I suppose many wise and insightful things have been written about how Adam Oates and Alex Ovechkin helped resuscitate the Caps from the cold and dead part of the standings and turn them into the NHL’s hottest team, led by the NHL’s hottest player, filled with life and vitality and standings points.
But I’m not interested in the wise and insightful. I’m interested in the skull-leakingly silly. And for that, I turn now to Don Cherry, who was asked on Toronto’s 590 The Fan this week about Oates’s role in sparking the turnaround.
“Well, here’s the big thing,” Cherry said. “Say what you want, if you look at his assists, [Oates] was a star himself. So a star knows what a star is going through.
“And I have to say, Mike Milbury I think deserves a lot of credit here,” Cherry went on. “He’s not getting it. He’d come on and he ripped Ovechkin – he should be ashamed of himself, boom boom boom, and called him every name – and that’s when Ovechkin changed.
“And if you people have noticed – and I haven’t said it on Hockey Night in Canada, I might yet – have you noticed after a game, he just gives it a [fist] pump?” Cherry asked. “Have you noticed that? Have you noticed he’s got nice short hair, he doesn’t look like a wild man anymore? Adam Oates has got to him and said look, get off this celebrity thing. And what happened was, he was more of a celebrity than he was a hockey player. He forgot.
“And you know, when I went to the Bruins, that’s the same thing happened to me — I got there, they had gold chains on and all that stuff, and they were celebrities there, they forgot to play hockey. They loved the live, they loved the travel, the only thing that got to them, they didn’t like the hockey. And you know, that’s what made Bobby Orr great, and I’ll tell you why: he had no businesses, he did nothing, all he wanted was to play hockey. And that’s the name of the game and Ovechkin’s right there now: he’s playing hockey instead of being a big-time celebrity.”
In short, a raving longtime media critic, a hair cut and a lack of gold chains are primarily responsible for this divisional title. Let’s all give thanks for that.