An Australian by birth, an adopted Canadian by friends, a mad ice hockey fan for many years, Damian has travelled to the USA to see his beloved New Jersey Devils play live, and follows them regularly on NHL Gamecenter Live.
It’s been a month since I’ve posted about the New Jersey Devils, and what a month it has been! The Devils have since won games against:
– Tampa Bay Lightning
– Ottawa Senators (twice)
– Arizona Coyotes
– Vancouver Canucks
– Florida Panthers
– Chicago Blackhawks
They’ve gotten at least a point against:
– Calgary Flames
– Edmonton Oilers
And lost in regulation against:
– San Jose Sharks
– Edmonton Oilers
– St Louis Blues
Not a horrible month in the grand scheme of things, and has actually left the Devils atop the Metropolitan division with games and points in hand. What an amazing effort. The rookies are contributing, the fourth line is contributing, and the team is finding ways to win, coming back when down, and close, tight games.
Case in point, the Chicago Blackhawks game. The Devils were down 4-2 at the end of the first period, yet rallied to finally win in an epic showdown.
Miles Wood finished the game with 4 points (3 goals 1 assist), with his first ever NHL hat trick. Nico Hischier finished with a 3 point night (1 goal 2 assists), and Taylor Hall with 1 goal and 1 assist. Everyone on the team contributed (less some defensive brain farts), and had their first 3 goal deficit comeback win in regulation since April 2006. Just epic.
Which then leads me to the next point. Electronic Arts’ NHL video game series.
As of writing this, I had checked the New Jersey Devils’ roster on NHL 18. The current roster has the Devils’ overall offence rated at 86, defense at 88, and goalies at 92. There hasn’t been an update to the rosters since November 3rd, so I have to cut EA some slack, however I need to point out the following: the Devils are currently tied for 4th in Goals For (total goals scored by the team), and 5th in Goals Per Game Average (somewhat self-explanatory).
Now, the Devils have been in front of the Metropolitan division pretty much all season so far. So that’s fighting for a spot against the teams Columbus, Washington, Pittsburgh, both New York teams, Carolina and Philadelphia. When I scroll through those team rosters in NHL 18, respectively speaking, those teams are rated 89, 91, 93, 90 (x2), 88 and 91 respectively. Can someone please explain to me how the Devils are rated so poorly on offense when every single one of the same divisional teams listed above are below the Devils, or at the same level as the Devils? Case in point, the Devils are tied with the Islanders for 4th in Goals For, Rangers are in 3rd place by a difference of one goal. All the other divisional teams have scored less goals to the point they are outside the top 10. As for goals average per game, Devils are tied with Islanders for 5th, Rangers are 6th, and again, all other divisional teams are outside the top 10.
On top of that, three (3), yes three, of our rookies are currently in the top 7 for the Calder trophy – i.e. the highest points total by a rookie. Nico Hischier with 14 points, Jesper Bratt and Will Butcher with 13 points, all three players have played 17 games. That’s not far off a point a game average.
All I can say is, the next NHL 18 roster update better have an improvement with the Devils or I will not be happy. I want to play Online Versus against other players with my favourite team, however if I’m going against badly assigned player statistics, that’s just nothing short of frustrating and I’ll spam the hell out of EA for it.
Something very cool also happened over the last few weeks. I am visiting California for hockey for the first time since 2010 in March 2018, where I will see the Devils play in Vegas, LA, Anaheim, the up to San Jose, before flying back out east to watch the Devils finish off the season in New Jersey, and even the final regular season game in Washington, DC against the Capitals. My dad is joining me for my west coast portion of my vacation, and I will be taking him to his first ever (and second) NHL game against the Ducks and Sharks. It will be a great father and son moment sharing my passion with him, and will ensure he is wearing a Devils jersey in the crowd.
I wanted to share this, but never knew how. After watching the special concert in honour of Chester Bennington, I figured I might as well just do it. I highly recommend watching the concert (below), and have provided some websites that help with depression as well as foundations.
