If the hockey establishment agrees on one thing regarding Alex Ovechkin, it’s this: that the Caps winger might be sort of skilled at certain hockey maneuvers, but if he were named Gord and had grown up on the Saskatchewan prairie bringing beef cattle to market, chopping down Christmas trees and neutering rabid antelope with his teeth, he’d already have won like 16 Stanley Cups and saved several children from burning buildings. Instead of being mostly a bum.
Mike Milbury has given voice to this sentiment often, and recently, but he is hardly alone. And so when Bruins play-by-play voice Jack Edwards appeared on 106.7 The Fan with the Junkies Tuesday morning, he seconded Milbury’s recent critique.
“The video that Mike showed on NBC was actually excellent analysis,” Edwards said. “And that’s the kind of stuff that every player on the bench notices, and he sort of puts in the back of his head and says to himself is he gonna get away with that or not? And whether that player’s thinking that out loud or not, he sees it and he notices it. And if the coach doesn’t call him out, you’re gonna end up having a disciplinary problem on the team, not necessarily in guys doing something illegal, but in terms of having your players do the same thing at the highest level every single time out on the ice.
“And it’s a difficult, difficult situation for Adam Oates, because that’s his franchise player,” Edwards said. “And Ovechkin’s starting to get a reputation as a coach killer. Because this team’s got talent, and he is an unbelievable talent himself. But what are we, eight years in now? It’s time to put it up. It’s time to win a couple playoff series in a row. It’s time to make the players around you better, and to change your game in a way that defensemen who know your moves are gonna see something they’ve never seen before. And that’s really on Alex Ovechkin.”
But if you’re just breaking down game tape with an eye for Ovechkin’s flaws, Edwards was then asked, isn’t it possible to magnify them to the point of absurdity? Couldn’t you make a similar tape of gaffes starring every NHL star?
“No,” Edwards responded. “And in fact, you could never pull a clip like that of Brooks Laich. You know, that’s the point, is that you better bring that farm-boy mentality to the game if you’re gonna play in the National Hockey League. If you want to cruise around the perimeter, go play in Europe. Everybody talks after the Olympics, oh we should make the ice surface bigger and all that stuff. That’s rubbish. You’re talking about the greatest players in the world playing a two-week tournament, all-out, every single game. That’s why the Olympics is great, and the size of the ice surface doesn’t really have much to do with it….
“The North American game is based on super aggressive competition for the puck at all times,” Edwards continued. “And when players don’t hustle on line changes, when they’re not paying attention 100 percent of the time, they pull their whole team down. And that’s what Mike’s problem is with Ovechkin, and what his problem with him has always been….I think with Ovechkin, it’s incumbent upon him to lead his team, and to show with his actions that he’s willing to do the dirty work all the time, not just 95 percent of the time.”