*This article is aimed to discuss the effects of Ilya Kovalchuk’s retirement from the NHL as well as poke fun at some reactions I’ve read online. The satire comments are not my opinions but a combination of Twitter and forum reaction mixed with analysis.
The hockey world stopped Thursday afternoon when the New Jersey Devils announced that forward Ilya Kovalchuk was retiring from the National Hockey League. Whether you’re reading this tomorrow, during the season, or sometime in the future, it’s still hard to wrap your mind around it. Kovalchuk, 30, was in the prime of his career playing in the best league in the world. The two questions we all pondered: why and what now? Obviously this will affect the Devils right away. They’ve lost their best weapon on offense, leaving a big hole on the top line that seemed to be filled by the active offseason. Excluding Reid Boucher, there is no prospect forward in the pipeline to come to the rescue. Not to mention the team will have to give up their first round draft pick next season as a part of the penalty from signing Kovalchuk’s first contract in 2010. It could be a long season unless Lamoriello comes up with another magic trick to reproduce the production lost from Kovalchuk.
As one might expect, Devils fans have gone though a wide range of emotions. Using the Kübler-Ross model, here are the Five Stages of Grief Devils Army may be suffering though:
STAGE ONE- DENIAL
*Random fan checks Twitter; see’s report Kovalchuk is retiring*
“Wait what? This has to be some type of joke.
Kovalchuk retiring? There’s no way this is real. How can a player that trains like an Olympian and scores when he breathes consider calling it quits? He’s owed $77 million dollars for the rest of his career! Who would walk away from that?
This can’t be real. Did the guys from Comic Book Men take over the team’s twitter account to fool around? Maybe the same guys that hacked Tyler Seguin’s account are at it again!
STAGE TWO- ANGER
*Tom Gulitti and other outlets confirm report*
“ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?”
“ WHAT THE HELL!?”
“YOU ONLY WANTED THE MONEY! NO HEART! NO CUPS! AWFUL!”
“Can’t believe we chose this disloyal guy over Parise! WHAT WAS LOU THINKING SIGNING HIM FOR 100 MILLION?”
“Don’t we still lose our first round pick next year? Seriously Lou, why didn’t you forfeit the pick after the Stanley Cup run in 2012?”
“NO!!! NOO GOD NOOOO! NOOOOOOOO! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!”
STAGE 3- BLAME
“It’s all your fault Bettman! ITS ALWAYS YOUR FAULT! Kovalchuk played in Russia during your third work stoppage. He contemplated staying for family and to avoid escrow. YOU PLANTED THE SEEDS OF OUR DESTRUCTION ONCE AGAIN! There’s a reason you will always be swarmed by boos and trash whenever you come to Jersey!”
“Kovie’s defected for the money in the KHL! I blame Vladimir Putin and Medvedev! They’re throwing everything at Kovalchuk to become the face of Russian hockey. SKA Petersburg even tried to sign him on the same day he retired. How dare they!
“YOU RUINED US KOVALCHUK! To think I defended you. Always been a selfish player. To hell with you!”
“Stupid Volchenkov contract! Should have been bought out”
STAGE 4- DEPRESSION
*Tears. Lots and lots of tears*
“Without Kovalchuk we’re gonna be awful. We lost 10 games without him last season. Might as well say we’ll go 0-82! No one can score on this team except for Marty!”
“Clowe’s one concussion away from being an albatross. Michael Ryder is inconsistent. Olesz hasn’t seen an NHL game in years. What’s he gonna do? Schneider will probably leave when his contract ends.”
“Even if we tank we won’t have a first round pick for the draft. No one’s coming up from the farm. Boucher’s a long way away and no one’s behind him. Why did we pick Tedenby and Josefson? Those guys have done squat!”
“We’ve lost Clarkson, Parise, now Kovalchuk. No one wants to play for New Jersey. We’re so broke, our owner is in heavy debt. The team will be shipped out to Quebec or Seattle. Watch!”
“The Islanders and Blue Jackets are going to be better than us. What have we become?”
STAGE 5- ACCEPTANCE
“At least he retired now. Can you imagine if he retired five years from now after he earned $56 million? Our cap-recapture cost would have been horrifying. Now it’s only $250,000 until 2024-2025. We can manage that.”
“The next few years are going to be tough, but the Devils have the cap space to spend freely. Might as well extend Schneider before he gets any ideas.”
“We’ve lost so many stars before and still found success. Lou’s the best general manager in the game. He’ll keep us competitive.”
“Our young defensemen are ready to jump to the NHL. Package one or two of them in a trade and we can get a pretty solid forward back. Thomas Vanek?”
“Bad luck did us in last year. Henrique will bounce back, Elias is still here, Ryder will score, and we still have the CBGB line. Plus, we might get to see Boucher this season. This team has overcome adversity. They can do it again.”
“At least we’re not the Flyers.”
Here’s what the Devils invested into Ilya Kovalchuck:
2009-The trade to acquire the fluid scorer: Niclas Bergfors, Patrice Cormier, Johnny Oduya (who just won the Stanley Cup with Chicago), and a first and second round pick.
2010- After signing Kovalchuk to a 17-year, $102 million contract in July, the team was penalized by the NHL for circumventing the salary cap. The Devils were fined $3 million dollars, lost a third and first round pick (that first rounder will be forfeited in the 2014 Draft).
*NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told multiple media outlets that the Devils will not have the first round pick returned to them. “One (issue) is not related to the other.”
2012- The departure of Zach Parise. It was his decision to go home to play for Minnesota. But you have to ponder if the Devils made a grand offer to keep him. All we know is that Lamoriello said he offered a similar deal to Parise that the Wild did. One has to wonder if the team’s investment into Kovalchuk possibly hampered Parise’s desire to stay with New Jersey.
Now throw in the loss of David Clarkson this off-season (not Kovalchuk related). In one year, the Devils have lost a massive amount of offense that is not easy to recuperate from. Clowe may cover the hole left by Clarkson. Parise’s scoring can be picked up by Ryder. There are other scoring options available, but none that can bring the flair or shooting of Kovalchuk. The threat that he presented rushing up the ice. His speed that created chances on and off the puck for himself and his teammates. Don’t forget the ability to quarterback the power play while providing a potent slapshot.
He is irreplaceable.
What was a promising off-season may very well be remembered as a dark time in the annals of Devils history. All eyes fall on the team’s general manager once again to find a solution. Lamoriello knew for a while that Kovalchuk was contemplating this decision. Time is on his side (two months to be exact before training camp opens) to find an answer to the void left by Kovalchuk’s departure. New Jersey has found ways to continue chugging along, playing better than the sum-of-its-parts. These next few years will be the toughest challenge the franchise has ever faced.
Can New Jersey find a way remain competitive or are gloomy days ahead for the franchise? Sound off in the comments below.
About the Author: Sports Reporter by day, puck stopper between the pipes at night. I was the Locker Room Reporter for the Islanders for WRHU-FM. Currently, I cover the New Jersey Devils on HockeyIndependent.com and Metro Area Hockey on BrooklynFans.com Follow me on Twitter @John_A_Iadevaia