The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Mike Milbury slams Alex Ovechkin

(Alex Brandon/AP)
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We all go through creative lulls, where we really have nothing valuable to say. And we all have our crutches to help get us out of them. Skip Bayless says dumb stuff about Tim Tebow. I transcribe tedious radio interviews about the Redskins. Tony Kornheiser makes jokes about Les Boulez. The Bachelor shows half-naked people making out on random Asian beaches. Slate editors think of something that’s obviously true, and decide to argue the exact opposite. House of Cards writers imagine a person in a fancy suit bribing someone important while simultaneously doing drugs and having sex. Miley Cyrus acts gross. And Mike Milbury spouts off about Alex Ovechkin.

You’d think the people responsible for all of the above would recognize their failings, feel embarrassed about going to the same well again and again, year after year, ctl-a, ctl-c, ctl-v. And probably they do. Probably Mike Milbury goes home after one of his repetitive Ovechkin screeds, and thinks “man, that was some real hacky stuff.” Then he just pours a diet ginger ale over ice and figures whatever.

And here I am, dutifully recording Milbury saying the same stuff he said last year, and the same stuff he will say next year, because why not. No one blames leaves for falling off trees every year.

“Why do you get so angry when you watch him play?” our own Russ Thaler asked Milbury during the second intermission of the Caps broadcast on NBC Sports Network Tuesday night.

“You know, I don’t know Alex Ovechkin, so there’s nothing personal here,” said Milbury, a man who has spent approximately 17 percent of the last six years of his life criticizing the three-time Hart winner. “But when I see people who have such great talent not invest in things with effort, it bothers me.”

I mean, I agree with that. Doing the same mediocre thing again and again and again is bothersome.

“He’s just a one-dimensional player,” Milbury went on. “He scores goals.”

Pynchon is a bloody one-dimensional writer, too. He writes amazing novels. Jerk. He should diversify. Write for trade publications or something.

“He’s maybe the greatest goal scorer ever,” Milbury said, over highlights. “But watch this. It’s circle, circle. If I had some waltz music to put on here for you, I would. This is something you and I talked about with Alex Ovechkin. There’s no hustle. There’s no vision. He constantly follows the puck.”

There was a lot more after that, about Ovechkin standing around, but I lost the audio because I had my television on pause for so long while staring off into space, thinking about self-respect and effort. Anyhow, then Milbury and Jeremy Roenick started talking about hard-working superstars on Stanley Cup winning teams like Ryan Callahan and Zach Parise.

“You’re right, it’s the sweat effort,” Roenick chimed in. “And when I say sweat effort, it is the dig-down deep, it is the face-changing intensity that we want to see with Alex Ovechkin…He’s waiting for someone to give him the puck to score those goals. Yes, he’s a great goal scorer, but the sweat effort, the sweat effort….”

“And you said it, there were coaches that you had that he could never play for,” Milbury said.

“Every one of my coaches that I played for, there’s no way that Alex Ovechkin would be able to play for them,” Roenick argued.

And sure, I buy that. He’d be cut on most NHL teams. Playing in the AHL, if he was lucky. No one wants a guy who has seven of the NHL’s 16 best shooting-contribution seasons over the last seven seasons.

“So are they letting him get away with murder in Washington?” Milbury asked, as he no doubt silently thought of Ovechkin almost single-handedly lugging this defense-deficient team through two-thirds of this season. “Is that what’s happening?”

“Well you know, when you score as many goals as he does, you’re going to get a lot of leeway,” Roenick said. “And I will say, I will say, I think that Adam Oates allows him to be the player that he wants to be. He doesn’t want an altercation with Alex Ovechkin.”

“Can you win with a guy who’s the face of your franchise playing like that?” Milbury asked, because he was genuinely curious what the answer might be and about the world in general.

“We haven’t seen Washington win yet,” Roenick said of a team that’s made  the playoffs six straight years. “So the answer to that right now is no.”

Speaking of copy and pasting, here’s something I wrote last February.

“Mike Milbury rants about Alex Ovechkin are sort of like D.C. winter weather warnings: predictable, sure to cause eye-rolling among natives, and usually a waste of time, but still a remarkable spectacle. Plus, they’re a guaranteed path toward page views.