Friday, March 25, 2011

Disposing of indispensable goalies.

This is an article by Adrian Dater that starts off badly if you're a fan of the English language. Right in the title is the non-word "indisposable." It looks like it ought to be a real word, but it isn't. "Disposable" refers to something meant to be used and then thrown away, such as a plastic razor, a tissue, or a (non-cloth) baby diaper. The antonym of this word is "non-disposable." So even if Dater meant to write that goalies are unlike Huggies -- cheaply-made, single-use items which stink more often than not -- the word he'd want there is non-disposable, not indisposable.

Based on the context of the article, however, I assume Dater meant indispensable rather than non-disposable, as that word describes something that is absolutely necessary, that cannot be done without (such as oxygen, or beer). So not only does he use the wrong word, he's used a wrong word that doesn't even exist. But, headlines are not often written by the authors themselves, so we can't necessarily pin the blame on Dater here... but somebody at the Post (either Dater, his headline writer, or his editor) gets a big fat "F" right off the bat for grammar and spelling. It's one of the fifty largest newspapers in North America... there's got to be a dictionary lying around there somewhere.

This article deals with goaltending, so to be honest, before I even start reading, I'm skeptical. Dater, as do many novice hockey fans, spends a lot of time talking about goaltending without really knowing what he is talking about. It's like overhearing middle school kids talk about sex... they've heard most of the terms, and have a general idea on what's taking place, but as far as the details that matter are concerned they have no clue, so they just keep repeating loudly the few things they do know in an attempt to sound like experts, to the amusement of those who are actually getting some.

However, Dater avoids the nuts and bolts of the subject of goaltending here, which is both appropriate and wise. Instead, he starts off using the voice of Joe Fan, wondering about the Avalanche's goaltending situation:

 What are the Avs going to do about their goaltending? After all, it's the most important position in hockey, right? It's the one position you have to spend the most money on and devote the most attention to if you're a general manager, right?
Dater then points out that the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup with a goalie who wasn't their starter last year, and whom they did not bring back this year. This leads to the central theme of the piece: that goaltenders are not as vital to a team as many fans believe.

To boost this claim, Dater uses both the Blackhawk example and the fact that none of the other "final four" from last season are on the same team now as then. This is not entirely accurate, as Michael Leighton is still with the Flyers, but playing for their AHL affiliate. Dater also neglects to mention that the Blackhawks' decision to not re-sign Niemi, as well as the Sharks' decision to not re-sign Nabokov, were at least as much due to those teams' substantial salary-cap issues as they were to performance.

Still, the point is valid: teams do not seem to be placing a lot of importance (or money) towards their goaltending. The issue I have with this story, however, is that this is hardly a new development. Every Cup winner since the lockout of 2004-05 has featured a goalie who could hardly be called a superstar, while during that same stretch of time, the league's elite goalies (Luongo, Miller, Lundqvist, Brodeur, Nabokov, Vokoun, etc.) have had a dry spell as far as deep runs into the playoffs are concerned. Going back even further, The Red Wings have built a dynasty going back to the early 90s with what many would call average goaltending. As Dater points out in the article, the one time they spent a ton on goalies (Hasek, Joseph, and Legace), they were a disappointment in the playoffs.

So my question is not whether the days of the indispensable goalie is over, but rather if that day ever existed in the first place. The entire theme of the piece is flawed... but I will grant Dater a bit of a pass here, because the way he framed the question, he is simply addressing the perception that a team requires a top-notch goalie to be a contender, and in that respect, this piece effectively argues that this perception among fans may be incorrect.

This article then takes a detour from which it never returns, as AD discusses the Avalanche's options in net next season. He discusses a couple of free agent possibilities, the goalies the Avs have currently (without, I should add, any sort of slam directed towards his usual whipping boy, Peter Budaj), and prospects in the Avs system, ultimately deciding that a free agent signing or a trade seems to be the Avs' most likely answer to the goaltending question... an odd conclusion, after just having done a reasonable job convincing the reader that going out and getting a big-name goalie wasn't necessarily a step towards building a contending team.

All in all, this is a decent examination of the question of whether goalies really are "the most important position" on a hockey team, and whether spending a ton of money on a goalie is really a good investment. Dater includes quotes from a variety of sources, including Chicago GM Stan Bowman and Detroit GM Ken Holland, and refers to facts and previous results in order to solidify his point.

The issues with this article are the assumption that the "indispensable goalie" ever existed in the first place (sort-of negated by the way Dater framed the issue), and the fact that once again, Dater had a good thing going writing-wise, and derailed it midway through to go off on a tangent about the Avs' options in net, without really coming back to bring the article itself to a satisfying conclusion. This disjointed effort would have been better suited as two shorter, more self-contained articles, or as one larger article with an actual conclusion that would have tied together both the overall question of the importance of an elite goalie, and the specific issues facing the Avalanche in net.


All Things Avs blog: Fleischmann update

In this blog entry, Adrian Dater offers his readers a brief update on Tomas Fleischmann, whose season was cut short in January due to a pulmonary embolism. Fleischmann, acquired from Washington for Scott Hannan, thrived in Colorado and had a great chemistry early on with Matt Duchene.

I enjoy these blogs, with video of player interviews. As I have said many times before, things like this are exactly what a blog on a newspaper website should be used for. This was headed for a solid "A" grade, until Dater threw in this:

 It would be a tough blow to the team to see him walk away for nothing, which is why if I’m Greg Sherman I’m making it a priority to try to talk contract with him and his agent as much as I can until then. But I’m not Greg Sherman.

Once again, Dater lets the word "I" creep into his writing. There's no "I" in "journalism," Dater... except for that one near the end. If he wants to float the opinion out there that the Avalanche should re-sign Fleischmann, he could have written something like this:

"Fleischmann, who struggled at center with the Capitals, was moved back to wing by the Avalanche and provided an undeniable spark to the team with 21 points in 22 games (including six multi-point games), finding an instant chemistry with center Matt Duchene. It is unclear whether re-signing Fleischmann, an unrestricted free agent in 2011-12, is a priority for the Avalanche, but considering that the Avalanche are 4-21-2 since his final appearance in an Avs uniform on January 18, it would seem that his presence in the lineup cannot be easily replaced."

See? That's just as much "opinion" as Dater's was... we both think the Avs should make re-signing Fleichmann a priority this offseason. But in my sample, I let the facts speak for themselves, and I don't even have to mention "my" opinion... it's clear by the way I wrote it and the things I cited what my opinion is.

Dater, on the other hand, doesn't want to go through the trouble. He simply writes, "If I'm the Avs GM, I'd be re-signing Fleischmann as soon as possible." Blog or not, that's simply not good journalism... not only is there no objectivity there, there's not even the attempt to pretend there's objectivity. When you're at the bar with a couple buddies and you're talking hockey, that's the sort of thing one says. But when you're a professional writer covering a major sports team for a major newspaper, you have a higher standard. Dater fails to meet that standard.