Water was streaming down my face, my head against the tiles, my body standing stiff, and my mind blank, a million miles away. I didn’t want to move; I was not motivated to move. I could have stayed under that shower forever. But I knew eventually I would have to get out, dress myself, and eventually get to work. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do.
It was 2008 and I was a week in to my first time on anti-depressants and I wasn’t coping with the adjustment. According to the information pamphlet, side effects include nausea, constipation, insomnia, dizziness, drowsiness, dry mouth, nervousness, strange dreams, blurred vision, changes in appetite or weight, decreased sex drive, impotence, difficulty having an orgasm, and increased sweating. Sounds fun doesn’t it.
I was on this, my first medication, before I approached my doctor and advised them that I had to change as the side effects were affecting me too much. I lived close to work (3km) yet had to time my public transportation otherwise my stomach would start churning and I would have to find a bathroom pronto. It was horrible.
My doctor changed the medication I was on and I adjusted, dealing with the lesser side effects, although spending 6 months or more with 40 hour days due to insomnia wasn’t much fun either. Nothing like getting up at midday, and staying up until 4am two days later and then passing out for only 8 to 10 hours, cycle repeats.
Fast forward to 2011 – my then girlfriend and I break up due to my emotions getting the better of me and not controlling my anger. There’s never been an instance where I’ve hit anyone, and I maintain that to this day. But my anger came out in extreme yelling. I am not justifying my actions by any means and take full responsibility, even going to anger management classes. But in saying that, anti-depressants are a horrible thing. They make you feel like a zombie, where the rational part of you that helps understand emotions, empathy and sympathy, disappears. So ultimately, a thought pops in my head and where normally that logical part tells you that’s not right, is not there to stop you. This resulted in me steadily getting worse with road rage and yelling at people.
6 months later, after the breakup and moving interstate back to Queensland and settling down again, after six months of not dealing with the emotional side of the breakup and only dealing with the logical steps of moving out, moving interstate, finding a job, a place to live, once all the logical steps were exhausted, the emotional toll caught up to me where it was the worst I have ever felt. I went to a local doctor, started seeing a therapist, and then began my road to recovery, and the long one month wait of the new anti-depressants to kick in. I knew I had to seek help at the time because the only thing keeping me going and honestly, alive, was my dog. Knowing I had him kept me handcuffed to this earth. Without him, I am sure I would have killed myself. Suicidal thoughts were prominent and my doctor even suggested I check myself in to a psychiatric ward of the hospital. The thought of leaving my dog however left me feeling even worse.
I did however survive on copious amounts of alcohol and fast acting anti-depressants which made me blackout. My doctor prescribed me two types of anti-depressants: the normal kind which is a slow acting release and takes 4 to 6 weeks to begin having the required effect, and then a fast acting, temporary medication to help in those moments prior to the long-term medication kicking in. So, I would get depressed during the 4 to 6-week period, pop a fast-acting anti-depressant, and drink half a bottle of whiskey. I would black out. I remember one Christmas, a liquor store was having a sale and I picked up three bottles of whiskey cheap, and drank an additional two bottles after that. I survived on alcohol and fast acting pills.
Medication is the worst. I gained 20kg because I couldn’t stop eating – I never felt full. I always wanted to eat and couldn’t stop. When I look at photos from 10 or so years ago, I weighed 75kg and I thought I didn’t look too bad at all. Now it takes a lot of energy – both physical and mental – to give myself the motivation of trying to lose the weight and slim down again. It’s extremely easy to reach for that pizza and booze again when your mind is feeding you negative thoughts that you might as well just cheat because you won’t succeed anyway.
There was also the previously mentioned side effect of saying or doing whatever came to mind. It was a false sense of confidence that was never good. But it’s a necessary evil sometimes. It’s not the full solution mind you – therapy and a chance of attitude and approach to things is needed, especially for handling anxiety. That built up like a ball in my chest until it exploded. I needed to learn strategies for dealing with things in a healthy way. I had to learn how to become extremely self-aware about my mind and body, then interpret what was going on, and then adjust. When emotions ran high, that goes straight out the window and you become reactive rather than putting in place those strategies.
