The decision to stick with Sergei Kostitsyn is starting to pay off for the Montreal Canadiens.
It has really been something to see Kostitsyn’s metamorphosis this year, from a petulant, pouting youngster who seemed to believe the world owed him something, to a hard-working winger who’s starting to get some goals while playing an important third-line role with the Habs.
The production part isn’t that surprising, given Kostitsyn’s ample skill set. The part where coach Jacques Martin can count on him to provide a tight, two-way game while playing on a quality trio with Travis Moen and center Dominic Moore is almost shocking considering Kostitsyn’s past patterns of behavior.
Don’t forget, former Habs GM Bob Gainey had to suspend Kostitsyn at the beginning of this season when he initially refused to report to the Hamilton Bulldogs of the American League. At that point, it seemed a given the Canadiens would give up on him, content to let somebody else deal with his mixed up mind. Following a week of reflection, Kostitsyn decided he would in fact suit up for Hamilton and after less than two months in the minors, he was back up with the big club.
Kostitsyn has bagged three goals and four points in his past two contests, but his offensive production – five goals and 15 points in 37 games – is still well below where his talent dictates it should be. The encouraging part is the work ethic Kostitsyn has shown, something that was previously absent from his game and his general approach to hockey. We’ve always seen flashes of a strong offensive player, but this year Martin has him out killing penalties, something that requires the kind of effort Kostitsyn rarely displayed in the past.
Kostitsyn turns 23 on Saturday and it’s easy to forget that not every young player has a smooth path to success in the NHL. He’s certainly made things tougher on himself at times by not taking the right approach to the game, but it sure seems like he’s turned a corner now.
And if he starts tapping that offensive talent a little more consistently, the Habs will be even happier he was never moved out the door.
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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