There’s no love lost between the cities of Pittsburgh and Washington and a week ago, Darren Eliot made a few interesting comments on a Pittsburgh radio station which should only stoke the fire in hockey’s hottest rivalry.
The TSN analyst was a guest on Pittsburgh’s 93.7 the Fan shortly after the Caps were swept by the Tampa Bay Lightning. Obviously, the show’s hosts asked for his opinion of the series and Eliot had some pretty damning things to say about the play of Alex Ovechkin.
“I think there really is no comparison (between Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby),” he told 93.7’s Vinnie and Cook. “Alex Ovechkin is a one-trick pony. He comes down the left side [with a] right-handed shot, cuts to the middle and goes for his shot. He doesn’t ever really give up the puck and go to a spot and get it back, and he doesn’t make his teammates better. He hasn’t worked on other aspects of his game like Sidney Crosby has.”
It’s easy to throw harsh criticism out at a star player when you’re being broadcasted over enemy airwaves, but it doesn’t mean what Eliot said doesn’t ring true.
Ovechkin was criticized by some for being too predictable this season and be it the system change, injuries, or poor fitness, he posted the worst numbers of his career this season. He was ineffective in the Tampa series and didn’t take the next step as a leader in the locker room.
It was only one disappointing year, but it was enough for Eliot to question not only his game, but also his ability to raise the play of his teammates. And there was no question in his mind Ovechkin should play second fiddle to Crosby.
“I don’t think the comparison is really valid,” he said. “It makes for great TV. It makes for great fodder in the media, but realistically if you had to choose [between] the two to start a team, one guy makes others around him better and himself better and the other really just is a man alone.”
Comparison aside, Eliot isn’t far off the mark. Ovechkin has world-class talent, but he must elevate his game and his impact in the room next season if he wants to be considered elite.
This past year might have been a good lesson for Ovechkin. Everything has come pretty easily for him and now we’ll see how he responds to the adversity. You can be sure the rest of the league is hoping to avoid the Ovechkin with a chip on his shoulder.