This summer, fans and teams across the National Hockey League were excited to see Russian sniper Ilya Kovalchuk coming back to the league and the veteran forward became one of the most coveted free agents on the market. The Los Angeles Kings won the sweepstakes, however, the start to the 2018-19 season hasn't been what the team expected when they brought him on board.
And it probably wasn't what Kovalchuk expected himself, especially when he slipped down to the fourth line of the Kings, logging less than six-and-a-half minutes of ice time in Sunday's win over the Edmonton Oilers.
While it is probably very frustrating for Kovalchuk, who managed to record 14 points in his first 14 games in Los Angeles, the veteran player has remained focus on his main goal: putting team success above his own.
“I don’t know,” Kovalchuk said when asked why his ice time had decreased. “But the most important thing, we won last night. So that’s good, that’s positive. It doesn’t matter who plays how much minutes. It’s important to win, especially in our situation.”
On Sunday, Kovalchuk was nailed to the bench in the third period of the contest against the Oilers. He only clocked in 10 shifts in the contest.
“I don’t know how to be on the bench, because that’s first time in my career I sit there for third period,” he explained. “But I’m that kind of guy. You know, I don’t care. We were winning and that’s all that matters.”
On Tuesday, before the Kings' tilt against the Vancouver Canucks, new head coach Willie Desjardins made some shocking comments on his decision to put Kovalchuk on the fourth line.
It sure sounds like Desjardins is admitting to putting Kovalchuyk in a position to fail. Here are his comments as reported per Lisa Dillman of The Athletic.
"When you've always been a top two line guy, for sure, all of a sudden somebody puts you on the fourth line, it's going to be hard for him to find his game. So it's not fair to him in some ways either, I'm making him play to his weaknesses... "
Why not put him in a position where he will succeed?!
Kovalchuk joined the Kings on a three-year, $18.75 million contract in July after spending the last five years in the KHL. He's had 15 shots during his nine-game skid that has resulted him with him on the fourth line and sitting on the bench for an entire period...
Desjardins wants to see the 35-year-old capitalize on his opportunities to move him up the lineup.