You can't judge a book by its cover. Nor, nowadays, can you judge a former NHL all-star by his performance in the Kontinental Hockey League. Jaromir Jagr is as productive as ever, and he's been that way since returning from KHL side Avangard Omsk in 2011-2012. His tenure with Omsk, however, didn't set Russia ablaze. In fact, in 155 KHL games Jagr managed 145 points -- a .94 PTS/GM tally. Not awful by any means, though in a league where NHL flameouts Brandon Bochenski and Stephane Da Costa have emerged as point-per-game players it's somewhat shocking that an all-world talent can't crack the mark.
NHL players who participated in the KHL during the 2012-2013 lockout saw mixed results as well. Evgeni Malkin tallied 65 points in just 37 games for his hometown team Metallurg Magnitogorsk. Mats Zuccarello and Evander Kane didn't fair nearly as well. Zuccarello tallied just 28 points in 44 games, while Kane struggled mightily with Belarussian club Dinamo Minsk -- scoring a measly 2 points in 12 games before bolting back to North America.
It's a mystery why some players excel and others, with seemingly the same talent, do not. Perhaps the larger ice isn't for everyone. Maybe the effort isn't there; whether it be inconsistent or non-existent. Whatever the reason, it shouldn't serve as an excuse to pass on a generational talent such as Ilya Kovalchuk.
Kovalchuk is currently at odds with his KHL team SKA St. Petersburg. Why? Who the hell knows. The reasons isn't clear, but we do know this much: he's been sent back to St. Petersburg and won't play in games 3 and 4 of SKA's playoff matchup against Lokomotiv Yaroslavl.
Update on the Kovalchuk situation: LifeNews is reporting that Kovalchuk was sent back to St. Petersburg for violation of team rules.— KHL News - English (@KHLNewsEN) February 23, 2016
Sport-Express reporting that Ilya Kovalchuk will not play Games 3 or 4 vs Lokomotiv and has been stripped of SKA's captaincy.— KHL News - English (@KHLNewsEN) February 24, 2016
Kovalchuk is by no means, at least from his NHL days, a lazy player. He was never a locker room distraction, so perhaps there's more to this than meets the eye. It's not my place to figure out the specifics. It is my place, however, to insist that the Bruins should inquire with the New Jersey Devils about acquiring the rights to Kovalchuk.
The 32-year-old has 186 points in 185 KHL games. A mark that was aided heavily by his 42 points in 36 games during the NHL lockout. Since his return to SKA, Kovalchuk has surpassed the point-per-game mark in just one season, 2014-2015.
But Kovalchuk's stats might not matter, because getting him back in an NHL uniform is a carnivalic event in and of itself. According to SI's Allan Muir:
Kovalchuk signed his NHL retirement papers in July 2013, terminating a deal with the New Jersey Devils that still had 12 years and $77 million remaining. Days later, he signed a four-year deal with SKA.
That contract runs through the 2016–17 season, but a return is unlikely even after it expires. Because Kovalchuk retired mid-contract, he would need the approval of every NHL club to regain eligibility. That’s not happening.
Alternately, he would be required to sit out a year after that contract expires, a period during which he’d be unable to play professional hockey at any level. Hard to see how that makes sense, on a personal or professional level.
Uh, so yeah, it doesn't appear that Kovalchuk will be suiting up for any NHL club, nevertheless the Bruins anytime soon. It was still fun to think about it happening, wasn't it?
My guess, he makes a dramatic return to SKA during the KHL playoffs, scores a few key goals and all is forgotten.