Don Cherry's distaste for European hockey players is as plain as the plaid on his jacket, but he thinks last season's MVP, Alex Ovechkin, is in for a tough ride.
"He's not going to get any better. I don't think he'll do as good as last year," Cherry, speaking on an NHL conference call, said yesterday of the dazzling Russian.
The Washington Capitals' Ovechkin, who led the league in goals, 65, and points, 112, took his foes by surprise last season, Cherry said. While opposing teams knew he was good, he wasn't supposed to be that good.
"He was doing things he shouldn't do. He was always cutting into the middle and he got away with it," the brash Hockey Night in Canada commentator said.
"There will be a lot of guys waiting for him this year. He's not going to be running around like a bull in a china shop."
Cherry credited Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau with getting the most out of his 23-year-old winger.
"We all (know) Bruce has a great hockey mind. He's the guy who let (Ovechkin) loose, who let him go and do his thing."
Asked about the possibility of the NHL eventually expanding to Europe, Cherry said: "Expansion to Europe would be great, because then they'd all stay over there."
Later, Cherry said he was just kidding (half-kidding, more likely) with that European jab.
If the NHL follows through on an expansion to Europe, Cherry thinks selling tickets would be a struggle.
"They don't draw very well over there," he said. "In Germany, I guess they draw pretty good (but) they don't charge anything.
"And how are they going to charge the tickets over there? Maybe in Russia with all that oil, all that money.
"But in Finland, you think they're going to pay $150 for a ticket?"
Cherry also spoke with disdain about the Vancouver Canucks appointing goalie Roberto Luongo as team captain.
The honour goes against the grain in the NHL, which doesn't allow goalies to assume the C. Luongo can't have the letter sewn on to his sweater and he can't debate calls with the officials. Those duties, as well as ceremonial faceoffs, will fall to one of the team's three alternate captains.
"How are you going to have three alternate captains?" Cherry said. "It's silly.
"If (Luongo) is a leader, he doesn't need the C."
NBC commentator Mike Milbury suggested it was a public relations move by the Canucks.
"They couldn't sign (free agent) Mats Sundin, so they had to do something."