The Devils have (a) made a trade worth talking about (b) landed a superstar (c) dealt a jolt to the team that is likely make them focus. It’s not just about the players, it’s also a statement of what Lou expects from his team and their efforts, and what he’ll do when he’s pushed to the point that coaching can no longer correct.
First things first: Hello, Ilya Kovalchuk. Woo-hoo! Love this guy. Complain all you want (or all Chico wants) about his backchecking and defensive coverage, because it’s completely beside the point. The guy is a pure sniper, great skater, and creative on the ice. The Devils’ offense of late has shown all of the inspiration and soloing capability of Cheech and Chong’s band (“We only know three chords!”) with Jerry Channel of Boston’s Neats on vocals (nicknamed “Mono-man” by the hip press in Bean Town). Pair him with Zajac and Parise, or with Elias, and he’s even more dangerous. Add to that the cultural aspect, which I think is far too often down played: Kovalchuk is a Russian, will be a good influence on Zharkov, and can speak a bit of mamalushen with Zubrus and Elias (Elias, like all Czech students of his time, was required to learn Russian in school. Not sure if he still speaks it, but probably can recall enough to holler “Shoot, you ugly lunkhead” in the mother tongue).
Second: Lou made the comparison to the Mogilny trade before I even got on the computer. At the time, Mogilny was one of the best shots in the league, and he delivered in 2000 when the team needed him. We loved Mogilny, especially what appeared to be a good influence on Elias. We are going to heap equal adoration on Kovi.
Third: Oduya hasn’t been the same player since he got hurt. Bergfors was great in the first twenty games and now looks like he realized he skipped a grade and suddenly doesn’t remember all of the math he was supposed to have brought with him. As for Cormier, Google on “Daigle” for what’s likely an equivalent story minus the head shots. That’s it? No Zajac, no Clarkson, no Martin? And they got back Salmela in return? This is a great trade for the Devils. I like JohnnyO in so many ways, but I like Kovi more right now.
Overtime: If this doesn’t send a shock through the locker room, I don’t know what will. It means that if Lou goes shopping for another blueliner, other guys who aren’t stepping up are likely to be shopping for apartments in the hinterlands. It changes the dynamics, the lines, the friendships. Shocks like this can be explosive, further fragmenting a team, or they can be concussive and help the guys stick together a little better. Let’s see what Langenbrunner does with his latest teammates.
Prediction: Deeper Cup run, and a player who can go head to head with the Washington snowman.