Thursday, October 28, 2010

If Lou can screw up, are any of us safe?

Take from the media response what you will, but the overwhelming word on the street is that the Ilya Kovalchuk acquisition is a complete and utter flop:

This from Scott Stevenson:
"Well, the good news is the New Jersey Devils have 15 years to work things out with Ilya Kovalchuk."

This from Eric Duhatschek:
"Instead, the Devils were a collective no-show against the Sabres. Maybe the players figured that if Kovalchuk didn’t have to play, why should anybody else?"

Last night on TSN Quiz when asked if Kovy should have been scratched:
Keith Jones: It is a no. It's an unnecessary distraction that the New Jersey Devils did not need this season... It was a major mistake and the way the team performed that night really told me that was wrong.

Whatever lies ahead for the Devils and their left winger (who has been moved to right wing against his wishes, just to add to the fuss), the honeymoon phase was over before it started in New Jersey. Right now a lot of people including Kovalchuk's ex-teammates are piping in with negative observations about the character and quality of the 100-million dollar player. Bobby Holik even went on record wondering why Lou Lamerello would build a team around a guy like Ilya?

A premature observation perhaps, but ten games into the 2010/2011 season the unthinkable looks to have transpired. Lou Lamerello has messed up. Bad. And if you have that old familiar sinking feeling in your stomach, like when you found out Santa wasn't real, or when you had the realization that your Dad wasn't the strongest man in the world, you're probably not alone. When a man with a track record as impeccable as the Devil's long-time GM flat out falls on his face, it makes one wonder if other mere mortal GM's should be trusted to be making significant trades at all?

I think both Sens fans and Leaf fans will admit that their respective GM's have probably made mistakes. Maybe Sens fans would like a few of the 2nd round picks back that Murray has sent away at trade deadlines. Maybe some Leaf fans would like Seguin instead of Kessel. Michalek for Heatley is still a hot button topic. Some folks don't think Armstrong is worth $3M at all. While these and other deals Burke and Murray have made are still up for debate, rest assured that no matter how lopsided they become in the end, none will come close to the blood on Lamerello's hands if #17 ends as badly as it's began.

Timely, isn't it, that both Burke and Murray are working the trade phones as we speak, both looking to make significant deals as indicated by recent comments to the press? Surely there is a small seed of doubt in both men. If Lou can make a big mistake, Burke must be questioning his own ambitions and it has to be making Murray second and triple guess any thoughts he has about moving a big piece like Spezza. It has to be affecting them. It has to be making GM's who are in discussions with Burke and Murray a little nervous too. It could even be stinting the growth of deals, pushing GM's to consider smaller deals that have less risk of damage if they go awry.

Or, perhaps I'm completely wrong and it's just business as usual, the ego's of such men outweighing the contemplation of their own mortality.

One thing is for certain, the Kovalchuk deal is a loud and resounding notice that General Managers of NHL teams hold in their hands the power to make or break a franchise. Murray and Burke are out there right now looking to make a deal, and by the sounds of it significant ones. Let's hope they know what they're doing.

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