What adjectives and phrases describe the St. Louis Blues?
Aggressive? Physical? Blue Collar? Hard Working?
Since Andy Murray took over the coaching reigns part way through the 2007-08 season, those terms accurately describe the style of play of the Blues. Honest and straightforward. Not much changed when current bench boss Davis Payne took over in the second half of 2009-10. A Midwestern team built on Midwestern values.
Why then entertain the idea of acquiring a player who represents the fundamental opposite of the organization’s composition?
Injuries always seem to alter perceptions.
Last week, Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun ran a story stating that the Blues had called up Bryan Murray to kick tires on the maligned Russian winger, Alex Kovalev. There is a logical connection to be made. St. Louis’ level of play has declined in the face of an injury epidemic and offense is coming infrequently. Ottawa is floundering and looking for a change to move them closer to the magic line Atlanta currently controls. The Blues need a scoring forward, and the Senators have one they would likely care to part with.
There is a reason Ottawa is willing to part with one of the most talented and gifted players of the last two decades.
Many still remember old stories about Kovalev and Mike Keenan in New York back in their Ranger days. However, two issues after the lockout raise red flags to be concerned with in the present.
The alleged/rumored locker room split in Montreal between Team Koivu and Team Kovalev for one, and the other being the demotion by Head Coach Corey Clouston, subsequent complaining to Murray and Kovalev’s reinstatement on the Senator’s scoring lines.
Montreal and the Canadiens are wholly another beast regarding the NHL. Perhaps a mulligan is in order for any oddities emitting from time in hockey’s Mecca? Where concern should truly fall is on the recent feud between Kovalev and Clouston. Two quotes from the stories linked above sum up everything.
From Travis Yost of Hockeybuzz:
However, the real storyline is the growing feud between Alex Kovalev and Cory Clouston, which erupted last night after Kovalev voiced his displeasure with limited ice time. Kovalev alleged that he was becoming a scapegoat for Ottawa’s struggles and didn’t really understand why he was demoted. Clouston responded, at least implicitly, that Kovalev’s demotion was due to a lack of effort and fight. He noted that while everyone has a bad game here and there, he expects full effort on a nightly basis, which was obviously a subtle jab at AK-27.
The Kovalev situation reached a head last week when he was banished to the fourth line in practice Wednesday. As reported by the Sun, he complained about Clouston in a meeting with Murray.
Payne is not afraid to throw the “d” word around. He’s employed such tactics to reprimand another talented, yet apathetic (at times) goal scorer, Brad Boyes. If Boyes ever went to Larry Pleau, Doug Armstrong or John Davidson to voice his displeasure, it was never mentioned publicly. As berated as Boyes has been in St. Louis, he takes his sticks along with his carrots.
Kovalev’s game has never been one of well-conditioned, consistent effort. He shows up to compete on his terms. That same dynamic is the leading cause behind two five-game losing streaks. When the Blues have worked hard and smart, they’ve held their own against teams much healthier and more skilled. When they haven’t, they’ve been walked over.
Too many variables are pulling St. Louis in the wrong direction, which can’t happen if they are to compete in the Western Conference. They cannot afford to add on another in hopes it breaks historical trends and becomes a positive influence. Frivolous risk-taking need not apply.
Hopefully Doug Armstrong just says no to Alex Kovalev.