It’s unfortunate that these days there’s still a stigma around mental health – as soon as it’s mentioned, people usually don’t know how to react unless they’ve experienced it themselves. It is always a case of never being sure who you can trust to share the information to, because you don’t know how they will react or judge you moving forward. When someone opens up about what they’re going through, just know they are putting their absolute trust in you to not judge or react negatively and they’re asking for help. Maybe it’s just to listen to their story – half the time, that’s all I need. To feel like I have someone who can listen and just be a support tool. You don’t even have to say or do anything. Just listen without judgement or reaction. Sometimes it’s just having someone there at your darkest moment that helps the most.
I’ve had people tell me all the clichés – I’ll get over it, just go out and have a good night, go get laid you’ll feel better, go get drunk, it’ll pass. You name it, I’ve heard it.
The truth of the matter is, it’s a chemical imbalance in the brain. It doesn’t matter what you do, it’s always there unless you go down the path of long term medication to force the brain to adjust, as well as coping mechanisms for once off the medication to unlearn old behaviour that became so ingrained.
I’ve seen a friend post continual Facebook posts where they are feeling absolutely at their worst – then post a photo of a noose and that they’re ready to kill themselves. The reaction of their friends? “I’m here if you need me”, or one that I’ll never forget – “I’m here if you need to talk, if not, that’s on you”. I mean seriously, how is that in any way supportive? None of the people posting in response even took it seriously enough to call 000 and get someone around there ASAP. He lives interstate and I didn’t have his address, otherwise it would have been the first thing I had done.
When depression or anxiety kicks in, there’s no logical thought process going on – the brain is on an elevator to hell, going down. No stops, no turns, no stopping at a level. Walls go up and the brain is focused only on that negative energy. It’s like the Terminator – there’s no reasoning, no bargaining, it has one purpose. A mind in that energy will not accept help from people, it will continue to tell yourself that there is no one there for you and there’s nothing left. As an outsider watching someone go through this, you need to understand there is nothing you can say to change someone’s thought process until they themselves get out of it. Most of the time it passes and the person can regain some open thought process.
Even when I’m not going through an episode of depression or anxiety, I know my thought processes are different to other people. That long term medicated fog on the brain doesn’t just disappear once you’re off it. I don’t interpret or see the same way other people do. I know everyone is different, but you really do perceive things differently because of how the brain works with depression and anxiety, and on medication. It’s almost like dyslexia where you interpret everything backwards. It’s like looking through the world with a different set of eyes.
I’m now at the stage where I’m witnessing people I grew up listening and watching, who helped shape my childhood, start to take their own lives – Robin Williams, Chris Cornell, Chester Bennington – people that look like they have the world, and still they drowned in their own inner demons and felt the only way out was to commit suicide. It shows that it doesn’t matter who you are or what you have, you can still suffer from it. It leaves me only empathising how deep of a hole they must have been in, like I once felt, to get to that stage where the only option was to not exist anymore. I know it’s selfish of me to think this, but if by doing what they’ve done it brings real awareness and consideration to this illness, then maybe their deaths won’t be for nothing.
The more that depression and mental illnesses are brought out in the open, perhaps one day it will make sufferers feel safe enough to open up and talk to people to help them understand without judgement or reaction. And that’s why I decided to open up and tell you my story, to help you understand. And I hope I’ve achieved that.
I’m a survivor, but I still struggle. I avoid certain situations because I know that it’s just easier to. I have to pick my opportunities to interact with people because I’m aware of how they may affect me. Other times, I just have to soldier on and put on a happy face. I use music as an escape and a way to describe how I feel as I can relate to so much of it.
I’ve given up, I’m sick of feeling, is there nothing you can say? Take this all away, I’m suffocating! Tell me what the fuck is wrong with me!
I’m holding on, why is everything so heavy? Holding on, so much more than I can carry. I keep dragging around what’s bringing me down, If I just let go, I’d be set free. Holding on, why is everything so heavy?
