Over the weekend a lot of publicity followed the benching of Ilya Kovalchuk of the New Jersey Devils which made me wonder, benching Kovalchuk, good or bad?
The background: none actually. Head coach John Maclean would not disclose any rationale for his decision while Kovalchuk also failed to share any details. You begin to wonder if there really was a reason?
Of course there is a reason, what that is specifically is not known, but with a record of 2-6-1 in 9 games, last place in the Eastern Conference, perhaps it was to spark the team.
Put on the breaks though coach Maclean. Your team has only won 2 games in 9 played and you bench Kovalchuk who has a team leading 6 points? Kovalchuk has 3 goals and 3 assists, one of which was a game winner. Could it be because of Kovalchuk’s -3 rating? With 7 other players with a worse rating, I would hope not, otherwise half the team is going to be benched. Sure Kovalchuk may not be the best back checker, but the guy puts pucks in the net, which your team needs. Why not bench goaltender Martin Brodeur for his 2-5-1 record? Probably because Brodeur is a major role in the success of your team, which like it or not, Kovalchuk is now as well.
Ending notes, I think the benching of Kovalchuk over the weekend was a bad idea. The team is off to a slow start which happens, but they can turn it around. Benching your star player, or shall I say your new franchise player, is a horrible call. What might have been an effort to rally the troops has now turned into another distraction, much like the whole signing of Kovalchuk in the off-season, much of which the team does not need anymore; distractions.
Let the boys play Maclean and let them find their chemistry. Once they do, they will be pushing for the top seed in the Atlantic Division. If you choose not to let them though, mark my words, your coaching job will be gone before you even unpacked your bags and got settled.