In the summer of 2009, Alexei Kovalev had a reputation as a bit of an enigma (as this is an article about a Russian, I’m obligated by my status as a part-time semi-amateur sportswriter to use the word ‘enigma’), but his performance over four seasons with the Montreal Canadiens impressed the Ottawa brass enough to earn him a two-season, $5.0 million per year contract along with a no-movement clause.
Today, he was shipped out of town for a conditional seventh-round pick, which is as close to “a bag of pucks” as general managers get these days.
The shift in Kovalev’s status is particularly interesting when one looks at his even-strength numbers during his time in Montreal and Ottawa.
|Season||Even-Strength Points||Even-Strength PTS/60|
|2010-11||25 (on pace)||1.45|
Those numbers are correct: on average, over two seasons as a member of the Senators, Alexei Kovalev scored exactly one less even-strength point per season than he had in Montreal. His point totals adjusted for ice-time were also just slightly lower in Ottawa than in Montreal, although a strong finish in Pittsburgh could easily put Kovalev past his Montreal performance.
The difference? Entirely a result of Kovalev’s performance on the power play.
|Season||Power Plau Points||Power Play PTS/60|
|2010-11||12 (on pace)||4.26|
During Kovalev’s stint with the Canadiens, Montreal’s power play was top-five three of four seasons, and in two of them it finished first overall in the entire league. No team between 2005-09 had as dynamic a group on the man advantage as the Montreal Canadiens. Since Kovalev left, the Canadiens finished second in 2009-10, and presently sit in ninth.
Over Kovalev’s time in Ottawa, the Senators have iced the league’s 21st-best and 18th-best power play.
My conclusion would be that Kovalev is almost exactly the same player in Ottawa that he was in Montreal. The even-strength numbers are all but identical. The problem is that Ottawa made the mistake of assuming Kovalev was a difference-maker on the Montreal power play, and in retrospect, he was not. That should fall at the feet of Ottawa’s management. I’d also argue that suggests Pittsburgh just paid a conditional seventh round pick for the same player Ottawa felt was worth five million.