If there’s one thing followers of the Montreal Canadiens have come to expect from Andrei Kostitsyn, it’s inconsistency.
There are nights Kostitsyn looks like he should be a high-end scoring winger. He owns a tremendous shot, above average offensive awareness and doesn’t shy away from the corners.
That said, too often the shot stays in the holster and Kostitsyn is prone to disappearing for long stretches at a time, his only prominent plays coming when he’s turning the puck over with lazy plays or passes.
This season has once again revealed the best and worst of the 25-year-old. He had just two goals through 24 games this year, before missing three contests with a leg injury. Upon his return, Kostitsyn hit his stride playing alongside Tomas Plekanec and Mike Cammalleri. He netted 10 goals in 16 contests before a knee injury had him on the sideline again.
Since re-joining the Habs after the Olympic break, Kostitsyn has gone stone cold, registering two assists in nine games prior to tonight’s contest against the Ottawa Senators.
The Canadiens aren’t good enough to have any players in their lineup not fully utilizing their tools. Plekanec and Cammalleri are a great starting point for the second line, but Montreal needs Kostitsyn to be a contributing member of that trio if they are to strike any legitimate fear into the hearts of the Eastern Conference’s true contenders.
Kostitsyn’s best season came during the 2007-08 campaign when he scored 26 goals playing with Plekanec and former Hab Alexei Kovalev. That summer, the Canadiens signed him to a three-year deal worth $3.25 million annually with the hopes he could develop into a player that continually checked in around the 30-goal range. As yet, that potential remains untapped.
Montreal drafted Kostitsyn 10th overall in the stacked draft of 2003 when it could have selected the likes of Ryan Getzlaf, Mike Richards or Zach Parise.
Safe to say Kostitsyn will never reach the levels those players have, but if he can start squeezing the most out of his talent on a day-to-day basis, the Canadiens will be a lot better off.
This article also appeared in the Montreal Metro newspaper.
Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Thursday and his column, Top Shelf, appears Wednesday.
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