Updated: February 14, 2010, 12:30 AM ET

Is Kovy too risky for Devils? Olympic rivalries?

Buccigross By John Buccigross
ESPN.com
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Bucci,

I just wanted to hear your thoughts on the Ilya Kovalchuk trade. As a die-hard Devils fan (yes, we do exist), I don't particularly like the idea of giving up a top-four defenseman (Oduya), a future 30-goal scorer (Bergfors), a potential two-way, third-line center (Cormier), AND a first-round pick for a guy who'll be here for less than half a season plus the playoffs. I've never been a fan of the rental player, and I highly doubt that Lou is gonna write Kovalchuk the blank check he seems to be looking for. If they don't win the Cup to make it worth it, this could put a huge dent in the future of the team.

Nick
New Jersey

Ilya Kovalchuk is likely a rental. GM Lou Lamoriello could move enough salary to fit Kovalchuk to a contract, but he would have to strip his team to do it. I'm just curious if Kovalchuk will make the same demands he made of Atlanta this summer, or if he made those demands just to get traded.

I just don't think the Devils gave up that much. Once in a while, all of the parts of a trade like this work out, but the Devils draft so well and the talent pool around the world is so deep, they should be able to replace these assets soon. Lamoriello knew there was no way his team could hang with the Capitals and probably the Penguins and Flyers in a playoff series. He had to get a goal scorer to go along with Zach Parise and make the Devils more difficult to match up against.

It still might not be enough to win the Eastern Conference, but I think it was definitely worth the risk. Once Kovalchuk gets hot and the Devils congeal, they could be really dangerous come playoff time. But you have to wonder if Martin Brodeur can stay fresh for four more months. In the end, he has to be their best player.

Bucci,

Now, I may be biased being a Penguins fan, but it seems like Ovechkin's goals total is often inflated by a lot of empty-net goals. He also seems to stay on the ice longer than normal and force shots during the late-game scenarios where an empty-netter is possible.

Bryan
Annapolis, Md.

Alex Ovechkin does lead the NHL with four empty-net goals. Nine players are tied with three. There have been times when I've watched Capitals games and Ovechkin might be staying on the ice a bit too much at the end of games, sniffing at center ice, but overall I don't have a problem with Ovi on the ice at the end of games.

1. Scoring an empty-net goal seals the game. I want my best goal scorer on the ice. His desire to score often means a bigger defensive effort.

2. Ovechkin is a great skater and a hard hitter. He can help seal one-goal games late if he plays with defensive awareness.

3. He's one of the top two players in the game with Sidney Crosby. He can do whatever he wants!

4. It's the regular season. Get your top players some free points. It's good if they are in a good mood.

The Capitals have a 14-point lead in the East. Ovechkin is the clear-cut MVP.

Hi John,

The East Coast Bias is true. For us NHL fans in the UK, we have to stay up til about 3 a.m. to finish watching an East Coast team (Caps!), while my best mate who is a Canucks fan hardly sees his team play (unless he gets in from a night out at 3 a.m. and watches it til 6 a.m.!). Touching on that, people have stated Blackhawks versus Penguins would be the dream Stanley Cup final. I disagree. Canucks versus Caps would be the best final. What's your take?

Al

The best Stanley Cup finals matchup is relative. The best final in most of Canada would be Montreal-Vancouver. The best final in the U.S. would probably be Washington-Chicago. The local ratings would be huge, which would help push the national television rating in the United States. And the hockey would be high flying and high scoring. Marian Hossa would be playing in his third straight final with three different teams. Ed Olczyk could telestrate the power of the Q-Stache. NBC could then superimpose the Q-Stache on Bruce Boudreau's head and create a Q-Mohawk.

Bucci,

Why do players feel the need to immediately drop the gloves when a clean and legal hit is delivered? It is baffling that this is now the trend in hockey. It is fine to stick up for a teammate when the opposing team is taking liberties with a star player, but a good, clean, solid hit should not result in dropping the gloves. If you want to get the guy back, take his number and crush him later. What are your thoughts?