All Things Avs blog: get ready for a surprise: Multiple Craig Anderson blogs. Hope you were sitting down for that.

In this trio of blogs, posted one after another, Dater revisits his favorite water-under-the-bridge topic of late, the Craig Anderson trade. Well, perhaps "revisits" is the wrong word to use, as some would argue he's never left this topic.

The first blog is an entry dealing with Anderson's four-year, $12.75 million contract with Ottawa.  Predictably, Dater starts off with a dig at the Avs' GM for not making a similar offer to Anderson after last year:

 Fifteen games is all it took for Ottawa GM Bryan Murray to offer the kind of long-term contract that Colorado GM Greg Sherman did not want to offer despite seeing him play 71 games last year and carry the team on his back to the playoffs.

Posing for Hall of Fame portrait, Oct. 2009.
It really irritates me when people give goalies this much credit. Carry them on his back? Puhlease.Was he a big part of the Avs' season? Certainly, he was... but the Avs' high-scoring offense was a big part of that season, too. At times, Anderson was very, very good last season... but at other times, he was decidedly mediocre. He had the sort of season last year that showed a lot of promise, but not the sort of season that makes a team instantly salivate over him as their Goalie Of The Future (nor one that gives a guy leverage towards a huge, multi-year contract as said G.O.T.F.).

I can only assume that the Avalanche did not want to stick themselves with another long-term contract for a goalie who had yet to prove he could be consistently excellent (such as was the case for Dater's last goalie-mancrush, Jose Theodore), and therefore made a two-year offer. Can't really blame them for that... Anderson didn't really prove as much last season as so many -- including Dater and, apparently, Anderson himself -- seem to think.

To Dater's credit, although he still positions himself as a "the Avs screwed this one up" guy, he does mention that the Avs actually offered Anderson more money per year than he got with Ottawa, and that only time will tell if the Avs, Sens, or Anderson himself made the best move. Overall, this ends up being a fairly balanced look at Anderson's deal with Ottawa and how it compares to what Colorado offered. Dater still loses points, though, for placing his opinion so prominently within what should have been a fact-based post.


The second entry is extremely brief. It is simply relaying a quote given by Anderson which can easily be construed as a dig against the Avs: “It’s about having a good fit and finding a place where I’m going to be happy, where players are treated with respect and the organization communicates with their players.”

Clearly, Anderson is saying-without-saying that the Avs do not communicate with their players, nor do they treat them with respect. I suppose everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I think Anderson's comment is a revealing peek into his attitude towards the Avalanche. This attitude -- which many fans (including myself) questioned at times, especially this year -- goes a long way to explain his poor, uninspired play in Colorado this season and his resurgence in Ottawa. Said attitude can also explain the Avs' reluctance to sign him to a long-term contract.

In other words, those of us who thought they were seeing signs that Anderson had "quit" on the Avalanche (which Dater has strongly disagreed with) now have what amounts to proof that they were very likely right all along. The Avalanche are lucky to be rid of this guy.

Dater used his blog perfectly here: he brings a quick, relevant bit of information to his readers with a modicum of personal opinion and insight. Although he speculates on how this quote will be received, for the most part he allows his readers to draw their own conclusions.


The final blog in the Anderson hat trick is Dater's opinion in reaction to Anderson's comments regarding the Avalanche. Dater says that Anderson "should have stayed classy." Here, Dater pretty much does an about-face on his opinion of Anderson, and starts listing the things that many others have already mentioned in questioning Anderson's attitude and dedication to the Avalanche.

One humorous aspect of this blog is the notion that Dater has any idea at all what "classy" might look like. Dater has told fans of opposing teams to "get the pacifiers out of your mouths." He has called Marian Gaborik "ugly but good," "a guy with a girl's name" (good one, Adrian), and said he had "the face and hair of a drowned rat." He has recently insinuated that Steve Ott is a crybaby for expecting that a blatant elbow to the head be considered for a suspension. He has called Cal Clutterbuck a "cowardly hockey player" whom his teammates hate. He broke any number of unwritten journalism rules tweeting about a closed-door shouting match involving Dion Phaneuf, and then (briefly) closed his twitter account because of it. And then, of course, there was his classic ESPN rant, where he calls out specific ESPN personalities by name, refers to them as "schmucks," and tells the network, in so many words, to shove it up their ass.


Back to the blog at hand. The thing that puzzles me about Dater's opinion here is not that he appears to have waffled somewhat on Anderson... I don't care for the way Dater covers the NHL, but I'm not going to rag on him for having one opinion and then changing his mind. Everybody does that. The odd thing is that Dater implies that Anderson, right up to the day he signed with the Senators, had been "classy" the entire time, and should have "stayed" that way. I believe there is another possibility here.

It seems much more likely to me that he's never been classy, and that this comment simply illustrates what Anderson had been all along: a pouty prima donna who thinks that half a good season is all he needs to be considered an elite goalie, and if his team doesn't agree then he's just going to mail it in until his contract is up and go find Big Money elsewhere. My guess is that the Avs knew long before Dater did what kind of person Anderson was, and were therefore not at all reluctant to trade him away for what amounts to a bag of pucks (sorry, Elliot. Prove me wrong).

In short, Dater appears to come around on Anderson without admitting he could have been wrong all along. Baby steps, I suppose. I'm not a fan of opinion so prominent in journalism (even when that opinion agrees with mine), so I'm not thrilled with this blog... but at least in this case, this entry is opinion through-and-through, rather than an attempt to include his opinion as part of the story.


Saturday, March 19, 2011

All Things Avs blog: a peek into Dater's sense of humor, and it's not funny.

In this very short blog entry, Dater seems to think he's doing his readers a favor tipping them in to a video somebody made about Steve Ott. The video looks like somebody spent nearly eight minutes working on it, featuring interviews with Steve Ott with a crying baby image poorly superimposed over Ott's image, and distracting music fading in and out of the background.

Dater, presumably high on something at the time, thought the video was flat-out hysterical, saying "I haven't laughed that hard in a while." I think I have a pretty good sense of humor, and I didn't laugh once at this stupid video. Didn't even smile. In fact, it made me like Steve Ott a bit more than I did before watching it, to tell the truth. The guy is freely admitting that he's been suspended before and that he knows he has a reputation, but he still wants to see certain types of hits get punished. Honestly, I think that's a pretty ballsy thing to say, and I don't really see why he should be called a "crybaby" for saying it.

If Dater thinks this is funny, I have to really question where the guy's head is at. Dater is known to have personal grudges against certain players, and evidently Ott is one of them, because only somebody who already hated Steve Ott would find this even the least bit amusing.

This blog entry gets an F. Since I feel like Dater tricked us into thinking we were about to see something humorous, I hope this actually funny "baby" video makes up for it:

All Things Avs blog: "Negative" right in the title, so at least we know what we're in for.