So pray to music build a shrine, Listen in these desperate times. Fill your heart with every note, cherish it and cast afloat, because god is in these clef and tone, Salvation is found alone. Haunted by its melody, Music it will set you free, let it set you free.
We build cathedrals to our pain, establish monuments to attain, Freedom from all of the scars and the sins, lest we drown in the darkness within.
If they say, who cares if one more light goes out? In a sky of a million stars, it flickers, flickers. Who cares when someone’s time runs out? If a moment is all we are, We’re quicker, quicker. Who cares if one more light goes out? Well I do.
I know it’s early in the season, but should New York Rangers fans be worried? I’ll come back to that, but first a little bit about the New Jersey Devils game against the Toronto Maple Leafs and what it’s like to watch hockey in Australia.
Being in Australia, obviously watching hockey requires somewhat a high level of dedication; time zones play a massive part in making it difficult to watch games where depending on your style of sports following, and for me I like to come home from work and watch the game without any spoilers. This means a complete social media blackout any time the New Jersey Devils play a game, as game starts are usually 11am at the peak of the season. But it’s also a lonely experience, as most people following hockey do similar or follow the live scores online or watch games at work, or do similar to myself and watch after work, so that means you can never enjoy it with friends in a group.
I mean for the Devils season opener, I had a few friends over to watch the Montreal Canadiens at Washington Capitals and Winnipeg Jets at Calgary Flames, so it was a good day.
But there also has been a dedicated group here in Melbourne, Australia, where I reside, called Hockey Night in Melbourne, and their first season event was Thursday the 12th of October where they happened to be showing the New Jersey Devils at Toronto Maples Leaf game on delay. So I took advantage of this and again, had a social media blackout and joined another 30 hockey fans to watch the game. It just reminds me how fun it is to be with like-minded people and why I enjoy travelling to the USA every year to hang out with friends and watch the New Jersey Devils live. So besides a great win, I had a few drinks and enjoyed the company of friends watching hockey, and can’t wait to get back there in March 2018.
Let’s be honest. The New Jersey Devils struggled against the Washington Capitals after showing speed and scoring against the Colorado Avalanche, Buffalo Sabres, and Toronto Maple Leafs, even scoring the first ever regulation 3 on 5 goal in the New Jersey Devils history.
The Washington Capitals play their system extremely well; they’re fully structured in their defense and power-play and know how to exploit teams’ weaknesses, although they have struggled in the playoffs over the last few years, not even making it to the Stanley Cup Final.
But the New Jersey Devils bounced back with another win, this time against their biggest Division rivals, the New York Rangers.
Drew Stafford returned to the line-up after a day-to-day injury (with Kyle Palmieri returning against the Toronto Maple Leafs after also being injured in the season opener against the Colorado Avalanche) and John Hynes began to shuffle lines, similar to last season. After a slow start where the Rangers scored first, the Devils slowly started to get back to what made them successful at the beginning of the season, showing speed and better defensive plays. This wasn’t without Devils casualties however, not in the literal, physical sense of injuries, but in Marcus Johansson getting benched after only playing 4 minutes and 48 seconds and then not getting any further ice time from early on the second period. This isn’t a surprise however as he made some horrible plays, including a random drop pass to no one right in front of Keith Kinkaid which lead to a strong scoring chance by the New York Rangers.
I have to speak about Keith Kinkaid; I never rated him very highly, as in previous seasons, you never know which version you were going to get. He could steal a game or give it away. But in today’s game, he kept the Devils in it. Without him, the Devils would have easily lost, so his off-season work has certainly helped, and there is the change of the goaltender coach as well which has obviously helped Cory Schneider too, who stood on his head against the Leafs with 50 shots.
