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So I just finished watching Friday Night Lights (the movie) and apart from realising what an odd movie it was (basically when a movie’s message is that if you lose there’s a good chance you’ll go nowhere in life, you wonder how it was chosen to be made into a movie –but all things considered I actually liked it!!), I finally realised how the Habs must feel about the constant media rumours and why no one wants to come play here. Granted the guys were only 17 in the movie, but that’s not a far cry from 19-year old Max Pacioretty or 21-year-olds Carey Price, Sergei Kostitsyn and Gui Latendresse.
It’s not as though if they become media “hermits” and stop watching tv, reading newspapers and listening to the radio that they won’t hear about the next “scandal”. All they have to do is walk outside, go shopping, grab a coffee somewhere… if people don’t come up to them to talk about it, they’ll here pieces of conversations related to it as they walk, they’ll see covers of newspapers in store windows, people fighting over whether Gainey made the right move in sending Kovy home for a break, or whether the Kostitsyns and Hamrlik are actually involved in gang related activity. This does not make for a happy hockey player. Fans are great when they are with you, but when the whole city is out to get you, it drives people away. Roy, Carbonneau himself, and so many greats came to know and love Montreal, and were driven away, by the media, by the coaches, by the so-called “fans”.
When Kovalev made the statement that he didn’t actually go to the Russian media after the latest “affaire Kovalev”, I’ll admit I was more relieved than anyone. I had been so upset by Gainey’s decision that when watching the Capitals game, I’ll admit I was angry. So angry in fact, that for a few minutes I didn’t care about the Canadiens. When I saw Ovechkin’s goal, I smiled (well who wouldn’t… it was amazing)…but I was happy. Happy that the Canadiens were being scored on. Does this make me one of those fans, who drive the players away? Maybe so, though I’d like to think not. I wasn’t angry at the players per say. It wasn’t their fault (about Kovalev anyway, though I can’t say the same for their awful play during the past three weeks). It was Gainey who I was mad at.
So many people have been saying that Carbonneau would have and should have been fired, had his close friend not been the GM. And that was why I was mad. How could he make Kovalev look like the bad guy, and just pretend Carbo was in the right, with his funky line change-style coaching? It’s hard to criticize a friend, especially when it’s someone you have known for so long and have gone through so much with. But at the same time, you can’t treat someone differently, when it’s your job not to let that friendship get in the way. I was scared that Gainey was clearly picking Carbonneau over Kovalev, a choice that I thought wasn’t even necessary to make in the first place, but so far anyway, it seems that I was wrong. That it actually was just a chance for Kovalev to regroup. That it wasn’t an excuse to hang Kovalev out to dry the first chance he could.
Honestly if it had been that way, I doubt I’d be writing this, in fact, I doubt I’d be an avid Canadiens fan any longer. I never realised how important Kovalev was in my perspective of the Habs, and I think that without him we have absolutely no chance of going anywhere in the playoffs. It’s not for his skill, it’s not for his leadership, certainly not for his cross-ice passes that usually end up on the sticks of opponents. It’s for his presence. He doesn’t fit into the “norm” of the rest of the players. Most are hard-working grinder-type players who have an ability to score goals – pretty ugly ones – but hey, they get the job done. Kovalev personifies thinking outside the box. His creativity is what separates him from the rest… he thinks differently from them all, and is never afraid to say what’s on his mind. He doesn’t care what people think, and maybe it’s this quality that allow him and Koivu – in tandem – to be able to lead this team together. Koivu motivates, Kovalev calls people out.
The mistake that the French media is making in hoping for him to be traded is that we’d no longer have anyone like that in the dressing room. Everyone is pretty mellow, and some will get visibly frustrated when they lose, but Kovalev reacts differently. With all the things the media puts him through, he still wants to be here. And this is the most important thing of all. In the height of adversity, Kovalev stays. He could have easily packed up and been on the next flight out of Montreal. And this is not the first time he’s been picked on by the media (refer to l’affaire Kovalev #1 – the apparent blasting of Carbo to the Russian media). On L’antichambre the past few days, they have been saying non-stop that there is no way he will ever be able to play in the Canadiens uniform after this again. But they are wrong, and clearly don’t know Kovalev and what he is capable of.
Koivu may be the heart of the team… but Kovalev is the brain. One without the other is useless, but when both are working properly together, only then will things come to life. Kovalev is a necessary component to our team, and without him, we have little chance of getting anywhere in the playoffs. First though, the team has got to prove they can even make the playoffs. We can only hope the brain is a focused and ready come tomorrow afternoon.