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It’s Your Fault

If there’s one topic and player that has been flogged harder than Scott Gomez in the past 2 seasons, it has to be Andrei Kostitsyn.

Since being drafted 10th overall at the 2003 draft, he has consistently done one thing: fail to live up to expectations.

Guess what? It’s your fault.

He’s been assigned labels like “heartless”, “lazy”, “inconsistent”, “soft” and “replaceable”. Seriously, guys?

I guess you’ve been duped in to thinking that 20 goal / 100 hit guys grow on trees, or that Kostitsyn is somehow overpaid for what he brings. “Heartless” and “lazy” are off-base monikers that are totally subjective, and I suspect more often than not are derogatory adjectives given to Eastern European players by “lazy” fans and media who can’t be bothered to actually “do the research” before passing judgement on him.

Let’s tackle this one: Since 2007-08, Kostitsyn’s points-per-game average has been: .68ppg (07-08), .55ppg (08-09), .56ppg (09-10), .55ppg (10-11), .51ppg (11-12). While this year represents a low, we should also note that he is no longer getting prime ice time, and rarely gets power play time (1:48 of powerplay time per game, 8th on the team). If Kostitsyn plays 70 games, he scores 20 goals and will throw 100 hits on a team that has been forever labeled small and weak. Talk about shouldering the burden.

Another misnomer for AK46. Over the course of the past 5 seasons, Kostitsyn has ranked no lower than 5th among forwards in terms of hits thrown, and anyone watching knows that Andrei Kostitsyn can throw his weight around as well as anyone. In fact, Kostitsyn led the team in hits last season with 140, and was 3rd in 09-10 despite missing 20+ games. This season, AK46 is second in hits behind Erik Cole with 75 hits in 47 games. Kostitsyn has played 10 fewer games than Cole, who will not keep up this year’s pace as he ages.

Habs fans have been clamoring for Kostitsyn’s ouster from Montreal for years now, mostly because he hasn’t pleased those who think he’s a 35 goal man with a 20 goal man’s drive. With the NHL average salary about to creep closer to 3 million dollars, I’d hate to think that there are people out there dumb enough to think that his 3.25 million dollar salary is some kind of overpayment for his services. I defy you to find another player on the open market that is a lock for 20 goals, 40pts and 100 hits for what will be slightly more than the league average next season. If the Habs look to replace his production and presence on the free agent market, they’ll have to badly overpay in terms of annual salary and term. The Habs would be smart to re-sign Kostitsyn while he’s still willing…if he’s still willing. And don’t talk to me about in-house replacements. The Canadiens have nobody – N-O-B-O-D-Y in the organization that is close to being able to produce the way Kostitsyn does. Not Louis Leblanc, not Mike Blunden, not Aaron Palushaj, not Brendan Gallagher.

While Kostitsyn was drafted behind all-stars like Perry, Getzlaf, Richards, Kesler, Parise and Carter, fans simply need to stop being so unbelievably and absolutely thick-skulled about Kostitsyn. Adjust your expectations already! Andrei Kostitsyn brings stability, skill and a sorely needed physical presence to the Canadiens lineup. If he was given steady linemates and given a role that suits his best skill (that of a sniper), maybe he’d be closer to the guy everyone thinks he ought to be. But until then, the Canadiens have a reliable, home-grown player that comes at excellent value. Apparently that isn’t enough, though. That damn 10th overall tag just won stop dogging him. Stubborn fans and media won’t let it go away. Apparently fans want to see assets mismanaged to the point where the next guy that is brought in to replace him is paid 30% more, while he inevitably eventually becomes somebody fans want traded for a bag of used mouth guards.

Andrei Kostitsyn as a failure? Hardly. It’s your fault for letting your imagination continually run wild. Is he a perfect player, and a perfect little boy scout? No, he isn’t, and he has hit slumps, sometimes for long stretches. Which player hasn’t? Stop comparing him to others in his draft class. We can play this game all day, and you’re sounding like a broken record. To boot, we can sing the Habs praises for drafting Pacioretty and Subban before other teams snatched them up, unless you would have preferred Riley Nash, Angelo Esposito, Logan MacMillan, Jakub Voracek, or Zach Hamill. If you’re going to remain in the camp that insists Kostitsyn is a drag on the team, at least be armed with a good reason other than “I watch the games and he’s poopy and he was drafted before Corey Perry and I hate him and he’s a bum”.