John

I've been writing about that issue in this space for years. You don't see NFL safeties having to fight after drilling a wide receiver. But the big hit in hockey has become akin to the inside pitch in baseball. Everything is personal. Now there are times when it is noble for teammates to stick up for one another. But I prefer the guy who gets brush-backed to get even by taking out the shortstop and the guy who gets hit in hockey to take a number, any number, and deliver a clean, menacing, payback hit.

That being said, hockey hits have never been more powerful, and thus dangerous. For some, it's a natural reaction to a violent moment by responding in a defensive manner. It's hard to see a "brother" fall and not do anything about it. It's a natural reaction.

Hey Bucci,

Watching the Hawks tonight and listening to a bit of Olympic chatter, I was wondering: If the U.S. and Canada meet somewhere in the tournament, would a blueliner like Duncan Keith or Brent Seabrook really lay out someone like Patrick Kane? I know it's a very serious tournament, but wouldn't there be a little let up just kind of subconsciously? I mean, you don't want to see your club's best player get carried off the ice even if he is on the other team. What you think?

Jon Turoff

That is the part of the Olympics I don't like. I also don't like rooting against NHL players, which is what I will do when Team USA plays against other countries. (And the United States and Canada are set to clash in a preliminary-round game on Feb. 21.)

But back to your point. I do think in most cases, yes, a player would lay out a teammate at the Olympics; in a small amount of cases, they would not. I don't think I could. When I played sports as a kid, I couldn't even look my opponent in the eye before the game. I certainly couldn't shake their hands. If I had any kind of "relationship" with an athletic opponent, I would not go all out. I just can't "wage war" against friends or even acquaintances. But I think I'm in the minority there.

John,

I've read your comments a number of times about the Penguins and their lack of punch on the wing as the reason as to why they won't win the Cup this year. As a Penguins fan, of course I would like another player(s) that can fill the net a bit more. However, with the exception of Mike Rupp, this is the exact set of forwards they had last year. If it was good enough last year, why not again?

Billy Gazdik
Atlanta, Ga.

Primarily, it is not good enough because the Capitals are better. Teams improve, and right now, the Penguins are probably about the same to not quite as good as last year. Injuries have certainly contributed to that, but every team has injuries. Another factor is the inconsistent play of Evgeni Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury has yet to record a shutout this season, while Malkin isn't in the top 10 in scoring.

The Penguins, healthy and just playing to their potential, are a still a Stanley Cup threat. No doubt. But I still think they need some help.

Hello Mr. Buccigross,

I was wondering if you can answer a question for me to answer a debate between a friend and I. When did the clutch and grab start in hockey? I said it started to become a huge issue after the first lockout in 1995, my friend thinks it was 1998. Any feedback is greatly appreciated.

Charbel H.

Your friend is probably closer to when defensive styles, a decade of expansion and lack of rule enforcement (which led to more older, tired players) bloomed in the NHL. Three teams scored over 300 goals in the 1995-96 season. That didn't happen the next season. In 1997-98, the high was 256 goals by the Blues. There would not be a 300-goal scoring team again until after the rulebook adjustments out of the lockout. The standards may again be going the other way a bit. We haven't had a 300-goal scoring team the past two seasons.

John,

I wanted to thank you for your words about Brendan and only wish I had done so myself yesterday in person at the funeral -- I had the chance, but did not react. Your words about Brendan could not be more true.

I had the pleasure of working with Brendan the last three years at Miami; what a young man he was. I will especially cherish the time he took to provide my sons a souvenir from the NHL Winter Classic a few weeks ago. They watched the game with their grandparents in Vermont. Knowing Brendan was busy at the time, I texted Brendan anyway to see if he could grab a Bruins and Flyers winter hat at the game. Without hesitation, he did. Those hats on my sons' heads, as you will understand, mean so much to my sons and even more to me.

Thank you for telling the world about Brendan. I know I am better for having known him.

Andy Geshan
Equipment Manager, Ice Hockey
Miami University

Bucci,

I read your article on Brendan Burke's incredible story. I'm sure I wasn't the first one to inform you of his tragic death Friday. Brendan was traveling between Michigan State University and Miami of Ohio with a high school friend of mine, Mark Reedy. Both were killed in a horrific accident when Burke's car lost control and swerved into the oncoming traffic. I didn't know Brendan, but I knew Mark well. Mark embodied everything we strive to be in our lives and he, along with Brendan, will be dearly missed but not forgotten.