In this blog entry, Dater starts off with an update on Eric Johnson: X-rays are negative, likely to play Saturday.

The rest of the blog is scattershot bitching about the Avalanche. Typical Dater stuff, with no insight and no focus: the Avs aren't competing, guys look like they've quit (but not Anderson, of course!), they're going through the motions, they're playing for their jobs, yadda yadda yadda.

A couple years ago, there were ads for the NHL network featuring a coach who did nothing but spout cliches... that's Dater. If this blog was just some fan out there complaining that his or her beloved Avalanche are stinking up the joint on a nightly basis, then OK. But the Avalanche have one major media entity covering them, and this is what we get from it.

Dater closes with this:

By the way, here is how former NHL GM Craig Button, now a TV analyst, sizes up the top five prospects in the coming NHL draft. You might be surprised to see that neither Larsson nor Landeskog is his top pick.

A couple days ago, Dater made it sound as if these two were the only two guys worth considering in the draft. So yeah, if the only thing I used to learn about the NHL was The Denver Post's crappy blog, maybe I'd be surprised to see that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is ranked #1 by a lot of sources. But since I apparently spend more time reading and learning about the NHL than the Post's hockey beat writer, I am not surprised at all.

Should the guy who's job it is to cover the NHL and report it to his readers really be surprised at something that is common knowledge just about everywhere else (relatively speaking)? The fact that Dater is surprised is kind of the point behind this blog... Avs fans deserve better than this.

Friday, March 18, 2011

All Things Avs blog: grab bag

Here are a couple quick reviews of some recent blog posts.Nothing here requiring individual reviews for each, so I hope you don't mind me grouping them all together. If you do mind, go ahead and start a "Grading Grading Dater" blog, and let me have it!

In this blog entry, Adrian Dater offers a potpourri of Avalanche and NHL tidbits. Of note is an example of something Dater says that I totally agree with:

There are also the latest man-game injury stats in there, and how they compare to last year and a previous Avs season which currently stands as the record for most man-games lost. (I don’t like the term ‘man-games lost’ by the way. Sounds strange).

"Man-games lost" is just a weird thing to say, so I'm with Dater all the way on this. Can't they just say "games lost to injury?" No, they have to call it a man-game, which just sounds odd. "Man-games" sounds like some sort of Gay Olympics... but I'm sure the Gay Olympics would think of something better than "Man Games," because they just seem like they'd be pretty creative like that.

This blog is basically just Dater touching base on a number of different items, none of them Earth-shattering. This is just what a blog like this should be used for: small items nowhere near important enough to warrant an entire article, but still of interest to Avalanche fans.

My only issue is when Dater starts writing about the Chara/Pacioretty hit again. He tries to put himself in good company by writing:

The hit on Max Pacioretty was overwhelmingly seen by the objective hockey analyst as an unfortunate but all too possible result of a hockey hit.

First of all, Dater wouldn't know an objective hockey analyst if he tripped over one on the way to the bathroom, and so his attempt to include himself in that category simply because he shares their opinion is laughable. Second, although I have indeed read many hockey writers who have said exactly what Dater says, I have heard and read an equal share of opinions by those who know the game who have said that Chara's hit was not clean, and should have received a suspension. I suppose that support for your opinion may seem "overwhelming" when you ignore and dismiss everything that you don't agree with, but the response to this incident seems pretty evenly spread out to me.

Yes, an injury like Pacioretty's is possible in hockey, but that doesn't mean hockey fans should just shrug every time something like this happens. The game can be made safer... simply blowing it off as a natural occurrence of the game, as Dater is again trying to do here, is no way to address the problem. The fact that Chara is not a dirty player does not mean that this was not a dirty hit. It should have been punished as one.


In this blog, Dater asks his reader which Swedish player the Avalanche should take with their presumably high draft pick. There's almost nothing to this blog, just a video of each player. The only issue here is that Dater makes it seem as if these two are the consensus 1-2 picks, and that's just not the case. If Dater wants to entertain discussion on the upcoming draft, then why focus on only two players? Yeah, either of those guys would be a nice pick for the Avs, but there are plenty of other players that are in the top-five discussion, too. Odd that Dater focuses on just the two Swedes... perhaps he's still longing for Forsberg?

I personally think that the Avs should pick Larsson, should he be available. Nugent-Hopkins (currently ranked as the top pick by ISS) appears to be a very promising player, but the Avs have plenty of talent at center, both at the NHL level and in the minors. Landeskog looks good as far as character goes, and the Avs could use some size at wing with Stewart now gone, but it remains to be seen whether his talent will translate to the NHL... he's got a lot of potential, but he's not exactly tearing up the OHL. Larsson is what the Avs need: big, fast, defense, and probably ready to join the NHL right now. Erik Johnson gives them a great young player like that, but the only thing better than one big, fast defenseman is two big, fast defensemen.

Dater's defense to criticism here is that he doesn't offer his opinion, he just asks the question... but that's also the criticism. The fact that Dater skips the #1 ranked player completely, and focuses on these two makes me wonder if he's just doing his "I overheard somebody say these names and figured I should blog about them" thing.


In this blog entry, Dater announces that Adam Foote, having apparently accepted a coaching position next season, is almost certain to retire. In other news, Brad Pitt is handsome and there are no penguins at the North Pole. The only surprise would be if Foote didn't retire at the end of this season... I think even his biggest fans would admit that his last season has been one season too many.

I'm a fan of Adam Foote. He's no Hall of Famer in my book, but I like the way he plays: solid, stay-at-home defense with a bit of a mean streak; sticks up for everybody, leaves his heart out there. One of the best moments in recent memory for the Avs was him coming out of the tunnel in the middle of his first game back with Colorado, just plopping on the bench ready to play. But he was a poor choice to be captain, and he hung on one year too long... on a team full of mediocre defensemen, he's stood out as particulary mediocre. Hate to seem him go out like this, but it's time.

Foote hates adam's apples.
With Foote's apparent retirement apparently right around the corner, this blog deals with the question of who will be the next captain of the Avalanche. I happen to believe that way too much is made of who wears the "C" in hockey... it's just the guy who can talk to the ref. It's really not that big a deal. Dater lists a few alternatives, and gives his percentage odds of each becoming captain, reiterating his recently-stated belief that John Michael Liles will be the next Avalanche player to wear the "C."

I just don't see this happening... Liles has been dangled as tradebait for the last three seasons, he's rarely (if ever) even been given the "A," and I don't see the Avs doing an about-face and handing him the captaincy for this team. Dater's reasoning? "He cares." Oh, he cares! That sets him apart, doesn't it? So Liles has a clear advantage over... Tyler Arnason, then. Terrific.

