Monday, February 14, 2011

All Things Avs blog: Dater Puts Sacco On the Hotseat

In this blog entry, Dater focuses on some questions about coach Joe Sacco's handling of the Avalanche during their now-seven-game losing streak. Dater starts off, as he often does, with a personal story: this time, griping about cab drivers who don't like to accept credit cards (it's because their tip will be reported (and therefore taxable), Dater... if you're going to pay with a card, tell him up front you'll tip cash, and I reckon you won't get nearly as much resistance), and then thanking the creator of a Predators blog for giving him a ride to his hotel. Dater graciously links to that guy's blog. Hopefully, Dater actually checks out that blog, because it's a lot better than his.

Dater then uses his "I'm not one to (blank), but..." intro to lead into questioning many of the coaching moves made by Sacco recently. Dater says something in that lead-in paragraph that I completely agree with, and since I go out of my way to point out the things he says that I don't agree with, it's only fair to give him a high-five when he says something intelligent and insightful:

Coaches, to me, are guys who get too much credit when things go well for their team, and too much blame when things go bad.

This is exactly correct, and is why I'm not really too down on Sacco right now. Sacco, like his team, is learning the NHL game, and mistakes are to be expected. He was given a young and inexperienced, poorly-constructed, bargain-basement team that got hit hard by the injury bug, and none of that is Sacco's fault. However, he has been making some decisions that I think should be questioned if not necessarily criticized, and Dater touches on a few of them.

Despite the griping that follows, this entry did not come across like Dater thinks Sacco should be fired, or that he believes Sacco is the cause of the problems the team is facing right now. I personally think that's the correct angle here. Dater did a reasonably good job of keeping the focus on certain choices Sacco has made lately, such as yanking goalies mid-game, benching players to (presumably) send messages, and allowing David Koci anywhere near the ice with his skates on. Although I don't think the team has tuned Sacco out, I can definitely see how some of the things he's doing right now might get them on that path... and Dater alludes to this as well.

The issue with this blog, though, is the tone Dater uses throughout. Although the questions Dater asks are legit, he presents them in a typical-for-Dater watercooler voice that treads the line of appropriateness for a serious blog, but is far too conversational for a guy who's the Avs beat writer for the only major newspaper in town. I know that this is where a ton of people would say, "Hey, man, it's a blog, not an article. Stuff like that's OK in a blog," but then I would look down from my white horse and say, "Yeah, and for a regular fan the guidelines of journalism aren't a big deal in a blog, but it's not written by just a regular fan, he's the Avs beat writer, whether he's blogging or not."

Although not nearly as blatant as some others he's written, this entry is an example of the Conflict of Interest Dater creates with this type of coverage... it's Dater's job and responsibility to cover the Avalanche. If Dater wants to blog about cabbies and drug addiction and KISS, he can be as conversational as he wants (as long as the Post doesn't think he crosses some line or another), but when he blogs about the Avs, his blog must maintain the same level of professionalism and integrity as his reporting.

The questions he poses are appropriate and fair, but there is a way to approach them and maintain the professionalism expected from the team's beat writer, even when they're presented in a blog format. I really don't know how the Avs take this guy seriously when he asks questions, when he turns around and writes things like this.

To be honest, this topic would have made a great news article, had Dater done the reporter thing and asked these questions of Sacco himself... his readers could have learned a lot about the team and its coach with a good, hard-hitting investigative story about these issues. Instead of doing that admittedly difficult work, however, he just takes the easy way out, asks a bunch of open-ended questions that are really just criticisms with question marks at the end, and puts it out there for discussion.

In other news, Dater (of course) finds a way to get in a dig on Peter Budaj:

And then there have been some of Sacco’s other decisions (staying too long with Kyle Cumiskey, choosing him over Holos, benching Craig Anderson in favor of Peter Budaj, who simply isn’t a No. 1 goalie in this league...).

Why is that necessary? Budaj hasn't been the Avs' #1 guy in years. He's the backup, and that role has been pretty clearly defined. Has Sacco ever insinuated that Budaj was the number one goalie, or even that there was a goalie controversy on the horizon?  Not to my knowledge, making it a completely superfluous comment, but when Dater sees a spot to get a jab in at Budaj, he takes it.

So overall, Dater's inappropriate tone brings a reasonably solid effort down to C level. Too bad, because the idea was on target, but the resultant entry was lacking much.

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