TOP 100 OILERS: ANDREI KOVALENKO (76)

Andrei Kovalenko was a very good player at times in the 176 games he spent with the Edmonton Oilers, but he’ll always be remembered, at least by this writer, as the co-star in the caper that saw him and Russian running buddy Boris Mironov go AWOL while bar-hopping in Los Angeles.

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It was that incident that spawned the infamous “I was out looking for Kovy” excuse by Mironov, who barely made it back to the team hotel the morning after the big bender in time to catch a team flight back to Edmonton. Bobo never did find Kovalenko, but apparently looked in several bars for him to no avail – Kovalenko missed the flight altogether.

Andrei Kovalenko #51

Right Wing
Born Jun 7 1970 — Gorky, Russia 
Height 5.11 — Weight 216 [180 cm/98 kg]

Drafted by Quebec Nordiques


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Round 8 #148 overall 1990 NHL Entry Draft

BY THE NUMBERS

Season Team Lge GP G A Pts PIM +/-
1992-93 Quebec Nordiques NHL 81 27 41 68 57 13
1993-94 Quebec Nordiques NHL 58 16 17 33 46 -5
1994-95 Quebec Nordiques NHL 45 14 10 24 31 -4
1994-95 Tolyatti Lada Russia 11 9 2 11 14  
1995-96 Colorado Avalanche NHL 26 11 11 22 16 11
1995-96 Montreal Canadiens NHL 51 17 17 34 33 9
1996-97 Edmonton Oilers NHL 74 32 27 59 81 -5
1997-98 Edmonton Oilers NHL 59 6 17 23 28 -14
1998-99 Edmonton Oilers NHL 43 13 14 27 30 -4
1998-99 Philadelphia Flyers NHL 13 0 1 1 2 -5
1998-99 Carolina Hurricanes NHL 18 6 6 12 0 3
1999-00 Carolina Hurricanes NHL 76 15 24 39 38 -13
2000-01 Boston Bruins NHL 76 16 21 37 27 -14
NHL Totals 620 173 206 379 389

NOTABLE

Kovalenko, a blocky five-foot-11, 215-pound (when he was actually in shape) winger, enjoyed the finest season in his 620-game NHL career with the Oilers in 1996-97 when he scored 32 goals and had 59 points, leaving him third in team scoring behind only Doug Weight and Ryan Smyth.

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Kovalenko had a nose for the net, was a bulldog within 10 feet of the crease and was not the least bit afraid to go where the greasy goals are scored. The problem with Kovalenko, at least as coach Ron Low saw it, is he was the dictionary definition of inconsistent. Kovalenko could, and did, look like a world-beater for stretches. Then, he’d go missing – on and off the ice.

The swings in his play was the deal-breaker for Kovalenko in Edmonton. The 109 points and 51 goals Kovalenko had in the 176 games he played with the Oilers – he also had 4-3-7 in 13 playoff games — is pretty good by any standard, but Low and general manager Glen Sather found it increasingly difficult to tolerate the no-shows. 

THE STORY

I can only imagine the numbers Kovalenko might have put up he’d bothered to show up for every game, or at least the majority of them, but he never did manage it. His performances swung between “wow” and “WTF,” leading into one of the final straws – the all-nighter in Tinseltown.

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I was with the Oilers on that trip. A still-gassed Mironov made the flight. Kovalenko didn’t. When we got back to Edmonton later that day, I called Kovalenko’s wife to ask if he was home yet and if she knew what happened. “No, I do not, but I will be asking,” she said, obviously sour.

I don’t know if she got a satisfactory answer when her husband caught a later flight home. What I do know is Low and Sather never got the answers they were looking for about Kovalenko’s all-over-the-place performance on the ice, and they moved him along to Philadelphia. He was out of the NHL and back home in Russia after the 2000-01 season with Boston.

This series will look at the top 100 Edmonton Oilers from the NHL era 1979-80 to 2014-15, starting with 100 and working up. 

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260.

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