Dater does do something rather remarkable along the way, however: he admits that he's biased because Liles is "accountable the media." I suppose if NHL teams based their captains on how they interacted with pessimistic, grumpy, insomniac media guys, this would count for something. But they don't, so it doesn't

If Hejduk wanted it, the "C" would be his, but I do agree with AD in guessing that Milan really isn't interested in being a captain. Just doesn't seem like his style. That brings it down to two guys, in my view: Stastny or Duchene. Stastny is the obvious choice (although Dater prefers "more of a vocal guy as a captain"... guess that would have ruled out Quoteless Joe as good captain material, huh?), with Duchene a bit behind. I think the Avs will go the way many teams seem to be going, and give the C to the guy they intend to build their team around for the next decade: and that's Duchene.

This entry attempts to answer a question that really doesn't matter, and Dater gives what I consider a very odd answer in Liles. But I'm not going to mark Dater down just for disagreeing with me... I only mark him down a bit for his "I prefer vocal captains" pronouncement, and for leaving Ryan O'Reilly completely out of the mix.


All Things Avs blog: postgame Avs/Ducks

In this blog entry, Dater expresses some frustration with the way the Avalanche season has gone. Another loss, more injuries... I suppose that even a great reporter would have a difficult time telling the same story twenty times in a row.

Dater starts with an intro comparing the Avalanche to Old Yeller. I suppose the idea behind this metaphor is that the Avs should be put down, and that they make Dater cry, so I guess it works. I'd point out, however, that Old Yeller was not "bitten by rabies," unless the wolf's name was "Rabies." Which come to think of it, would be a kind of funny name for a dog.

Dater then refers to the Avalanche fans as "ye faithful followers of these metal-footed men." Another weird phrase. Some of the Avs appear to have stone hands and shit for brains, but not metal feet. Do I know what he meant? Sure I do... but he's a professional writer, and his audience shouldn't have to decode what he wrote to get to what he meant. Dater should avoid the flourish-laced language when he's been bawling his eyes out over Old Yeller, apparently.

Dater moves on to compare the current Avs to the Nordiques, and makes an attempt to comfort Avs fans by bringing up "karma," remarking that the Nordiques fans had to endure years of bad hockey in order to build a team that would be taken away immediately before becoming a powerhouse and winning the Stanley Cup. I guess the point is that Avs fans didn't have to go through the growing pains then, so they have to now... but trying to tie "karma" into it doesn't really add up for me. Karma would see to it that Avs fans suffer through another few years of this crap, and then see their team move back to Quebec and win a couple Cups there. With Budaj in goal. So let's not bring up "karma" again, shall we?

Once Dater finally gets to talking about the game itself, he actually has some decent comments. Pointing out that Duchene has not been good, noting that O'Reilley's wide miss that turned into a chance (and goal) the other way was a biggie, and some recognition that Erik Johnson was (and has been) very good. Dater closes with a couple links and another word or two on the Chara hit.

Overall, a very odd start leads to some good, blog-worthy comments about the Ducks game. If the intro had been less awkward, this may have been a solid A.

All Things Avs blog: "Dater" and "Optimism" in same sentence: sign of apocalypse?

In this brief blog entry, Dater introduces his readers to Avalanche prospect Stefan Elliot, who is approaching the career scoring record for WHL defensemen. Dater does a good job telling us a bit about Elliot, even going so far as to link to another article about the kid and to mention the name of the guy whose record Elliot is after, which I thought were both nice additions.

My cynical nature peeked in, though, and asked, "Why has the guy been in the WHL for long enough to break a 37-year-old scoring record? If he's so good, why hasn't he moved up at all?" Elliot is twenty years old and has been in the WHL for four seasons, so part of me wonders if this record is a bit like Crash Davis hitting the most career HRs in the minors... a dubious honor. So while the topic raises some questions that are not answered here, this blog entry is a good intro to a player that could be an important piece of the Avalanche's future.


Avs Mailbag: Draft questions and more!

Dater's workload seems to be light this week... other than this Mailbag, an Adam Foote retirement article, and a couple blogs, most of the game writeups have been from outside sources... which has been a refreshing change. So without much actually coming from the Denver Post (and with a car needing a new transmission put in this week), I've allowed myself to get a bit behind. Hope to play catchup today on both the blog and the transmission, and I will start with this Mailbag.

Larsson sports my high school hairstyle.
The first question deals with the upcoming NHL Entry Draft. The Avs' freefall makes it more and more likely that they will be in line for a very high pick, and this question asks about the players who might be selected with one of those high picks. Dater offers two names, both Swedes (and both, coincidentally, the same two he discussed in an All Things Avs blog entry): Landeskog and Larsson, and gives a very small bit of information for both of them.

I'd like to have seen a more thorough answer here... first of all, while Larsson is pretty much universally ranked #1 or #2, and Landeskog appears to be a top-five pick, there are a couple others whom Dater fails to mention, but should have. Sean Courtier and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are both ranked ahead of Landeskog by the Hockey News, and Nugent-Hopkins us currently ranked first overall by ISS. Dater could have done a bit more research and provided a much better answer, but he didn't. He does, however, admit that he doesn't really know anything about the players in the draft to begin with, and even teases himself about it... saving me the trouble.

The second question concerns the draft itself. I've been critical of Dater's apparent lack of understanding of how the draft works in previous entries... not that I figure he's responding directly to me, but I think he included this question to make sure people know he understands the process.

After reading the answer, though, I'm still not sure. He acknowledges that, rather than teams picking in reverse order of their regular season finish, there is a draft lottery, but when he writes "here are the odds of teams getting the top pick," he's 100% wrong. The odds he lists are the odds that each team will win the lottery, but only the top (or bottom) five teams can actually move up enough to claim the top pick... the 14th ranked team does NOT have a 0.5% chance of getting the top pick, they have a 0.5% chance of moving up to pick 10th, in the first round only.

So nice try on this one, Dater, but you're still offering incorrect information to your readers on this subject. Either do your homework, or stay silent on subjects you don't understand.

The third question is a kind of fun question, asking if a team made up of ex-Avs could beat the team made up of current Avs. Frankly, I think a more balanced question is whether a team made up of retired Avs could beat the current squad, because a team of ex-Avs-but-current-NHLers would wipe the floor with them, as pretty much every NHL team has done the last two months.

This question does link up to one of Dater's common complaints: how often players the Avalanche have gotten rid of have scored against them. And of course, it gives Dater yet another opportunity to repeat his opinion of the Craig Anderson trade, which at this point is starting to resemble nails on a chalkboard.

Dater doesn't really give an answer to this question, but because it was one of those "sitting at the bar making up hypothetical stuff to argue about" questions, I suppose his lack of answer doesn't really matter, so I won't knock him down for it.

The next question addresses the Avalanche penalty kill, and why players like Duchene are not on the PK unit. Asking Dater an Xs and Os hockey question is always an iffy idea. I think Dater knows that a detailed answer to this question is beyond his depth, so he keeps his answer very basic here. Dater basically explains that most coaches don't often have their best players kill penalties because it's tiring, and that McClement may be a decent PKer next season once he gets used to the Avs system. This is a pretty good -- although brief -- answer to this question.

