Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Shomer Shabbos

We were looking for shooters on the point. I guess the shooters we have are all up front. That's the reason why we use two forwards. We have to get shots at the net. That's the reason [I'm playing Kovalchuk on the point on the power play].

Even 5-on-5 I use [Kovalchuk] on the point. It was 5-3 at that time [with the Devils trailing]. I feel that he has a good shot and he can score from the blue line. So that’s why, when we were in their zone, I used him on the point there on defense. I don’t care [how well he skates backwards]. I just want him to go forwards, not backwards.
- Jacques Lemaire
[Kovalchuk] has been anything and everything that we have asked of him. He’s been a solid citizen. He’s bought into the program. He’s given the effort. So, there is no question that we would like him to be a Devil.

- Lou Lamoriello
Q. Why did you choose to move Kovalchuk to the right side and not Parise?
No great thinking there. Zach is a left shot and Kovy is a right shot. They're both very adaptable, great players and we'll see what the chemistry is.

Q. So, you'd rather both of those guys playing their on wing rather than the off side?

Yeah, we're trying it. In fairness, you could go the other way. Zach has never played right wing before either. But I just thought with the right-hand shot, we'd try (Kovalchuk) over there.

- John MacLean

Shit, man. What a lemon! I don't know, man. One minute it's running like a top... and the next minute it's broken down on the side of the road. I can't fix a car like this. I don't have the tools to do it, man! Even if I did, I can't promise you I'd know how to fix a car like that!

- Dignan
If you didn't know the first thing about hockey and I told you that of the four speakers above, one is a Hall of Fame and Stanley Cup winning coach credited with tactically revolutionizing the game in the mid-90's, another is one of the most respected General Managers in the NHL known for running a highly obedient and structured organization, another is a cockeyed optimist from a small town with big dreams and little sense, and the other is a first-year NHL head coach who is probably about to get fired, I think you could probably correctly identify who's who.

Kovalchuk was scratched from a game last week for reportedly arriving 10 minutes late to a team meeting that morning. While I don't think it's indefensible for a coach to scratch a star player for being late to a meeting, I do wonder if it's a bit of a case of cutting off your nose to spite your face when your team is off to a terrible start and you're sitting your leading point scorer against an important conference rival whom you could very well be battling for a playoff spot against. The benching was a pretty desperate plea to get control of the room and command respect from players with high expectations. Kovalchuk was the perfect target because he's the biggest name, there's already a perception that he won't fit in with the team first mentality, and as a player known as someone who wants to be liked and to fit in, was a safe bet to accept it without creating an even bigger controversy. I think it was a bad decision but not a terrible one.

Opening the season with Kovalchuk on right wing, however, was more than a terrible decision. (Though, to be fair, decision implies some kind of thought process, which, evidently, MacLean lacked - see above). The problem, I guess, was that three of the Devils' most offensively gifted players all play left wing, and MacLean would ideally want those players to be sprinkled on two different offensively loaded lines. Fine, so someone has to play out of position. Should it be Kovalchuk, a player who has played exclusively left wing for his whole career, since entering the NHL in 2001 and as a junior in Russia previously? Or Parise, who grew up playing center, played it in college and the AHL and started his NHL career as a center before moving to the left side late in his rookie season in 2006? Or Elias, who has played left wing most of his career but who has also played center at various times for the Devils over the last few seasons? Kovalchuk's offensive style of play, I think it would be fair to say, is most recognized for two signature moves or preferences: 1) playing the left point on the power play and trying to get set up for one-timers; 2) flying down the left wing with the puck and trying to cut to the middle and get a shot from the slot. He's not just a left wing, he's a player who's skill set is intricately tied to playing left wing. I don't think there's any sort of association in Parise's game, a very tenacious and highly effective game to be sure, that ties him to the left side in such a way. MacLean said he basically moved Kovalchuk over to the right because he's a right-handed shot. John MacLean was a pretty great offensive player back in the day, a right-handed shot who grew up playing when wingers did not play on their off wing. That was a European influence that only started to creep into the NHL well into the 80's as north american players and coaches began to realize the advantages of having your stick on the inside of the ice to one-time the puck or cut to the middle to shoot. John MacLean is apparently living in the fucking past, man, without even 3,000 years of beautiful tradition to back it up.

No comments: