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Waiting for Kovy means scratching Kovy Print
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Written by Justin Bourne   
Wednesday, 27 October 2010 18:46

If it seems like there's a lot that went into John MacLean's decision to scratch Ilya Kovalchuk, there isn't: It's tough for a player to be late to a meeting, and tough for a coach to play him.

Justin BourneIlya Kovalchuk was a healthy scratch on Saturday, apparently because he was 10 minutes late to a team meeting. And I think that's just great.

I don't think it's great if your team is 7-1. I don't think it's great if your coach is Scotty Bowman. But for a relatively unproven coach dealing with a 2-6-1 team? I'm whole-heartedly on board.

Hockey players don't have to be a whole lot of places.

MIDWEEK MUSINGS

You generally have to be at the rink by 9 a.m., and then ... um ... yeah. If it's game time, that's one extra "be here by."

Once you're at the rink, it's impossible to miss a meeting. Players move together in packs to these things, so you just can't miss half the team getting up and going into the video room or weight room or anywhere without realizing that you're missing something.

If teams are struggling, occasionally there will be a meeting that goes above and beyond the usual. Maybe they said "hey, all power-play guys meet in the coach's office at 8:45." Maybe they just arranged a chat to start at 9. Whatever it was, Ilya got the message. You don't scratch a guy for ignorance, you scratch him for disobedience, and he definitely knew when to be where.

The worst part with Kovalchuk being 10 minutes late is that he's such an integral piece all over the ice for the Devils. If it was a power play meeting, they literally can't do it without him, or they'll have to do it all over again for him. If it's just a team meeting, he's the highest paid – and thus implied "best" – player on the team. You can't have two sets of rules for anyone. That guy needs to be there.

Being late isn't the biggest crime in the world. I'm not trying to make a mountain out of a molehill here. I just support the move by MacLean based on how their season has started.

Given hockey's nature, being late for meetings is too noticeable a mistake to go unpunished.

This was absolutely not a "shape up" for Ilya Kovalchuk, it was a statement to the team:

Yes, we have a losing record, but we're not about to let things go slack. Now is when we tighten up. I don't care who you are, this organization has lived off the concept of team and has had success with it. That's not changing now.

Given hockey's nature, being late for meetings is too noticeable a mistake to go unpunished. Guys work to get things done until the second they step out onto the ice. They need to use the stim machine on injuries and get taped and wrapped and warm up and stretch and fix their sticks. All that fun stuff.

So it's not like Kovy slid into his 11th grade math class 10 minutes late and caught up on things.

There would've been a group of guys holding cups for spittoons, dressed in their undergear, facing a screen with the coach sitting beside it and the Jeopardy! theme song playing ... waiting for Kovy. Under the situation, normal minutes turn into dog minutes. Being late to a meeting never ends well on a hockey team, given it's the only thing you're supposed to be at that day.

When you have a contract like Kovy's, it could definitely cause a guy to relax, but it's too soon to start wondering if that's the case. At the same time, that fear is exactly why I support MacLean's "just in case" decision to scratch Kovalchuk. It's time to tighten up.

I'm Justin Bourne, and I approve that message.

Photo by Getty Images

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 October 2010 20:36