Don Cherry says he’s going to dazzle Hockey Night in Canada audiences with his wardrobe this year, that is if he doesn’t get fired first.
The veteran Coach’s Corner antagonist also doubts if Washington’s Alex Ovechkin can match his MVP season of last year, doesn’t see why the Detroit Red Wings can’t repeat as Stanley Cup champions and thinks it was silly for the Vancouver Canucks to name goaltender Roberto Luongo as team captain.
Cherry, as famous for his loud outfits as he is for his sometimes brazen opinions, said he has some new suits being tailored in anticipation of the opening of the NHL season.
“I have three in the making,” he told a telephone conference call Wednesday. “I have so many now I leave them for the finals.
“Last year I absolutely bedazzled everybody with six new ones. If I don’t get fired, I’m going to have six brand new ones for the finals.”
Mike Milbury, the former New York Islanders general manager who is now working as an analyst for both CBC and NBC, shuddered at the thought of Cherry’s fashion sense.
“I’m going to get six pairs of sunglasses because I’m going to be on the same damn set,” he said.
Cherry took exception to Milbury’s language.
“Listen Mike, you have to stop swearing,” he cautioned. “You’re on Hockey Night in Canada. We do not accept that.”
Ovechkin scored a league-leading 65 goals and collected 112 points last season, earning the young Russian the Hart and Lester B. Person Awards.
But Cherry doubts he can repeat his magic this year.
“He’s not going to get any better and I would be surprised if he does as well as he did last year,” said Cherry. “He was doing things (last year) he shouldn’t. He was cutting into the middle.
“There are going to 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 like he did.”
Asked to pick a Stanley Cup winner, Cherry sees no reason why the Red Wings can’t repeat as champions.
“I don’t see anything tripping them up along the way,” he said. “I see no weaknesses in them at all. If you are betting, you have to bet on Detroit again this year.”
Cherry considers Luongo the best goaltender in the world, but still found the Canucks naming him as captain a head-scratching move.
“Making the goaltender a captain is silly,” he snorted. “If he is the leader, he doesn’t need the captain.”
“It seems a little absurd,” he said. “I guess they couldn’t sign Mats Sundin so they had to do something different.”
Cherry said the player who could be the future Canuck captain is 18-year-old centre Cody Hodgson, Vancouver’s first-round draft pick in June.
“This kid, everywhere he’s been, he’s been a captain,” said Cherry. “I will say he will be the captain of the Vancouver Canucks someday. He is sort of like Steve Yzerman. I can’t say anything higher than that.”
Cherry’s pick as the team that will show the most improvement this year is the Tampa Bay Lightening, while he thinks the Philadelphia Flyers will tumble in the standings.
Pierre McGuire, an analyst with TSN, and Eddie Olczyk of Versus and NBC, both said the Phoenix Coyotes could be the most improved team.
Olczyk and Milbury both said the Pittsburgh Penguins, who lost to Detroit in last season’s final, could slip this season.
“Pittsburgh lost a lost of glue on their roster,” said Milbury. “I think they will struggle.”
Out West, Cherry thinks both the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers have improved, but questions if Vancouver will make the playoffs even with Luongo in net.
“I don’t think they’ve added any firepower,” he said. “They are going to be in a dogfight to make the playoffs.”
Cherry also scoffed at the idea of the NHL expanding into Europe.
“They (teams) don’t draw very well over there,” he said. “They don’t charge anything for their tickets. In Finland, do you think they are going to pay $150 for tickets and they’re going to paying guys $9 million?”
Cherry couldn’t resist giving the league’s European players a shot.
“I hope they do expand to Europe because they will all stay over there,” he joked. “That would be really great as far as I’m concerned.”