The penultimate question here is about Craig Anderson's play in Ottawa since he was traded from the Avalanche. Does anybody else get the feeling that if somebody didn't write in with this question, Dater would have created a fake name and just asked it himself, so he could answer it? AD is completely hung up on the Anderson trade... he has clearly lost the perspective of a reporter (if he ever had it to begin with) and is just ranting like a fan.

I'm not sure why Dater dwells so much on goaltending, which is the position in hockey he obviously understands the least. His mancrush on Anderson, running concurrent with his hatred of Peter Budaj, despite the fact that they had essentially the same stats playing for the same team, is proof that Dater judges goalies emotionally rather than empirically, and that's kind of the opposite of what a reporter is asked to do.

Dater's answer to this question isn't really that important, because he's just using this question as an excuse to once again say "Anderson was great last year, I don't think he gave up on the Avs, blah blah blah." Enough already!

The final question today deals with Sheldon Souray, and whether AD would have liked to see the Avs pick him up. Dater answers that last year he would have liked to see them get Souray, but he did not think that this year, and leaves it at that. That answer alone raises some questions: what changed between last year and this year? Why did you change your opinion? Why would he have helped last season, but not this season? ...but Dater doesn't go there. So while he did, in fact, answer the question, it still seems very rushed and incomplete.

Friday, March 11, 2011

All Things Avs blog: Dater's hypocrisy sensor goes off; unclear if he's using it correctly.

In this blog entry, Dater discusses at length the Chara/Pacioretty incident and the leaguewide response to it. This entry will provide loads of things to discuss, but first, some ground rules.

Pictured at left is a turnbuckle. It's a buckle (like the one on your belt) that you turn (hence the name) to draw two things closer together... typically ropes or cables. Those familiar with hockey rink construction will note that nowhere within the playing surface is anything like this present, yet the word "turnbuckle" is constantly -- and incorrectly -- being used to describe the thing which Pacioretty hit.

The confusion here is due to the fact that turnbuckles are used in wrestling and boxing rings to pull the ropes taut, covered by a protective padding. This has led many, many people to assume that anything sports-related which is padded to prevent injury can be referred to as a "turnbuckle." The object in question in a hockey rink, however, is correctly referred to as a stanchion, whether it's padded or not.

To be fair, Dater is hardly alone in this mistake and I don't mean to single him out on this one. There are not only plenty of fans, but also players and other hockey 'experts' who have been referring to stanchions as turnbuckles for years, but that doesn't make it any less incorrect. Turnbuckle is a word that describes a specific thing, so let's get it right. The stupidifying of the English language is progressing at an astonishing rate; Newspeak is around the corner. Admirers of the English language, unite! 

Now, on to the blog entry. The basis of this entry is the fact that Air Canada, one of the NHL's larger sponsors, has threatened to pull their sponsorship in light of the devastating injury sustained by Montreal's Max Pacioretty. In this entry, Dater starts by recapping things a bit. He moves on to assert that because Air Canada took no action seven years ago when Todd Bertuzzi broke Steve Moore's neck, that they are being hypocrites now by speaking up against the Chara hit.

I do think it's fair to draw a connection between these two incidents and to question why Air Canada responded one way seven years ago, and a different way today. However, rather than offer a good discussion of this topic, these events, the differing environments in which they took place, and the way the league's response affects peoples' (and corporations') opinions, Dater jumps straight to the sensational "hypocrisy" charge... and that's not fair.

The fact that Air Canada did nothing seven years ago should not bind their hands and prevent them from doing something now. I think it's reasonable to look at these two incidents, rather than as separate and isolated occurrences, as points on a continuum of violence and serious injury in the sport... McSorely/Brashear, Bertuzzi/Moore, and now Chara/Pacioretty... with plenty of lesser ones in between. The fact that all three are not perfectly identical to one another doesn't really matter... from a global perspective, they are all examples of extreme violence in the sport, and as it continues, it's fair to question whether the league has done enough to stop it. Each subsequent occurrence builds on the ones that came before it, making the problem more and more apparent.

The fact that AC did not speak up at any previous point should not prevent them from seeing this incident as their "enough is enough" moment. It doesn't make them hypocrites to speak up about the Chara hit after the previous ten years of violent incidents, any more than it would make a parent a hypocrite to ignore his kid the first three times he burps at the dinner table and then to tell him to stop it the fourth time it happens.

So, why did Air Canada speak up after this incident, and not before? As I said, part of the reason is likely because it's the latest in a string of incidents that have built up, and this was the "last straw," for Air Canada and a lot of others, too. But it also seems logical to assume that because it happened to the Montreal Canadiens, it got more of a response than it might have had it happened elsewhere. Something that happens to the New York Yankees is going to get more attention than something that happens to the Kansas City Royals... it's not hypocrisy, it's just the way the world works.

And of course, there is the fact that the NHL's responses to these incidents were polar opposites... Air Canada and other critics are not necessarily upset with the hit itself, but with how the NHL dealt with it. Certainly, different situations call for different responses, but that is the aspect in which Dater makes his biggest error.

In his attempts to defend his argument from criticism, Dater takes a very bad step when he writes this:

I have heard from a few people saying “Yeah, but Bertuzzi was punished by the NHL over that incident. Chara wasn’t. There’s the difference.” Nobody with a brain is going to compare the Bertuzzi incident with the Chara hit. Those were two TOTALLY DIFFERENT things.

The problem here is that Dater himself has built his entire "hypocrisy" charge based on a comparison of these two incidents, and now he's calling people brainless if they want to follow his lead and compare these two incidents? Can't have it that way, Dater. If he wants to use the things that are similar between Bertuzzi/Moore and Chara/Pacioretty to illustrate his point that AC are being hypocrites, fine... but when it comes time to acknowledge that there are differences between these two situations -- specifically, in the way the league responded to them -- that may explain Air Canada's differing reactions to each, he shuts that down before it can start. Dater basically calls anybody "stupid" who would dare look any further into his example than he wants them to.

The truth is that there are similarities between the two on-ice incidents, and clear-cut differences in how the league responded to them. No, the Bertuzzi incident is not completely concentric with the Chara hit, but it doesn't have to be to be used as a starting point for discussion, as Dater has done. Both injuries were the result of a somewhat typical occurrence during a hockey game (punching a guy in the head, interfering with a guy away from the puck) and they both had a horrible result that nobody can reasonably assume was the premeditated intent of the person who did it. But, the NHL responded quickly and with authority to the Bertuzzi incident, realizing that even though he didn't intend to break anybody's neck, he still did... yet the league did absolutely nothing in the way of punishment to Chara, despite his actions being just as responsible for leading to a broken neck as Bertuzzi's were.

