There has been plenty of chatter in the wake of Alexei Kovalev’s move to the KHL and the parting shots he had for the media and coaching staff in Ottawa. After telling a Russian newspaper that members of the Ottawa media had boarded planes with bags full of beer, it wasn’t surprising that members of the media shot back with attacks on Kovalev. More specifically, they fired back at Kovalev’s work ethic.
If nothing else, the media has rekindled a career-long debate centering around the three-time NHL All-Star. In an interesting article that takes a look at the Kovalev situation from a fascinating perspective, Scott Cullen from TSN explores the gifted Russian, talented players in other sports, and what could have been if he were more dedicated to the game:
“Recently retired NFLer Randy Moss would hardly be considered an underachiever in the classic sense, but the common perception was that, as great as he was, scoring 153 touchdowns in his career, Moss could have been even better if he had the drive of Jerry Rice, for example.
Some parallels might be drawn to Kovalev. Not that he struggled in the postseason; since 1990, his 45 playoff goals ranks 23rd in the league. But, as age caught up to Kovalev, like it catches up to all eventually, he couldn’t just get by on being the most talented puck handler on the ice and the results weren’t good.”
First thing is first, Kovalev has hands that are so good it’s like he’s from another planet. For all of the arguments, controversy, and frustration around Kovalev throughout his career, no one has ever doubted his skill. All it took was a snapshot from his off-wing that ended up just under the bar (and behind the goaltender) to convince even the most jaded opponent of his talent.
Cullen’s implication is that Kovalev skated through his career and didn’t have to work hard because of his God given talent. A skilled player in his own right, St. Louis Blues winger David Perron quickly defended Kovalev—both his talent and his work ethic:
“For those who say Kovalev didn’t care, you are NOT born with skills and finesse like that, you work at it, and he sure did!”
Perron brings up a great point—no one gets to be that good without putting in hours and hours of hard work. There’s no denying that he was born with a special gift, but without the work, he would never have scored over 1,000 points in an NHL career that spanned 18 seasons. If anything, he falls into the category of players who makes it look so easy, that people can misconstrue the polished play for laziness. Some players – in all sports – just look graceful on the field of play. For better or worse, they never LOOK like they have to over exert themselves. Maybe Kovalev was just one of those players who never looked like he was hustling, even though he left everything on the ice.
What do you think of Cullen’s article? Do you think Kovalev could still be a desirable NHL point producer if he had better work ethic; or is Kovalev just another example of Father Time catching up to player in his late 30s?