Sunday, March 28, 2010
Who Won The Game Anyways?
A few quick notes for your Sunday afternoon, Monday morning:
I had a chance to make it out to Scotiabank Place for the first time in a few months last night. There was a great atmosphere in the rink despite a rather tame first period and as usual, the whole presentation was a class affair from the ushers on up the general show the in-house entertainment staff put on for the fans. Sporadic chants of "Alfie" were heard when the captain made a play, the fans were loud and boisterous and overall, it's still some of the best bang for your buck you can find in the city.
After such a positive experience, it was somewhat disheartening to sit in the parking lot and listen to the post-game show on the Team 1200 where seemingly all the hosts and callers could find time to talk about was the recent poor play of Alexei Kovalev, with suggestions that he be benched, sent to the AHL, bought out or be replaced by, of all players, Jonathan Cheechoo.
I sat there thinking, didn't the Senators just win their fourth game in a row? Why are people so upset? And why is there such a disconnect from all the happy fans in the building and the grumpy radio hosts and callers, who seemingly saw a different game than I and 18,500 other fans did?
Sure, Kovalev is in a big slump, but he was in a slump to start the season and he pulled out of that quite nicely, to the point where he was an indispensable player in the run up to the Olympics. Relax folks, he'll snap out of it. The team has even admitted he's been playing with an undisclosed injury.
The fact he took a goaltender interference penalty late in the game was certainly bothersome, but if you watch the replay, it was only because he was going to the net (which he is supposed to do) and simply stumbled over the back leg of the Florida defenseman. It was an accident. Who cares?
Why is there such a vocal segment of Ottawa fans who feel they can only relate to their home team by demonizing certain players? Year after year, they choose their nemesis and do their best to run them out of town. Daniel Alfredsson was once that guy. Jason Spezza was once that guy. We all know who the others were.
Criticisms of Kovalev are largely based on cliches. People have a misconception that he doesn't play hard. It's complete bullshit. A guy doesn't make it to the NHL and play over a thousand games if he's lazy. Fans expect everyone to play like Mike Fisher, but that's just not the case. Kovalev's game is all about puck possession, not grinding it out in the corners. He's not built to play that way. When he's in a slump, which all players go through, it just looks like he's not doing anything because his stick isn't working. If he ever gets out of this rut (and he will - he always does), Senators fans will be quite happy to have him along for the playoff ride.
Just relax. The Senators have won four in a row. They are going to the playoffs. Quit being so uptight and enjoy the fact you have an NHL team in town with world class athletes trying to win you a Stanley Cup.
The more important the game, the more Anton Volchenkov ramps up his intensity and the more he drives up his value on the free-agent market. Bryan Murray should have given this guy the money a long time ago. Just wait until the playoffs when Volchenkov will be even more incredible.
I've said it before and I'll say it again - if Murray lets Volchenkov leave this team, you can forget about a Stanley Cup anytime soon. As good as Andy Sutton and Matt Carkner have been (or as good as Jared Cowan is projected to be), none of them come close to providing what Volchenkov gives you.
This is not the guy to get cheap on.
Fight other guys over money. Volchenkov needs to stay in Ottawa, and if you have to give him market value, just give it to him. Cut corners elsewhere. Nobody in the league is as good at what he does than Volchenkov himself. If that's not worth market value, then I don't know what is.
The debate can turn on what that market value truly is, but even if people disagree by upwards of 2 million dollars, are you prepared to let such a vital piece of the team leave because you couldn't find between 1 and 2 million dollars under a salary cap that is going to top out somewhere around 56 million dollars?
I just can't see a valid argument for letting Volchenkov go.
And hopefully, Murray can't either.