Kovalchuk heading to Toronto?
I had a long discussion with a person who has been around the NHL for 30 plus years. I asked him what he thought of this season's finest drama, "The Ilya Kovalchuk Story." This person, who convenes and communicates with maybe more scouts, players, coaches, GMs and owners than anyone I know, was very matter or fact. I love talking to tried-and-true-old-time hockey guys. They say it exactly as they see it.
"Burkie will get him," my source replied to my question. "With all that is going on in Toronto, with Burkie and Willy headed up team USA, and the pressure from the teachers, they will get him. It's also what Kovalchuk wants. The Spotlight. To be on the big stage."
"Is it?" I asked, "I thought Ilya was ok being out of the limelight to a degree."
"Oh No," my source replied, " Russians, and he in particular, they want to be 'the Guy.' They want the stage....and the Leafs have the money. They have been saving it for this. The Leafs don't have 'the guy' yet and they need one immediately. It is coming from above Burkie."
"What about Kessel, can't he be the guy?"
"Kessel is a great player, but he is an American...The Leafs have never done that and Kessel is good to great, but not enough. The Leafs do have a history of Europeans and Russians being big players for them..but it is different for Americans."
"Isn't there a great irony with Burkie being the GM of the Maple Leafs at such a critical time in Canadian Hockey, while also being GM of the Americans?"
"It would be a problem for 90% of GMs. But Burkie doesn't care. He adores that juxtaposition. Yet he knows that he must get Kovalchuk tied up long term. And what better way to soften the blow going into the Olympics...The fact that there are no Leafs on Team Canada, while there are two Leafs (Kessel and Komisarek) on Team USA, as well as Brian and Ron...Brian knows the Leafs need to make the splash going into these games.. They will get him. I would almost call it a given."