Chad Shepard
Bloomfield Hills, Mich.

Here is more information on Mark Reedy, in the words of one of his closest friends, Livi Enright. She attended school with Mark from grade school all the way to MSU and was extremely close with him:

    Mark Reedy was born March 25, 1991 in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. He was an engineering major at Michigan State who was intensely focused on his studies. He has a beautiful family, mother Marcia, father Cliff, and sisters Michelle and Megan. He was an award-winning diver, truly gifted soccer player and a member of MSU's club volleyball team.

    Mark Adams Reedy was an amazing friend, son, brother, and person who touched the lives of anyone he met and knew. Countless people have contributed their favorite stories and meaningful thoughts of Mark over these tragic few days, and it's not hard to see the way he has impacted hundreds of lives.

    Mark was my best friend since elementary school, and I considered him to be my big brother. He was the guy who thought of everyone but himself, offering to take me out on Valentine's Day when I complained to not have a date. He would send me text messages randomly to tell me to have a good day, or to remind me that he loved me. He walked me home from parties late at night to ensure that I never walked anywhere alone. Mark was just that sort of guy. It is hard for me to imagine going back to MSU without him: we did everything there together.

    He had a smile that would light up any room, and charisma that could never be ignored. Whenever our close group of friends would start an argument, Mark would always be the one to say "guys, this is stupid. life is short. we all love each other, now let's have fun." His main concern in life was having fun and he sought out to do that every day.

    We all swore Mark woke up every morning (even though he was always really grumpy) with a mission to do anything he could to enjoy life. Mark encompassed every good quality that a person could have, and was the most caring, compassionate, hilarious man to ever exist. Mark had humungous dreams, such as skydiving, bungee jumping, or traveling anywhere he could. His ever-present iPhone thrilled us all with facts and jokes when ever he felt himself entering an awkward situation, in which he would "sweat", or he was the first one to be able to pull up a map when we would get lost on a night out. He hunted funny or exciting YouTube videos to show all of us, often receiving an eye roll from us or a huge belly laugh.

    Mark was a dear friend to many from elementary school to college, and everybody is feeling the loss. He was genuinely an amazing person, and there are no words to truly show the person that he was. We all love him very much.

It has been a long, sad, draining four days, mourning the sudden and tragic death of someone so full of life. As with the sudden death and loss of Jack Falla, I will always regret that I didn't spend more time in the company of Brendan Burke. Closing the book on both leaves a big void in hockey and humanity, but life leaves us no choice.

What follows are words delivered at Tuesday's funeral mass by Brendan's older brother, Patrick Burke:

    Brendan lived in a world without walls, without limits and without boundaries. From birth, he had an unshakable faith that genuine good resides in all people. Along with that faith was hope -- hope that he could bring that good out from inside people and into the world by being open, caring and kind to everyone he met. Looking around this room, it is clear that he was right.


    Brendan only had 21 years, but in that time, the sheer power of his love transcended everything. He was the hope of the next generation for the old, a beloved friend and role model to his peers, and a hero to the young. He was the roommate to the musical theatre troop and the teammate of the star athletes. He earned varsity letters and dean's list accolades. He spoke to the heart of an audience of millions, and to the courage of the high school boy who eats alone at lunch every day. He was strong and unyielding in his convictions, but soft, sweet, and gentle in their application. He was the best of the Burkes and the best of the Gilmores. He taught the teachers and he learned from the students. He was the face of a movement and will always be the soul of the family.

    To many of us, Brendan's world is a dream world. Brendan had the courage to transcend cynicism and fear and live for 21 glorious years in that dream. His vision of the world was a spark that lit a fire of hope in so many people. That fire has not been extinguished by his passing. His memory will fan the flames of courage in all of us, inspiring us all to be a little kinder, a little stronger, a little better, a little more like Brendan.

    Through all of us, his hope still lives and his dream will never die.

John Buccigross' e-mail address -- for questions, comments or crosschecks -- is john.buccigross@espn.com.

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