The Devils turned it on in the second period, scoring three unanswered goals, with Adam Henrique getting the scoring started, followed by a beautiful deflection by Miles Wood from Ben Lovejoy contributed by Will Butcher, and Butcher assisting on Drew Stafford’s goal with a great pass. Will Butcher is now the first rookie to ever have 8 points in the first 5 games in NHL history. The Devils still struggle on defense, but Ray Shero is starting to build a nice young core, and I can only be positive as to how the next couple of years will go. Nico Hischier did get an assist playing against the Rangers today, still yet to score a goal, but the scoring will come. He seems nervous at times, but he has great puck possession, and he seems to be fitting in to the team very nicely. He did get an elbow to the head from Rick Nash which hopefully will be followed up by Player Safety. Nico looks like Taylor Hall last year, trying to do too much by himself, trying to spark the team and get the puck to the net, which is the complete opposite of Hall this season, where he seems to be fitting in nicely with his line-mates and working more as a team rather than a one man crew trying to force plays. Hopefully Nico over the season settles in a similar matter, and the scoring will follow.
Now, obviously seeing the New Jersey Devils beat the New York Rangers is always a good thing, but what a fall from grace from the last few years of playoff appearances. The Rangers are now off to a 1-5-0 start, worst in the Metropolitan division, and second worst in the Eastern conference. The Devils did play against their backup goaltender Ondrej Pavelec, but the Rangers were also coming off a loss against the Columbus Blue Jackets the night before where Henrik Lundqvist, the Devils lost to the Washington Capitals the night before and also looking for a bounce back, but the Rangers just keep continuing to slide. Having a look at Lundqvist’s numbers, they aren’t the worst. He is sporting a 2.82 Goals Against Average and a .914 save percentage. Not horrible, but yet he has a 1-3-0 record. The Rangers currently have a -8 Goal differential, so they’re scoring is obviously a huge problem. You would have to think that Lundqvist doesn’t have too many years left, so it will be interesting to see how their season goes. I will be attending the New York Rangers at New Jersey Devils game on April 3rd 2018, so bring that on.
I’ve started listening to Puck Podcast, which is a new thing for me as I’m not a podcast person. Previously, I’ve just never been in a position to spend hours of my time listening to podcasts, as much as I’d like to, but now that I’ve moved and I spend an hour each way between home and work, and this particular podcast is once a week for about 2 and a half to 3 hours, it kind of makes sense. It also helps that it got recommended to me by a friend so I sat down to listen to it while I typed out this blog post. I’m an hour in, and I know why now why my friend listens to it. It’s a very balanced, well produced podcast, that any hockey fan would enjoy. Hopefully I meet up with the guys while I’m in California in March 2018, as they seem like a great bunch of guys.
This is the date that Cory Schneider last won a game in regulation.
After watching the home opener live at 5AM on Sunday morning, I was excited to get home and watch the Devils face off in Buffalo against the Sabres. The life of an overseas hockey fan begins once again with social media blackouts and no conversing with friends in New Jersey.
I hadn’t realized it, but was reminded during the beginning of the game that Jacob Josefson, the ex-Devil, signed with the Sabres during the off-season; the first match-up of many for our Eastern Conference foes.
The Devils came out where they left off against the Avalanche, just dominating the game for the first 5 minutes. The Sabres had a couple of early chances but Devils’ players were in prime position in front of net to cover rebounds, with Will Butcher clearing the puck from an empty net chance by the Sabres.
It didn’t take long for the first goal, with Brian Gibbons rebounding the puck off Stefan Noesen and in. The Devils also went on the attack with a power-play, where they displayed crisp passing and several chances, but no goal.Will Butcher was very active with good coverage, and Schneider with another nice clear from a rebound. Schneider seems to have worked on improved rebound control in the off-season, as it seems much improved.
With 4 minutes to go in the first period, the Sabres bounced back, with some back and forth, and not so one-sided, but that changed quickly, with strong fore-checking from the Devils, Pavel Zacha outworking opponents, getting a chance to Hall, Andy Greene with a quick shot and Hall following up.
Nico Hischier continued to show his puck possession skills with tight turns and with the puck behind the net, gave a quick pass to Brian Gibbons who buried it, Nico getting his first NHL point!
The Devils went to the first intermission with a 2-1 lead.
