To boo or not to boo, that is the question. Whether ‘tis nobler to make known a fan’s anger and frustration towards one player’s actions of a year ago with audible sounds of displeasure…or to cheer loudly for him to convey appreciation for his services when here…or to simply sit quietly as said player toils in futility as he currently plays for a once-proud franchise now mired in a troubled season.
Tomorrow night, Ilya Kovalchuk returns to Philips Arena as the Thrashers take on the New Jersey Devils. It will be the second return appearance for Kovy since last winter’s big trade. Last spring, Kovy and his new team made their way to Atlanta and the first overall pick by the Thrashers in 2001 then suffered the slings and arrows of a feisty crowd…most of whom were bent on letting the Russian forward just what they thought about how things went down two months prior.
While most booed Kovalchuk, some did cheer for him when he popped out of the visiting locker room…expressing thanks to him for the years of service to the team before heading out of town on the same rail Marian Hossa had two years prior.
Me…I did neither. My feelings were that Ilya Kovalchuk had made his decision, turning down as much as $10 million a season to remain here, and was simply a member of the visiting team the Thrashers were playing that night. It is what it is…and we move on.
Ilya Kovalchuk was then…and to me remains still…nothing more and nothing less than simply a member of the opposing team. Not worth booing but certainly not worth wasting any breathe on cheering for.
Of course, circumstances are somewhat different now then they were during the final week of last season when the Devils last made there way down to Georgia. Then, New Jersey was 45-26-7 coming into that game and currently on their way to yet another Atlantic Division championship. They earned the second seed in the east for the playoffs.
The Thrashers on the other hand…they were once more banished to viewing the playoffs from the comfort of their couch and planning early-spring golf outings. Same story…different verse.
New Jersey then used that lofty second seed position to win one whole game in postseason, being kicked to the curb by the Philadelphia Flyers in five games. They were the only team of the 16 that qualified for the playoffs to not win at least two games.
And now, as the current NHL campaign has unfolded, it is New Jersey that finds itself having to take up arms against a sea of troubles and look up in the standings to find the Thrashers. In gaining another shootout loss consolation point, Atlanta currently finds themselves ensconced in second place in the Southeast Division and sixth place overall in the Eastern Conference. They are but one point off the division lead and two behind the fifth-place New York Rangers.
This has many residents of Thrasherville looking forward to the much coveted spring campaign for Lord Stanley’s Cup, the portion of the season that only 16 teams are allowed to take part in…an undiscovered country ventured into but once by this franchise and even then, they returned from no games victorious.
Do you plan on booing Kovy Saturday night?
Total Voters: 245
The Devils, on the other hand, carry with them a 9-19-2 record going into tonight’s game against visiting Nashville. And if it weren’t for the New York Islanders, they would be the bottom dwellers of the NHL. In beating the Phoenix Coyotes 3-0 Wednesday night…a game in which Kovalchuk potted a pair of goals…the Devils snapped a five game losing streak. They had dropped 9 of their last 12 as well prior to that win.
They are an offensively-challenged bunch, these Devils. The 56 goals scored to date are the fewest of any team in the league. The Islanders are on the next rung up on that ladder, having scored 62 but played one fewer game than has New Jersey.
For his part, Kovalchuk has 7 goals, 9 assists and is a –17.
In contrast, the Thrashers have 8 players on their roster that have at least 16 points…Dustin Byfuglien, 33…Andrew Ladd, 29…Toby Enstrom, 22…Rich Peverley, 21…Evander Kane, 19…Anthony Stewart, 18…Nic Bergfors, (who was a part of the Kovalchuk deal), 18…and Nik Antropov, 16.
Truly this Devils team has found itself having to grunt and sweat under a weary life in a manner we’ve not seen in many a year. And for some Thrashers fans, it’s almost a joyous sight to behold given the ransom paid for the service of Mr. Kovalchuk. Given the current state of affairs with the two organizations, there will no doubt be a great deal of those Thrashers faithful that will take tomorrow’s opportunity to not only boo #17…but rub things in a bit with their calls from the stands.
I take no issue with that, mind you…you pay your money, you cheer, boo, scream, holler as you see fit. It’s a fan’s right after all. But again, I will simply save my energy for rooting on the home team. Do what you will…do what you may.
However, if one Mr. Johan Hedberg gets the start tomorrow night…well, that’s one Devil I have no problem at all showing some emotion for. I’ll stand a clap for him with all the vigor I can muster up.