Kovalev firing blanks

EARL MCRAE, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 9:04 AM ET

While Eldrick Woods continues his bottomless plunge from grace, the Ottawa Senators just wish Alex Kovalev would suddenly soar to grace again and stay there instead of scoring a goal or two here, a goal or two there, no goals at all for stretches.

In 1939, British prime minister Winston Churchill: “I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”

In 2009, Ottawa Senators coach Inspector Clouseau: “I cannot forecast to you the action of Kovalev. He is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”

Alex Kovalev, sometimes superstar, is all of that and more, but why are people surprised? In his 15 years in the NHL, he’s always been up and down and backwards and forwards and sideways, the reason why teams eventually get rid of him with other teams always willing to take a chance that with them he’ll finally choose up over down, backwards, and sideways.

The mystery of Alex Kovalev has been analyzed to death, but what’s to analyze? Maybe he’s just one of those guys in pro team sports whose character is such that if they have a great performance, they feel they’ve earned a performance off. Or two. Or three. Or a dozen and more. In some rare cases, forever.

It happens, and not just in sports. The gifted Harper Lee was not able to write another book after her blockbuster To Kill A Mockingbird. Stratospheric public expectations can create fear, creative paralysis, diminished productivity. Two big examples being J.D. Salinger and Truman Capote after Catcher In The Rye and In Cold Blood.

This analogy doesn’t exactly apply to the riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma Alex Kovalev because every now and then, albeit briefly, he does burst forth from the cocoon. But at two months shy of 37, how many such bursts are left? The Senators would like to think there will be some.

If Kovalev was being paid to be a dipsy-doodle dandy putting on a show worthy of the Ice Escapades, he’d be worth all the gold in Fort Knox. Except he’s mostly being paid on a belief he can still score and score proficiently, but you can’t score if you don’t shoot at the net and that’s the real riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma of Alex Kovalev that’s causing Inspector Clouseau to scream in his sleep: “Alex. The NET. Shoot the (censored) puck. At the NET. Just SHOOT.”

Adding to the Senators’ confusion is that in one of his two fitness/skills videos he has for sale to benefit his foundation to help kids with cardiac disease, he proudly teaches shooting techniques.

On his website, he’s delighted to answer questions from his fans on shooting.

When is the next moonwalk coming? “I do moonwalks when I score hat tricks.” Shooting, how is it you do it with such precision? “Keep practising. If you have one style of shooting, stay with it until you get it right, don’t jump from one style to another just because you can’t do it right.” Do you remember the goals you scored on your knees? “I remember all my goals.”

No problem for him remembering all his goals so far this season.

Alex Kovalev. Sometimes he shows up, most times he doesn’t. His heart needs to match his talent.

When he went back to Russia for a few days for the funeral of an in-law, the team didn’t miss him. One could be forgiven for suspecting he enjoyed the break. One could be forgiven for suspecting that if one of the questions on his site was, “Any more trips to Russia planned?” his answer would be, “Yes. Just found out an uncle has a head cold. I’m heading over for a month to be with him.”


Videos

Photos