What was really good that I enjoyed, was Steve Cangialosi and Ken Daneyko giving Jacob Josefson a shout-out to begin the second period. I always liked Josefson, and like they said, kept thinking each season was his time to break out, but never did. Hopefully he does well in his future.
The second period started just like the first, with the Devils on the attack, dominating play, and not giving the Sabres any chances to fight back. Jesper Bratt drew a penalty by being slashed. In a lapse of play, Jack Eichel split two defenders but luckily didn’t score shorthanded. Will Butcher and Taylor Hall get a late chance, but no success on the power-play.
With the NHL cracking down on face-off violations, the Devils suffer their first infraction, going to four on four late in the power-play, and the Sabres getting a shortened one. At the last minute of their power-play, Evander Kane splits the Devils and scores, breaking through for the Sabres, and drawing another penalty; the Devils go straight back on to the penalty kill.
Wasting no time, Adam Henrique clears the puck and started a two on one with Jesper Bratt, with a nice soft pass over the stick. Bratt undressed the goalie making the shorthanded goal look easy with a quick deke opening up the net. The Devils get the goal back and lead 3-1.
After killing the penalty, the Sabres get a good shot on goal with Schneider making a stop. Immediately from the face-off, Hall bounces the puck up the middle and in to the offensive zone. The Sabres commit a cardinal sin by misplaying the puck straight back to Hall, where he gives Marcus Johansson an easy goal with an uncovered net, extending the lead to 4-1.
The Devils continue to dominate throughout the second period, with Miles Wood showing some passion getting in to a fight as well. The Devils receive an offensive zone face-off, and again, Hall throws a pass in front of the net with Jesper Bratt making a perfect deflection in goal.
With a minute to go, Nico Hischier off a defensive zone face-off passes the puck up to Jesper Bratt and begins a two on one with Marcusu Johansson. After a little back and forth, Johansson buries the puck. The Devils go to the second intermission leading 6-1, totally dominating the end of the second period, and the Sabres fans booing their team.
The third period wasn’t any different, although the Devils didn’t extend their lead at all. They did give up a wraparound shot, again by Evander Kane, where the puck crept through the gap. He was the only active player in an otherwise lifeless Sabres team. The game finished 6-2, Devils winning their second for the season and first on the road.
Throughout the entire game, the fourth line just continued to push hard; they really are showing they belong in the NHL, and complimenting the Devils roster. Adam Henrique and Taylor Hall show marked signs of improvement from last season, and Taylor Hall since last game as well, picking up two assists and firing shots. Neither never stopped moving and showed their speed.
Whilst Nico Hischier picked up his first NHL point, Jesper Bratt has just continued to show how much of a steal he was as a 6th rounder. He might very well be the surprise of the league, and definitely someone to keep an eye on. He won’t be going back to juniors or the AHL, that’s for sure.
The Devils’ power-play suffered, going 0-4 compared to their first game of the season which was 3-4. The Sabres did do a good job of not giving them any opportunities and probably the only bright moment from an otherwise poor game for them. The penalty kill was good apart from Evander Kane making two defenders look like traffic cones.
The next three games will be the real test for the Devils, with a trip across to Toronto to face an excellent Maple Leafs team on the upward trend, and an always tough Washing Capitals group with Alex Ovechkin and Braden Holtby, although it will be good to see another game where Australian Nathan Walker is playing (hopefully). The Devils then play their first game against the New York Rangers, who started slow but can never underestimate, plus the rivalry factor.
If the New Jersey Devils can come out of the first five games with a winning record, such as 3-1-1, I will consider that an excellent start to the season. The injuries to Kyle Palmieri and Drew Stafford don’t help, but hopefully they will make their return soon. If the rookies keep playing the way they have, then they don’t need to be rushed back, which is always a good thing.
Still on the lookout for Nico Hischier’s first goal, but onward and upwards. And now Cory Schneider has two regulation wins to start the 2017-18 New Jersey Devils season.
