Would You Pay $10 Million a Year for this Defense?

Your team is mired in a 8 game losing streak.

You're the captain.

In a tie game you hustle back to make sure that a 3-2 becomes a 3-3 and then...

Watch #17 closely on this video clip.

Pause it at the 4 second mark and you can see three Thrashers skating back hard (including #17).

Pause it at the 5 second mark and you can see just two Thrashers skating back hard (not including #17).

Pause it at the 9 second mark and you can see that Kovalchuk chooses not to body check or even bother pressuring the puck carrier, but curls away from the play and completely disappears from the picture!!!

This creates a 2 on 1 down low for Kubina who steps up on the puck carrier leaving a surprised Enstrom who isn't sure if he should rotate to the side of the crease or defend the man in the slot. Indecision leads to a wide open Jordan Staal who scores to break a 1-1 tie.

Now watch the clip of the Letang Goal that gave Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead.

In this case the puck carrier tried to carry it past Ilya on the boards--and this Kovalchuk did check the guy--slightly better. But look at what Ilya does right after the body check. The Penguins still retain possession of the puck. Kovalchuk curls towards the boards so he is open to break out down the ice.  Every smart player knows that when your opponent has they puck you should put your stick and body between your man the net--yet Ilya does exactly the opposite. Instead, he habitually curls away from the puck when the other team has possession and fails to help his club win possession back. He does the minimum and just hopes another Thrasher will win the puck and pass it to him as he waits on along the boards.

And that my friends is exactly why I would never offer Ilya Kovalchuk $10-11 million per year to re-sign. Don Waddell ought to email these "highlights" clip to Jay Grossman. Defense is half of the hockey game. In a critical moment you can't count on Ilya Kovalchuk to do the minimum inside his own blueline. These are the little mistakes that will kill a team in a hard fought seven game playoff series. Last night was an important game for the Thrashers season. Ilya Kovalchuk didn't score, but he certainly helped Pittsburgh win the game.

This is nothing new, it has been happening for years in Atlanta. If Kovalchuk played in Toronto, Calgary or Montreal the press would rip him to shreds for this stuff. And his agent wants him to become the highest paid player in hockey? Good grief. He's a great scorer who plays lousy defense--and he should be paid accordingly.

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