Andrei Kostitsyn may very well be the most frustrating player on the Montreal Canadiens roster. Although he’s had a strong second half to this season, and has netted a very respectable 20 goals, the fans are growing ever impatient with the Belorussian forward.
Anyone who watches this team with regularity knows that Andrei Kostitsyn is among the most naturally gifted players in the world. Fans have seen him dangle through opposing players. They’ve seen him unleash a wrist shot that would put the best snipers in the league to shame. They’ve seen him use his 6’0, 215 pound frame to lay out opposing players and wreak havoc in front of opposing net minders.
He has, at times, completely dominate a game with his near perfect combination of speed, size, and skill. Unfortunately, Kostitsyn always seems to leave something to be desired.
Habs fans expect more than the 40-50 point seasons that Kostitsyn has delivered thus far in his career. The reasons for this could come from a variety of sources.
It could be the fact that he was drafted 10th overall, before the likes of Jeff Carter, Ryan Getzlaf, Zach Parise, Mike Richards and Corey Perry.
Maybe it’s because he was supposed to be the heir apparent to Alex Kovalev, as the team’s most exciting player.
Maybe it’s because fans are of the belief that a player with that superior skill set simply isn’t trying hard enough, and isn’t earning his $3.25 million dollar salary.
Speaking of that salary, it will be interesting to see if Kostitsyn will get a raise at season’s end. Everyone remembers his breakout year back in 2007/2008, when Kostitsyn rode the coattails of a motivated Alex Kovalev.
Having scored 26 goals and 53 points that year, he was rewarded with a three year, $9.75 dollar contract by then general manager Bob Gainey. It’s arguable that this contract was more an evaluation of Kostitsyn’s potential rather than his actual production up to that point.
Since then, it’s safe to say that Kostitsyn hasn’t delivered on those high expectations. He followed up his breakout year by scoring 12 less points and accumulating a -7 rating, compared to the +15 of the year before. The following season, Kostitsyn slumped even further, having scored only 33 points in 59 games. Although he’s currently doing better this season, it’s still a far cry from what was initially expected of him.
Let’s not forget that $3.25 million is quite a bit for a 53 point player. Matt Moulson, who just recorded his second consecutive 30 goal season, just signed a contract with less annual money.
Kostitsyn was given his current contract based on the ideal that he can score 40 or more. It will be interesting to see whether or not Pierre Gauthier decides to pay him based on his potential as well.
Kostitsyn is now 26 years old, and is getting closer to the age where players just don’t develop anymore. Its starting to get rather unrealistic that Kostitsyn will suddenly develop a hockey sense that matches the caliber of his skill set. It just seems as though his brain tells him to not to shoot when he should, and tells him to stand still when he should be charging the net.
One thing is certain however. A good playoff performance this season will go a long way in determining the size of Kostitsyn’s future paycheck. If he manages to send the Bell Center crowd to their feet with regularity this spring, he’ll have Pierre Gauthier eating out of his hand this summer.