Sens' Kovalev only fooling himself

BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:13 PM ET

Alex Kovalev might be in a very public battle with coach Cory Clouston.

The prediction is the disgruntled winger isn’t going to win the war.

If the underachieving 37-year-old veteran believes he helped his cause by declaring Friday he’s being made a scapegoat by Clouston after being banished to the fourth line, he’s sadly mistaken.

Frustrated with his role and ice time, Kovalev hasn’t only complained to the media. He marched into GM Bryan Murray’s office after practice Wednesday to let him know he wasn’t happy.

Then, after being subpar and going pointless — again — against the Rangers on Thursday, Kovalev told the media before Friday’s game against the Devils at Scotiabank Place he feels like he’s being made a scapegoat.

“It looks like it right now,” said Kovalev. “There’s nothing I can do about it. I’m not the only one not playing well and (Clouston) decides to pick me. It’s been happening my whole career. I accept that.”

Three league executives told the Ottawa Sun that while Kovalev’s public comments about his relationship with Clouston don’t exactly shed the bench boss in good light, it’s not going to get the coach fired.

“If the coach is on the hot seat, all Alex Kovalev has done — if anything — is buy (Clouston) more time,” said one league executive. “Kovalev is trying to force management to choose between him and the coach. They aren’t going to fire the coach, that would be giving in to Alex Kovalev. He’s going to have to live with it and learn to get along. He hasn’t really left himself with any other choice, has he?”

Clouston, who is in the last year of his contract, has decided he’s had enough of Kovalev’s act. This isn’t new. He’s not the first coach to try to find a way to get Kovalev going.

Most players might be motivated by this. Not Kovalev. He lets this stuff roll right off him. Sure, he’s pulling down a lot bigger paycheque than Clouston, but the Senators are letting Kovalev know that nobody is bigger than the team.

That said, it appears Clouston tried to diffuse the feud by changing the lines against the Devils.

Rookie Bobby Butler was dropped to the fourth line, while Kovalev skated on the right side of Milan Michalek and Jason Spezza.

“He’s not being picked on,” Clouston said before the game. “It’s just about under-performance. We’re not expecting everyone to have a good game every night. We just want the effort. We want the consistency of effort. That’s all it comes down to.”

Kovalev, his agent, Scott Greenspun, and Murray have all denied to the Sun that a trade request has been made.

The way Kovalev was talking about Clouston Friday, it sure sounded like he’d waive his no-movement clause if a trade came along.

Kovalev has the skills to the pay the bills, he just doesn’t show up with them every night. That’s what’s frustrating for Ottawa fans. The nights he decides to turn it up a notch, he’s a difference-maker.

Unfortunately, Kovalev doesn’t take responsibility for the way he’s playing and where he’s being used.

“There’s nothing I can do about it,” said Kovalev. “That’s his decision.”

You see, that’s where Kovalev has it all wrong: He can start producing on a more consistent basis and then he’ll get his wish that “people” will just leave him alone and stop “picking” on him.

Nobody is sure what motivated Kovalev to make the comments he did, but you’ve got to give him points for being honest. Perhaps, he’s just trying to buy his ticket out of town and believes this route will work.

Kovalev claims he’s been picked on his whole career and that accepts it.

He shouldn’t accept it. He should perform.

bruce.garrioch@sunmedia.ca


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