December 2, 2010

Kings Crown Sturm as Kovalchuk Reduced to Role of Court Jester in Jersey

"If I hear someone compare me to Kovalchuk again, I'm going to lose it."
Calling Marco Sturm the poor man’s Ilya Kovalchuk would be a little unfair, seeing as the two couldn’t be more different as players:

One’s production this season has been non-existent, while the other has been injured. One will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, while the other will be an unrestricted free agent only by the time the moon is safely colonized. One has never reached the 100-point plateau, while the other, well, hasn’t either, but was never expected to to begin with.

So, while Sturm does make less money than Kovalchuk (a salary-cap hit of $3.5 million versus one of $6.67 million), it isn’t because the Boston Bruins, the team that signed him to his current deal, are any poorer than the New Jersey Devils. They’re just more sane.

In any case, Sturm’s not necessarily any less of a player than Kovalchuk. In fact, one could make a good case that Sturm is actually more valuable than Kovalchuk. I mean, wanting to carry the puck all the time to the point that it becomes like an extra appendage is all nice and good, but you do need actual teammates every once in a while and Sturm’s hit is much more manageable in that regard. That he joins a team, the Los Angeles Kings, already rife with young talent, following a trade with the Boston Bruins on Thursday, speaks volumes as to just how well this deal will work out for L.A.

So, no, general manager Dean Lombardi doesn’t get the superstar scoring winger he had envisioned signing this summer and instead gets a solid depth player that will probably fit in better with the team, perhaps as a second-line left-winger.

When healthy, the Kings have a glut of top-six forwards, and when Sturm is finally able to hit the ice and come back following his knee injury, the Kings will be a better team... a good team. L.A. has lost four in a row and has dropped to two points out of a playoff spot, but Sturm in theory will serve as a much needed injection of energy and life into the line-up, unlike Kovalchuk, who has acted like an incubus (minus the catchy alt-rock choruses) in New Jersey, helping to suck out whatever life the ever-boring Devils might have had left after years of playing defensive-style hockey to death.

"A king, maybe, but not of rock n' roll"
Considering just how badly the New Jersey Devils have imploded, Lombardi may just be thanking his lucky stars (and Lou Lamoriello) that he had to settle for Alexei Ponikarovsky and Sturm. If settling means not signing a lifelong commitment with a player whose definition of the word “pass” is what he does when checking “have a team mortgage its future by signing me to a 15-year deal” off his to-do list... well, let’s just say the Kings are most definitely gladly getting drunk off their asses as we speak and looking to drive down to Las Vegas the next person with female privates that walks in the Staples Center doors for an impromptu wedding ceremony. That Lombardi kind of looks like Elvis Presley is just gravy.

Not only that, but, since this move is a cash-dump by the Bruins, the Kings are not really giving up much of anything of value in return. Reports have a conditional draft pick going to Boston, which likely means, unless Bruins management has suddenly switched places with that of the Detroit Red Wings, there should be few concerns that L.A. is giving up the next Henrik Zetterberg in the trade.

The deal is expected to be made official later today and, for a team that has been waiting since July 1 to put the finishing touches on the contender they were thought to be entering this season, it likely can’t come soon enough. It would bring an end to a saga that has had about as many twists and turns as a Kovalchuk-led rush down the ice. He’s got mad skills, no doubt, but so does a serial killer on the loose. Kings fans can thank God New Jersey’s his latest victim and not L.A.

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