After the pain of losing our captain, Zach Parise, this off-season, us fans are forced to move on and prepare for another captain. There are many worthy candidates to fill the vacancy, so I will be taking a different candidate every week and discussing their pro’s and con’s. We likely won’t know the real captain for at least a month, so we have some time to kill! This week’s candidate is, perhaps, the leading contender to wear the coveted “C”: Ilya Kovalchuk.
After a shaky start to his career with the Devils, many fans were calling him a bust and a waste of money. My old roommate (an Islanders fan) loved to bring up the “Kovalchuk is a bust” argument every time I would brag about my team. Each time he did I would say, “Dude, just wait. He’s going to break out and it’s going to be sick.” Was I wrong? What a season Kovalchuk had last year! He responded really well to new Head Coach Pete DeBoer’s system and took control of the offense.
While Parise wore the captain’s “C,” there were many times during the year when it seemed to be Kovalchuk’s team. After being an alternate captain last season and helping to lead the team within two games of hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup, one could easily argue that he is ready for the role of captain. Let’s refresh on his stats for the last regular season: 37G, 46A, 83 PTS in 77 games played. Statistically, he had a better season than our former captain Parise even though he played fewer games. Even though Kovalchuk has developed into a two-way player and his shoot-first-pass-later attitude is gone, it hasn’t really affected his stats. That just shows how good he really is.
With the all the pro’s for Kovalchuk being named captain, there are a few con’s. The first is his contract. He has a huge contract and is under pressure to perform at his best all the time. He realizes the fans were upset with him when he first joined the team, and knows if he slips there will be “bust” talk floated around. While he was able to overcome that last season and thrive, arguably, under that pressure, he didn’t have the added pressure of being a captain. How much more pressure this adds is impossible to say as a mere observer, but it definitely is a factor. His next con is the fact that he still speaks broken English. While not a huge factor, it definitely will affect his ability to address the media and the refs. While his team may be used to it, others may not be. These con’s aren’t big enough to prevent him from becoming captain, they are just things to think about.
Even though Kovalchuk is one of my favorite Devils and currently the only NHL jersey I own, he is not my pick for captain. Who is my pick? You’ll have to stay tuned to find out!