The reports yesterday had Alexei Kovalev going to the KHL for the next two years (click here for the story from NHL.com), probably ending his NHL career.
And if so, then there are no players left from the ‘94 champions.
Hard to believe Kovalev’s 38. Hard to believe it’s been all these years since he arrived. Hard, for me, to believe that he didn’t accomplish more.
I’m interested in what you guys really think of the career he had: 428 goals, 1,024 points. I am sure a lot of you will always think of him fondly, some of you will argue that he was always a big-game player (I’d argue that he had some unbelievable big games, but that he also disappeared at times; I’d also argue with those who say he was the best player in the Messier Guarantee game … I thought Richter, Leetch and, obviously, Messier, were better).
A lot of us will say he was under-appreciated. Some will say he was overrated.
I will say he was the most gifted player the Rangers have had in all my years watching the team play (Gretzky and Jagr were better players for their careers, but neither was in his prime when he got here). Only those two and Mario Lemieux had the kind of hands and vision and ability to dance with the puck, and hold onto it. Kovalev was so strong on the puck, had a devastating shot.
But, of course, for a lot of his NHL time, he looked too interested in playing keepaway, and not nearly interested enough in actually, you know, scoring.
He could do stuff like flip the puck over the rafters in the ceiling of the practice rink and catch it on the blade of his stick. Or hit the crossbar multiple times, standing by the net down the other end of the ice.
And he wasn’t just gifted at hockey. He played golf left-handed, yet there’s the story about how he was playing with Sal Messina and wanted to try Messina’s new right-handed driver. And belted it 300 yards down the middle. He was a musical genius, from what I’ve heard. And a pilot. The kid could pretty much do anything (I also recall the story of him getting so terribly lost his first week in the U.S., being unable to speak English, driving a rented car over bridges, to and from New Jersey, and crying, while trying to find the practice rink in Westchester).
He was a likeable young man—and his teammates absolutely loved him.
I just think it’s a shame that he only accomplished what he did, because I think, with the gifts he had, he could have been an all-time great, a no-doubt Hall of Famer. But he wasn’t an all-time great, and he’s a very borderline HOF candidate, if that.
AP Photo, above.