TORONTO– A three-time 20 goal scorer for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Alexei Ponikarovsky has had difficulty producing goals with any other organization.
Since Brian Burke and the Leafs brass traded him in March of 2010 to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the 31 year old has scored just 14 goals in a 113 games; with three different teams.
Ponikarovsky finished the 2009/10 season with the Penguins and his combined goals between the Leafs and the Penguins earned him his fourth 20-goal campaign. However, he only scored two of those goals in 16 games with Pittsburgh and signed in the off season with the Los Angeles Kings.
It was there he put up a career worst scoring pace of five goals in 61 games, making it clear that his one-year contract with the California club would not be renewed.
Signing this off season with the Carolina Hurricanes, the Ukrainian born forward rejoined some recognizable faces, however he admits even with some familiarities, moving from team to team has been difficult on him.
“Yeah, every team has a different system and requirement,” said Ponikarovsky about some of the obstacles he’s had to overcome since leaving Toronto. “For sure when you get traded you go with it and try to do your best. Every team’s got different rules but you have to work hard.”
This season with the Hurricanes, Ponikarovsky has seven goals in 35 games, his most recent being against the Leafs to force overtime on December 13th.
While it seemed fitting for him to score his first goal against his former club with only 1:54 remaining in the game, he was also on the ice for both of the Leafs goals in a 2-1 loss.
“It feels great to score (against the Leafs) but it would be even better if we won the game,” said Ponikarovsky post-game.
Ponikarovsky spent parts of nine seasons with the Leafs and at the time of his trade was one of Burke’s highest valued assets to move. While he enjoyed his time playing for Toronto, he also understood that his profession has a business side to it.
“I spent a lot of time here and it’s just one of those things you can’t really control,” he said when reflecting on his departure from the Leafs. “It’s part of the job.”
With a scoring pace of 16 goals this season, Ponikarovsky will likely miss out on earning his fifth 20-goal season of his career.
He is also only on a one-year contract with the Hurricanes so his future has very little security if he doesn’t excel in the second half of the season.
While it seems as if his best production days are behind him, Ponikarovsky is still determined to show that he has the scoring ability he had as a member of the Leafs.
“Everybody’s been traded at some point of their career. You just have to accept it and move on, bring the best you can for the next team you play for. Your career doesn’t stop on that, you keep playing.”