L’Artiste is a Senator

Ottawa is a bilingual(ish) city, so maybe Alex Kovalev gets to keep the nickname conferred upon him, with no small degree of irony, by Montreal’s French media.

Oh, he was artistic. Nobody ever left the Bell Centre complaining about ticket prices after Kovy had painted one of his masterpieces.

What skills!

What flair!

What a showman!

And what a five-year love affair between Kovy and fans who have seen the best of the best and expect, for $100 a seat, to witness something more entertaining than Tom Kostopoulos losing a fight.


Everyone has a Kovy highlight reel.

It’s tough to top his effort in The Game against the Rangers, but my personal fave was Kovalev sweeping behind the Boston net, beating Zdono Chara, losing his glove and stopping to pick it before skating out in front.

I don’t even remember if he scored on the play. But such magic!

Is Kovalev worth the $10 million the Senators will pay him for two seasons?

No. At this stage of their respective careers, Brian Gionta is probably a better investment.

But Ottawa fans are in for a treat.

Let’s put it this way: He’s more exciting than Question Period.

Will Kovalev thrive in Cory Clouston’s system?

Of course not … mainly because he won’t play it.

Memorably characterized by Neil Smith, the Rangers general manager who drafted him, as a “wild child”, Kovalev can’t play anyone’s system.

Not Guy Carbonneau’s.

Not Cory Clouston’s.

Kovalev skates to the beat of his own drum. When his linemates are in sync with Kovy – as Robert Lang and Martin Straka were in Pittsburgh and as Tomas Plekanec and Andrei Kostitsyn were for one magic regular season (but not playoffs) with the Canadiens – it’s wondrous to watch.

But when l’Artiste is doing his own thing, oblivious to the other four skaters on the ice … well, the results are more Jackson Pollock than Rembrandt.

Alex Kovalev is an intelligent and cultured man. He plays the saxophone, flies his own airplane … and could probably do both simultaneously.

He is a proud man who believes there is institutionalized bias against Russians in the NHL. He was hurt by being left off the national team that won the Worlds in Quebec City, and Kovalev was said to be deeply dismayed by the Kostitsyn brothers, whose off-ice deportment he was unable to influence this season.

They embarrassed him.

Through good nights, indifferent nights and, occasionally, bad nights, the Bell Centre crowd loved Alex Kovalev.

And he loved them back. Those kisses Kovy blew to the All-Star Game crowd were from the heart.

And now l’Artiste has packed up his easel, his canvases, his paints and his brushes.

Kovy has kissed Montreal goodbye, and I miss him already.

Let’s hope Mike Cammalleri has a few highlight reel goals in him.

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