If you ask a New Jersey Devils fan what their opinion is of Ilya Kovalchuk coming back to the NHL, you will get three answers:
1) He will be welcomed back with welcomed arms as he is a massive solution to our scoring woes, especially as the (New Jersey) Devils have had issues this season scoring 5 on 5, and more recently they have relied on the power play to score goals.
2) The only reason he will be welcomed is to trade his rights to another team for assets.
3) A resounding no based on morality regardless of the outcome of him coming back.
If you’re not aware of the history, the Devils traded with the now defunct Atlanta Thrashers in 2010 and added Kovalchuk to their roster. The Devils gave up defenseman Johnny Oduya, rookie forward Niclas Bergfors, junior prospect Patrice Cormier and a first round selection in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.
Once Kovalchuk’s contract came to an end, the Devils began negotiation of a new contract in the off-season, which lead to (what a fan of any other team no doubt describes as) entertainment; this was due to the first contract being rejected by the NHL due to claims it circumvented the rules of the salary cap.
A second contract was negotiated and accepted, however the NHL advised that the consequences of such a result was the loss of a first round and third round draft pick and a monetary fine. The Devils did appeal the loss of the first round pick and did receive it back, albeit the 30th pick regardless of where they finished in the season.
At the end of the 2012 season where the New Jersey Devils lost to the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup Final, the Devils held the 29th pick. This is where, at the time, I would have given the first round draft pick as compensation; however the Devils used the pick. In hindsight it wasn’t really a good decision that fans were happy with, including myself, however it ended up turning out ok.
After two full seasons and the lockout-shortened season in 2012-13, a shock announcement was made that Ilya Kovalchuk was retiring from the NHL on grounds he wanted to play back at home in the KHL. This came after he played in the KHL during a lockout-shortened 2012-13 NHL season, and even delayed returning to the New Jersey Devils after a new player’s agreement was ratified.
Fast forward to now and the rumours of him returning to the NHL return (and tend to every year), of course around the trade deadline. What makes this more interesting this time is that there has been a public comment made that (apparently from) Kovalchuk if his benching does not stop, he will cancel his contract and return to North America (sounding familiar?).
If you read the article from Sports Illustrated that was posted last year, you will see that there are ways for Kovalchuk to return to the NHL, and after the latest rumours, it has fuelled debate once again.
So the question is, should Ilya Kovalchuk be allowed to return to the NHL? As you can see from the Sports Illustrated article, and the various opinions of New Jersey Devils fans, it’s not an easy answer.
For me, I liken him to the phrase “He who should not be named” as I fall quite strongly in to category 3. As a Devils fan and my upbringing, I place integrity, principles, and loyalty as strong values.
I just cannot allow myself to want a player on the team when they put their own selfish needs ahead of the logo on the jersey (to paraphrase Lou Lamoriello); Kovalchuk used the excuse of going home to quit on the Devils, however it was also in regards to a better tax rate and higher paid income which helped him move back to Russia.
He is now doing a repeat (although more publicly than the shock of retiring from the NHL) by threatening to leave his KHL team and return to North America. This just shows the sort of character and person he is. Why on earth would any NHL team want that sort of risk, let alone character, in their locker room? Kovalchuk is creating a pattern for himself and soon no one will want to touch him, not only due to possibly upping and quitting on his current team, but potentially the locker room atmosphere he may create.
As much as the New Jersey Devils need more scoring in any regard (and let’s be honest, these past several games have been nothing short of embarrassing), they should not be looking to Kovalchuk as a solution, especially when they have Pavel Zacha (2015 sixth overall draft pick) currently playing in the OHL and doing well who should be making the team next season, the upcoming trade deadline and free agency period, all before next season. Ray Shero has shown he is looking at a long term rebuild and should not be looking at a short term solution that is Kovalchuk.
If the New Jersey Devils do not offer a new contract to Kovalchuk, his only options will be to request a vote from all 30 General Managers to allow him to return, or to wait until his current KHL contract ends and wait a full year without playing any sort of hockey. This puts Kovalchuk’s age at 35, and starting to get to an age where his time may run out to return to the NHL as an effective player.
I’d be very happy to never see him in the NHL again, but that’s just me.