From the Desk of Waldo1947
Dear Jesperi Kotkaniemi,
I am imploring you to not let the unrealistic weight of being a center for the Montreal Canadiens crush your spirit. I know it is easier said than done, but you need some perspective as to the situation you are in. I am not a guy who gives excuses and this letter is not meant to be pandering or patronizing. I am certainly not looking for 2 autographed #15 jerseys for my son and daughter. (Some hats would be cool!) Judging by your body language on the ice these days, you need to know that there are fans of yours who actually know hockey and have a realistic outlook on your predicament.
Playing center in the NHL is really hard. It takes time to learn the various responsibilities in both ends of the ice. Never has the position been more scrutinized thanks to the absurd amount of statistical information we have. Furthermore, it is not your fault that this team hasn’t drafted and developed a center since your fellow countryman, Saku Koivu. For a little more perspective, Saku was drafted #21 in 1993 and played 3 years in the Finnish pro league where he could refine his skills against men. Furthermore, when Saku came to the NHL, he was playing behind centers Pierre Turgeon and Vincent Damphousse; you have nothing in terms of centers to look up to or learn from.
Playing 10 games versus the Ottawa Senators this season has not helped your cause either. People often point to the success of Brady Tkachuk who was chosen one pick after you and dub you a draft bust due to his success. People who say this aren’t worthy of tying your skates (and probably have to put an L and R under their own). Brady Tkachuk plays left wing. Wingers develop the fastest over all other positions because it requires only 2 things in your own zone - cover the point when they have the puck and get to the hash marks when you have the puck. Furthermore, Brady Tkachuk has been permitted to develop under zero pressure and expectations. The Senators are the only team playing in front of the same amount of fans during the pandemic as they did pre-pandemic. You, on the other hand, are being scrutinized every shift and expected to make up for 28 years of poor development at the center position. This is not remotely fair to a 20 year old.
You do realize you are 20 years old, right? When I was 20, I was fresh off of failing out of engineering and finished 749th out of 750 in my first year class. Hell, I failed out in December! After failing out I ended up in a course of study and eventually a profession more suited to me. I have been in my job for 18 years, but it was only after about 15 years where I felt I belonged. Furthermore, I did all of this in 100% anonymity. I did not have people on social media calling me a bust (749/750 is an absolute bust!), and I had a plethora of colleagues to learn from and I leaned on their experience. You have been on the job for 2.5 years and have been treated like a yo-yo rather than an elite prospect. You came to a strange country at 18 years old and were immersed in a pressure-cooker of a franchise that has been mired in mediocrity at the best of times for over 20 years.
Jesperi, take a deep breath, kid. You have an amazing release and wonderful touch when it comes to making passes. You can skate like the wind and your off-season commitment to your physique is obvious. Get back to smiling on the bench and enjoying the game. Cancel all your social media and do not listen to the haters. People who know hockey know that you can do it.
Did you know that there were 7 centers taken after you in the first round? Their combined totals are 197GP - 14G - 20A - 34Pt. You are 169GP - 22G - 40A - 62Pt! You are clearly not a bust.
Do not let the unrealistic expectations of a has-been franchise destroy your confidence and crush your spirit. Keep grinding.
Best of luck in the playoffs,
By Waldo1947 | Sens Nation Hockey