Again, is every detail between these two incidents identical? No, they aren't... but if there's enough similarity there for Dater to hang them up next to each other to accuse somebody of hypocrisy, there's enough similarity between them to question why one incident was met with an indefinite suspension, and the other resulted in no action whatsoever.

Dater won't allow that question, however, and calls you "brainless" if you're going to ask it. I don't have a problem with Dater building a bridge between Bertuzzi/Moore and Chara/Pacioretty to make his point... the problem comes when he then forbids anybody else to use the bridge he just built. THAT's hypocrisy, folks. Dater's as guilty of that here as he thinks Air Canada is.

Dater moves on, thankfully, to discuss the hit itself. He puts most of the blame on the way the arena is built, and uses the similar hit on Ryan Smyth a couple years back (which also went unpunished by the NHL) as support of this. Dater writes,

...No suspension was given to Johnson on that hit, and I can’t find a lot of difference in that hit than the one done by Chara – save for the puck being further away from Pacioretty than it was Smyth, in which case Chara indeed deserved an interference penalty.

I find it funny that in the same breath with which he acknowledges the incredibly important difference between these two hits, he dismissed that difference as practically insignificant. But it isn't... Ryan Smyth had the puck. When you have the puck, you can expect to get hit, because it is legal to hit a guy with the puck. The Smyth hit was a clean hit in an unfortunate part of the rink.

(As an aside, players do realize where they are on the ice. If a player can let up and not board somebody, he can let up and not throw them into the stanchion just as easily. It's a rule I would like to see changed/added).

Chara's hit, however, was not legal, and it was not clean. The puck was thirty feet away from Pacioretty when he was hit... if Dater thinks that's "not a lot of difference," I have to question whether he understands the basics of this game. When you hit a guy illegally, and he is seriously hurt, you should expect consequences.

Another facet which Dater does not acknowledge is the hit to the head. There was no hit to Smyth's head, Johnson got his shoulder into him but did not target the head. As the photo above shows, however, there was most definitely contact to Pacioretty's head. The league supposedly has "cracked down" on blindside hits to the head... but then why does a play that includes a penalty, a hit to the head, AND a broken neck not warrant some sort of suspension? Isn't this exactly the sort of thing the league has been saying they want out of the game?

This is a dangerous, dangerous game. That’s the bottom line. People who think they may be able to legislate all the violence out of the game are on a complete fool’s errand. It’s not going to happen. Unless they just do away with the sport entirely. 

Yes, it is a dangerous game. But, that does not mean that the league should not take steps to keep that danger to a minimum, and the league could definitely have taken some steps in this case. Yes, the construction of the rink itself is a huge factor in this injury, and if there are design changes that can be implemented, the league should look into them. But this was also a dangerous hit because it was an illegal hit, and there's a reason that hits like that are illegal... because the more you hit people like that, the more likely somebody is to get hurt.

The league got this one wrong. Do I want to see Chara suspended for twenty games? Absolutely not... but he should have been suspended for two or three, because his recklessness directly contributed to Pacioretty's injury, and these types of injuries ARE preventable. The league should have sent the message that if you play like that, and somebody gets hurt because of it, there will be a substantial penalty. Canadiens fans would have called two games a slap on the wrist... but Chara didn't even get a slap on the wrist. He got his hair tousled, and Bettman said "Aw shucks, how can I stay mad at you?!" Canadiens fans are, as usual, overreacting to the extreme... but under all that typical nonsense, they do have a point.

I don't really have a problem with Dater's criticism of Air Canada... not that I think they're being hypocrites (they aren't), but I do think that AC is being reactionary here, and could have voiced their concerns in a much different (and more professional) way. I think Dater is dead wrong about the hit, though... Chara should have been disciplined by the NHL, because it was an illegal and dangerous hit. Hits like these can be prevented... there's a rule against boarding, there should be a rule against throwing a guy against a stanchion. Considering the extent of Pacioretty's injury, Chara should have received a suspension, to demonstrate that hits like that are not a part of the game.

Ultimately, the reader is left with the impression that Dater is less interested in the Chara hit than he is about using this as an excuse to bring up the Bertuzzi/Moore incident all over again. Dater's attempt to connect Bertuzzi and Chara, without allowing any dissenting opinions to do the same, just comes across as a juvenile way to present his argument. To start a comparison using those two as examples, base his entire theory on that comparison, and then reject any further discussion based on that same example, is truly hypocritical... and thereby rather ironic in a blog entry dealing with hypocrisy. This important topic deserved a much better discussion than what Dater gives it here.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

All Things Avs blog: O'Byrne's face makes babies cry

This brief blog entry includes video of Ryan O'Byrne being interviewed about the cut on his face. As usual, I appreciate blog entries such as this one, as we aren't likely to find an interview with a guy like this anywhere else.

Dater also includes video of Clint Malarchuk's horrific injury in the late 80s. I am left with the impression that Dater just wanted an excuse to post some video of that incident, so he drew a connection between the two to justify it. He could just as easily have made the connection to Malarchuk and left it at that, but to include the video is, I feel, gratuitous.

O'Byrne finished his shift. Malarchuk would have died if the medics had been 200 feet farther away. Although there are obviously some similar elements involved, Dater's attempt to connect the two smacks of sensationalism, and the inclusion of the Malarchuk video (even though it's easily available elsewhere) is  in poor taste.


Article: "Avs' Duchene Aims to Battle Out Of Losing Ways."

In this newspaper article, Adrian Dater takes a look at Avalanche center Matt Duchene's struggles of late (Duchene had scored one goal and three assists in the thirteen games after the all-star break).

The article is barely underway before Dater states something completely un-factual:

If the season had ended Monday, the Avs would have chosen fourth in the upcoming draft.
This is simply not a true statement; the NHL Entry Draft is not structured in the way that Dater indicates. Rather than strictly picking in reverse order of regular-season finish, the draft includes a lottery system for the first round of picks. Had the season ended Monday, the Avalanche would likely have picked fourth, but they could also have picked either first or fifth. These are the sorts of things that reporters should either know, or research, before writing about.

The article contains a number of good quotes from Duchene, and left me impressed with his attitude during both the team's and his own struggles on the ice. When given an opportunity to bad-mouth his coach a bit, Duchene declines, answering that things like that belong in the locker room. While I don't fault Dater for asking a tough question, I'm pretty happy with the way Duchene chose to answer it. 

Dater then uses a quote from Sacco about player's confidence during this prolonged skid, and establishes that Sacco was indeed referring to Duchene as one of the players he feels lacks confidence right now. It would have been a perfect way to lead into a final question of Duchene and what he thinks of what his coach said, but Dater does not go there. He throws in this Sacco quote, and then kind of just leaves it there unresolved.  