  • http://www.cowhideandrubber.com Kyle Roussel

    @Shawn – Thanks for stopping by and leaving your thoughts. As I mentioned in the post, I don’t think Kostitsyn is a perfect player and is not without his warts. He is prone to brain cramps and does turn the puck over a bit too often relative to the amount of takeaways he has. I would like to see him play a bit more of a north-south game, or, whatever lets him use that lethal shot of his more often. Certainly, as you said, the Canadiens will not get fair value for him considering his talent. On top of bringing him back because he’s a good player, I think the Canadiens should bring him back because a reasonable long-term contract will make him worth more in a trade down the line, if the Canadiens go back down that road.

  • Shawn Wright

    I have a two sided argument on AK. Firstly, he is all that you and others have said, not to mention he has a little mean streak (which I love and seems to be when he plays his best games) I think he might just thrive with a chip on his shoulders, who knows? My second point is that he is a little dangerous. He is like Kovavlev was but a little less safe. He tends to make poor decisions more than he doesn’t. He tries the toughest of plays in which Kovalev surely rubbed off but his hands and stickhandling just don’t normally match. That is saying allot of the difficulty level of his attempts because he has some beautiful hands. I am lost in what PG needs to do because we will never get enough for him in a trade. That is frustrating. If it where me and I knew I could pull it off, I would sign him at a discounted price (assuming AK will still do that) and then trade him in the summer for something we need; maybe a soild Dman.
    Just my two cents :)

  • http://www.cowhideandrubber.com Kyle Roussel

    @Kamal – too often people just blurt out what they’re feeling…and now with access to sites like facebook, twitter and blogging, it’s easier than ever to post those thoughts for everyone to see.

    Kostitsyn posts 20 goals year-in, year-out if he plays enough games, and he throws hits. Those guys are tough to find, and they are just what the Canadiens need more of, not less. And at his price, you can’t go wrong, which is why I’m going to be so annoyed when they flip him for a mid-round draft pick or lose him for nothing.

  • http://www.cowhideandrubber.com Kyle Roussel

    @Janet – if you go back far enough in this site’s archives, I haven’t always been chummy with Kostitsyn, but at some point, he is what he is. And I personally believe that he’s a good player at a good price. Thanks for reading!

  • http://www.cowhideandrubber.com Kyle Roussel

    @Will – I’ll freely admit that I’ve had my share of frustrations over Kostitsyn, but at one point I decided that if he was a 30+ goal guy, he wouldn’t be the bargain price that he is.

  • Will Martinez

    Very nice post. While I always wish I saw more out of Kostitsyn for the simple fact that I think he has the most raw natural ability of anyone on the team, his expectations have been buoyed by the fact that all those names were drafted in the same year he was. He is an effective player overall though and I’ll be the first to look in the mirror and say I should probably temper my expectations a little bit more.

  • Janet

    Kyle: I can’t say I’ve been AK46’s biggest supporter, but I agree that he’s taken a bad rap when it isn’t called for. Great post!

  • http://www.HabsAddict.com Kamal Panesar

    Good stuff, as always, Kyle!

    I’m glad you’re shouting this from the roof tops because too many people overlook the facts. But why let facts get in the way of a good argument, right?

    Kostitsyn is what he is, and that is a CONSISTENT 20-something goal-scorer with size. Is a 30-goal scorer? Maybe with the right linemates he could be. But having a player who scores 20 on a perennial basis while being shifted from the 1st line to the 3rd to the 2nd to the 4th to the bench, is no small feat.

    Fans dislike him because they see flashes of his brilliant skills and lament the fact that he doesn’t get it done night in and night out. And so they call him inconsistent.

    The reality is that you can’t find one 20 goal scorer in the league who ISN’T inconsistent! If they were consistent, they would be 30-plus goal-scorers. And that, is ultimately what separates the elite from everyone else.

    It’s just unfortunate that more fans and media who bash Kostitsyn don’t realize that he has played the same every year…it is their sky-high expectations that need to be adjusted.

    He is what he is and a good re-sign at $3.5 mil, imo.

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