There has been no player in recent seasons who has taken more heat in the media than Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin. Of that heat, it feels like it has pretty much all come from NBC's Mike Milbury.
He added a little more on Ovi on Saturday afternoon, when he stopped by the NESN desk during intermission of Boston's 4-1 win over Washington.
Milbury was asked about a few of the Caps players, starting with Mike Ribeiro and the potential that he could be trade bait. Milbury noted that Ribeiro is a good player but that he has always been known as a difficult player to coach and a bad teammate. He left that idea with "buyer beware."
From there, it was on to Ovechkin. Milbury was asked what exactly is going on with Ovechkin, why have his numbers continued to go down? It's not like there's one easy answer to that question, but Milbury did have one pretty specific thought in mind.
Ovechkin isn't committed.
"The mark of the true professional is consistency, right?" Milbury said. "And this guy is inconsistent because he doesn't put his mind to it. And I'm not sure he puts his body into it. I'm not saying he's not in shape but this guy has to be focused every game.
"He's got to want to be the best player. You know Sidney Crosby wants to be the best player he possibly can be. Patrice Bergeron wants to be the best player he can possibly be. Zdeno Chara does that. I think Ovechkin lets himself down by not making a full commitment.
"If he can't do it because he can't think the game well enough then I guess what you see is what you get. But it will be disappointing knowing that kind of talent can lead to a much, much better performance."
It's rather tame compared to some of Milbury's past criticisms of Ovechkin, but that doesn't mean it's not any less bombastic.
I hesitate anytime I hear somebody criticize a player for "not wanting it enough" just the same as I laugh when I hear about a team winning because "they wanted it more." These are professionals; they didn't get to this point by not wanting it or working hard to get there.
Does Ovechkin have the work ethic of a guy like Ilya Kovalchuk, who has improved his game in recent seasons? No, but you won't find many guys with Kovalchuk's work ethic.
There are seemingly millions of theories as to why Ovechkin isn't scoring like he was a few years ago. The most basic are the obvious ones ... he's older and as players get past their early 20s in this league, they typically decline. There's also a theory that he just isn't having fun, that the constant media bashing from people like Milbury has weighed him down.
Who knows? Nobody, or else they could have started fixing it by now. I'm not saying Milbury is wrong; I don't know. But it has been a horse that he has beaten over and over. But as long as Ovechkin continues to struggle with this kind of salary, it will continue to be beaten.