This is not the first time Dater has had something decent going writing-wise, failed to recognize it, and pretty much gobbed it up. He does not seem to recognize the flow present within every well-written piece -- introduction, body, conclusion -- but favors a ransom-note style of composition in which he cuts and pastes sentences together until he has the number of words ordered. I don't know if the fault lies in his ability, his effort, or his editor, but whatever it is, the end result is not good newswriting.

Since it's an article about Duchene and not Sacco, it would have been fitting to allow Duchene to respond to Sacco's comments on his confidence, and it would have made a very satisfying conclusion to this article, but that doesn't happen. Instead, it closes rather awkwardly with a brief quote about the arm injury that sidelined Duchene briefly in February. The subject of his arm injury would have fit much better in the body of the story rather than as the conclusion.

This article features some good quotes about the Avs' current and future star during his first major slump with the team, but the article itself is lacking. Errors reported as fact, and an overall bizarre structure with a decent start, a muddled middle, and a non-existent conclusion, combine to create a rather poorly-done story.


Monday, March 7, 2011

All Things Avs blog: Dater finds a way to make people still care about Anderson

Here we have Dater's blog entry about the Avs' position in the upcoming draft. He opens with an "I'm not going to (blank), but..." statement, saying that he won't go into the reasons why he thinks the Anderson trade was a bad one. Naturally, he then immediately spends the remainder of the paragraph rehashing the reasons why he thinks the Anderson trade was a bad one. Enough already.

He moves away from this, though, to discuss what effect Anderson's turnaround in Ottawa might have on the Avalanche. Dater's theory is that if Anderson plays well enough, he could pull the Sens out of last place, making room for the Avs to swoop in and take the #1 pick.

This blog entry is telling for two reasons. One, it shows us that Dater is toeing the line of obsession with the Anderson trade, and Two, it suggests that Dater does not understand how the NHL draft works.

It's a lottery. Every team that doesn't make the playoffs gets thrown in the lottery, weighted by where they finished... the 30th-ranked team has a 25% chance of winning the lottery, the 17th ranked team has a 0.5% chance of winning. The single winning team moves up a maximum of four places from their finishing spot, and every other team falls in line based on where they finished. This means that the bottom five teams all have a chance at the #1 pick, and the team which finishes 30th will draft either first or second no matter what.

However, Dater writes sentences like this one:

That leaves Ottawa maybe only standing in the way of that No. 1 pick, and Anderson’s red-hot goaltending since the trade (though he lost his last start) could make the difference in dropping Colorado to No. 30.

which sure sounds like he's under the impression that the 30th place team automatically gets the #1 pick. Well, they don't. Because only the next four teams can leapfrog over the 30th ranked team for the first pick, the 30th place team has a slightly less than 50% chance of that first pick despite only having a 25% chance of winning the lottery. And because there's only a single winner which could move up spots, the last-place team is guaranteed the 2nd pick at worst, at just over 50% odds. So it's basically a coin flip for that last-place team, with the odds slightly in favor of the 2nd pick over the 1st.

There are two possibilities here: either Dater does not understand the draft but writes about it anyway, or he DOES understand the draft but just doesn't care enough to be accurate when he writes. Either one is unforgivable for a journalist. Take the time to know the facts and to present them accurately, AD.


Sunday, March 6, 2011

All Things Avs blog: tree falls in forest. film at eleven

The Avs-Oilers game, as seen from space.
In this blog entry we are treated to Dater's thoughts about the game featuring the Western Conference's two worst teams, the Oilers and the Avalanche. It would seem that the team with the worst record is not the worst team, as the Oilers had a disturbingly easy time with the Avalanche, winning 5-1.

Dater makes an attempt at an interesting introduction, and fares better than usual... if you can call a combination of Dater's late-night habits, Vince Lombardi, the Colorado Avalanche, and Charlie Sheen "better than usual." Unfortunately for his readers, we can.

Dater follows with some basic thoughts about the team having no confidence, being young, etc. Pretty standard, boring comments without any real insight, but that's S.O.P. for this blog. Dater picks on Erik Johnson a bit... apparently, Dater thinks that a 22-year-old kid in his first couple weeks with his new team should be a "leader type" and help turn the team around immediately, and so he plans to make a note of every time he fails to do so. I think Johnson will be just fine, but since Dater has already stated he is 'against' the trade that brought him here, he's apparently going to go out of his way to point out every time Johnson fails to excel (and, of course, every time Shatty and Stewart have great games). That's just the way Dater is... some people would call it a grotesque lack of objectivity, but around All Things Avs, it's par for the hole.

He also kind of throws Elliot under the bus, when really I can only remember one goal that was remotely his fault. As ignorant as Dater is of the finer points of hockey, he is especially ignorant about goaltending. It's not like the Oilers, even missing their best players, are the Colorado Eagles or something... they wouldn't be in the league, Dater, if they couldn't score. Also absent is any mention of Peter Budaj, who stepped in after the Oilers' fourth goal and played fairly well, giving up only a single goal on a shorthanded odd-man rush. This is notable not because Dater failed to say something positive about Budaj, but because Dater usually finds a way to blame Budaj for goals scored on shorthanded odd-man rushes.

He closes by explaining that "people's job security" will be in doubt if the Avs don't start winning. Well, yeah... Hannan, Stewart, Anderson, & Shattenkirk have already lost their jobs, and there will be more to come, I'm sure. But he quickly moves on to let us know he's talking specifically about Sacco here. As usual, Adrian hedges his bets... he says that "Sacco is definitely coming back" next season, but then he immediately says that if they keep losing, he may be fired. Dater really sticks his neck out with those predictions, doesn't he?

Nothing terribly interesting or informative in this blog entry, but other than Dater's typical lack of objectivity mixed with his lack of extensive hockey knowledge, there's nothing really notable worth complaining about, either.


All Things Avs blog: grab bag

These are two blogs Dater posted this week. Both are short and sweet, and since I don't have much to say about either one, I'm just putting them together here.

The first one is exactly what I think the All Things Avs blog on the Denver Post website should be: little video clips taken (presumably) by Dater himself... interviews with players, peeks into the atmosphere at other NHL arenas, etc. These are things that fans can't really get anywhere else, but Dater can... and I think it's great that he shares them here. Dater didn't add too much to this in the way of commentary, he just posts the videos. Well done.


The second is a little update about Peter Mueller. It should come as no surprise to anybody that Mueller will not play this season. Here, Dater passes on the message that the Avalanche have officially "shut him down" (a term that when used in sports rubs me the wrong way, for some reason) and that he hopes to be ready for next season. Dater offers his opinion that Mueller's injury contributed to the Avs' bad season, which is hard to argue against... but at this point, what hasn't contributed to the Avs' bad season?

This is another quick blog that gets to the point, offers little in the way of new information, but doesn't confuse the issue with a lot of unnecessary commentary.


All Things Avs blog: Avs lose moral victory in moral shootout

This blog entry contains some comments on the Avs' 2-1 shootout loss to the Sharks, one of the hottest teams in the league.

