can see that the guy has at some point in the past recognised his limitations and has at east thought to develop the defensive side of his game. As I said, he's not a premiere defensive forward yet, but like Andrei with strength, you can sometimes see flashes.

I've been generous to Andrei so far, so I'll mete out a bit of criticism now. Andrei is not a player I would want to see on the ice when defending a 2-goal lead with 2 minutes to go. Nor would I want to see him on the PK. When I watch him, I recognise that he's just one of those guys who probably has never had a defensive thought cross his mind. He thinks offence and positions himself for that – that's all. It's fine, and we need a player like him; but I think it's a big distinction between him and his brother.


Sergei the weasel
Believe me, I mean this in the most complimentary sense. For you can't win any competition in a league full of weasels without some of your own. Sergei has this weaselling built in. It's clear. The Grabovski debacle. Those incidents with Chris Neil. He's a needler. he likes getting under peoples skin.

Does Andrei even know what a weasel is? Andrei, even in games where he seems possessed with energy and ideas is still the guy least likely to fight. The guy least likely to be slashing Jarkko Ruutu behind the play. To me, he seems a much more laid-back character, comfortable to play the game of entering the offensive zone, taking the chance and then reloading and trying again. The rest of the drama, he can take it or leave it. He's no Sergei in that department.


A couple of seasons ago, I opened the year with two articles entitle The Habs Future And The Two Andreis. The basic idea was that coming into 2007-08, the Habs were in transition but were starting to build around two vital pieces – Andrei Markov at the back and Andrei Kostitsyn up front. I still stand by all the gooey praise I had for both players back then.

My point here being that back then I believed Andrei Kostitsyn was a cornerstone player and I still do. Sergei Kostitsyn, for all his skills and attitude, is not in my opinion. This is much more Vladimir Guerrrero and Wilton Guerrero situation than it is the blurry distinctions of the Sedins or the Courtnalls. One player if nurtured has superstar potential, the other with some guidance has a nice place on a third line and second PP.

I think us Habs fans need to be clear about this. First of all, we should not be holding the two brothers to the very same expectations. Secondly, we don't need to package them off together in our heads every time one of them does something we don't like. In other words, if Sergei Kostitsyn doesn't produce again and puts on a Winter 2009 sulk, I don't see why that should affect how we see Andrei Kostitsyn at all.

These are no Sedins.

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