It’s been a rather strange week when it comes to European players and their relationships with various Canadian NHL front offices. At first, it seemed like it was just going to be isolated to the whacky old Ottawa Senators, as Alex Kovalev blasted former coach Cory Clouston on his way out the door while GM Bryan Murray reportedly “promised” unproven forward Nikita Filatov a spot on the team’s first or second line.
Now it looks like a similarly strange situation is brewing with Andrei Kostitsyn and the Montreal Canadiens. In a way it’s a combination of the worst parts of those two previous stories. Like Kovalev, Kostitsyn is griping about his relationship with his coach – the only difference is that Kostitsyn will actually play for that coach next season. In something of a reverse of Filatov’s situation, it appears that Kostitsyn’s main issue with Jacques Martin is where he’s playing in the Habs lineup. Kostitsyn told Belarus Web site Goals.by that his struggles can be traced back to his third or fourth line duties.
“I can’t guess about next season,” Kostitsyn told the site. “My relationship with the coach is not too good.”
“It wasn’t me who started to play badly,” Kostitsyn explained to Goals.by. “It’s just that I was being put into (the) third and fourth line…I’ve tried talking to (Jacques Martin) more than once. But he doesn’t care.”
Andrei’s brother Sergei Kostitsyn found his way even deeper into Martin’s doghouse during his fleeting moments in Montreal, but it’s apparent that both forwards clash with the taskmaster of a coach. To be fair, lower line duty would be a solid reason to complain, but is it totally accurate?
To get an idea of who he played with, I took at a look at Andrei Kostitsyn’s most common even strength linemates during the 2010-11 regular season using Dobber Hockey’s tools. The results don’t exactly speak well to Kostitsyn’s complaints.
Most common linemates: Mike Cammalleri and Tomas Plekanec (26.24 percent)
Second most common combo: Plekanec and Brian Gionta (11.25 percent)
It isn’t until you get to his third combo of Travis Moen and Lars Eller that you see why Kostitsyn is complaining, yet that combo only took place 8.62 percent of the time.
Perhaps Kostitsyn’s memory is simply selective. Either way, it’s kind of hard to feel bad for the winger for complaining about a role he might not be willing to earn. It’s easy to blame your coach for not giving you playing time, but for whatever alleged preferences a coach might have, Martin ultimately wants to win more than anything else. If he viewed Kostitsyn as his best option, he’d play him there. (And, again, the numbers indicate that he had plenty of chances with top linemates.)
At this point, I’m starting to wonder if some of these European players are familiar with going “off the record.” Maybe Kostitsyn was just venting to someone he thought he could trust, because his complaints are soaking with a sense of entitlement.
He averaged a bit under 16 minutes per game last season, which is slightly higher than his career 15:18 per minute average. His point per game average in 2010-11 (.56 via 45 points in 81 games played) is almost an exact match for his .57 per game career average. What do all these numbers indicate? To me, it says that he doesn’t want to accept his own shortcomings.
Either way, it wouldn’t be surprising if this is the last season Kostitsyn appears in Montreal (if he even makes it through the campaign).