Dater opens by griping about his hotel not having wireless internet access. When AD writes about something personal in his blog, you're likely to get one of two extremes: griping, or maudlin. Here, we get gripey... and if I'm given the choice, I guess that's the lesser of two evils. While I don't think it's alarm-bell emergency that there are hotels out there without wifi -- even in Silicon Valley -- I do think it odd that the Post would put him up somewhere without it. On the other hand, the hotel does have internet access, and Dater does have a laptop... so why not simply plug his phone into his laptop with a cable and go that route? Oh, I know... because that wouldn't give him anything to complain about.

As he did in his real-news article, Dater calls Joe Thornton's game-tying goal a "lucky tip." As I explained in my comments for that article, when a beer-league guy tips one in like that, we can call it luck, but when a player of Joe Thornton's calibre does it, it's not luck. Describing it subjectively is not only an example of his bias as a reporter/fan, but it also it robs Thornton of the credit he deserves for a nice, clutch goal.

Dater then moves on to write about Elliot for a moment. As he said, Elliot looked very good in this game... thanks, in no small part, to the Avs looking good defensively (or, if you want to be more pessimistic, the Sharks looking a bit flat). As you knew he would, however, Dater manages to get a shot in at Budaj, despite the fact that he didn't appear in this game at all:

 I liked how fundamentally sound he looked. He doesn’t flop all over the place like Peter Budaj does, and was good and square to the puck. 

Adrian Dater (l), Peter Budaj
As one commenter put it, "That wasn't passive-aggressive at all, was it?" Dater's insistence that he does not have a bias against Budaj gets more and more comical with each passing day, because each day contains comments like this.

Dater's assessment of Budaj's play isn't even accurate. Budaj is anything but a "flopper." He is, ironically, exactly what Dater claims to admire in a goalie... fundamentally sound and square to the puck. Budaj's problem is that he's not a super-quick, reaction goalie... he relies on that positioning, but the team in front of him doesn't cover anybody, making it very difficult to anticipate the next shot.  Budaj also still has the occasional night where he kicks more rebounds right out to opposing shooters than you'd like to see... but again, a lot of that could be remediated if there was an Avs player covering said shooter, which there hardly ever is. In extra bonus irony, if Budaj were a "flopper," he'd probably look a bit better on this particular team... but Dater doesn't get that, because he doesn't really understand the position.

Dater then moves on to compliment Johnson's game, but not without throwing in another gripe about the trade that brought him here. He then compliments a guy he's had nothing good to say about this season, Matt Hunwick. It's good to see Dater finally come around to what savvy Avs fans have known for a while, namely, that Hunwick has been playing pretty good hockey over the last couple months (relatively speaking, of course). Yes, he had trouble adjusting to the Avs defensive "system" (such as it is) his first dozen games or so, but he's been a good player since then... but that hasn't stopped Dater (among others) from continuing to harp on him unfairly. Better late than never, AD.

Dater finishes with some random comments about Stoa, Jones, and the goaltending situation for next year, suggesting the Avs take a run at Vokoun. I think that's a terrible idea... while I believe that Vokoun is one of the NHL's elite goalies, he is a terrible fit for this Avalanche team. He is a very, very good positional goalie... but this defensive team requires a goalie to be in two or three positions at once (see above comments on Budaj). Voukoun would definitely be an upgrade, no doubt about it... but to assume that goaltending is what needs fixing on this team is to not understand this team.

Dater does indicate in his closing sentence that Voukoun will likely have many offers from better teams than the Avs, and why would he come here? That is a great question... I don't think he will, and neither does AD, apparently.

A decent blog entry tainted by some lack of objectivity on Thornton's goal and yet another example of Dater's inability to treat Budaj fairly, or even to just leave him alone when he had nothing to do with the game in question.


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Avs Mailbag

In this installment of Dater's Mailbag, he half-answers another six questions with varying results. Each question gets its own individual grade... that's the sort of attention to detail you get here at GradingDater.

The first question is about whether the Avs have been too quick to give up on prospects. The questioner compares the Avs to the Red Wings, who seem to have a never-ending stream of talent coming up from their minor affiliates.

Dater takes a very weak jab at this question, giving one example (Stewart/Shattenkirk) of players the Avs may have traded too soon, but there isn't really an answer here anywhere. He then goes completely off-track to discuss Detroit, for some reason, explaining that they have "defensive problems" and "all those old guys up front." They are both odd criticisms, especially considering they've had injuries at defense but still have the probable Norris winner (again), and that their average age at forward is about 30. And at any rate, pointing out perceived weaknesses on the Red Wings really doesn't address the question about the Avalanche by any stretch of the imagination.

Overall, this was a good question that Dater essentially dodged in order to score cheap points from the Hate-Detroit crowd.

The next question is about Peter Stastny's comments that the Stewart/Johnson trade "destroyed the team." Dater starts with Stastny, but then goes off on a wandering answer about how it may have been a terrible trade, but then again, it may not have. Dater basically waffles here. It's not an answer, but at least it's balanced.

The next question is one that I'm sure made Dater wince, as it is about Forsberg. It's a good question and one that needs to be asked: did Forsberg's ill-fated comeback create a distraction to the team?

Dater could have really provided a provocative answer here, but because it's Forsberg, he completely pusses out. He concedes that there may have been a teeny bit of distraction, but claims that

"I don't think you can ever say it was a bad thing to have Peter Forsberg around on your team."

Well, why the hell not? All the evidence you need is right there... they were playing decent hockey at the time he announced he was attempting to come back... and from that day to the day he retired, they won one game, and they're still reeling. Is it the only reason they've been losing? Of course not... the loss of Fleishmann was huge, Stewart and Duchene disappeared, Anderson seemed to pack it in... but to suggest that Forsberg wasn't a distraction is flat-out ridiculous.

Dater completely screwed up this answer, because there's no way Forsberg wasn't a distraction to this team. It was a circus that Dater helped to create... how's that not a distraction?  Terrible, terrible answer to a question that really deserved more thought... but I guess Dater doesn't have to worry about Peter asking for his half of their "BFF" necklace back.

The next question is about why the Avs do not have a full-time goalie coach, and if it affected the team's goaltending this season. Dater answers that the Avs had Kirk Mclean as a part-time goalie coach... which is really just re-stating the question. Unfortunately, he pretty much leaves it at that. He doesn't answer the question at all... he spends as much time claiming he doesn't have a mancrush on Kyle Cumiskey as he does not answering the question.

The next question asks about the Avalanche's "rash of injuries," and whether their style of play or lack of size has anything to do with it. Another good question... often, Dater picks a few creampuff questions that he can answer easily and look smart in doing so, but the questions this week were actually pretty good. Unfortunately, Dater doesn't put much effort into any of his answers, and that carries through to this one.

Dater's answer is, basically, "size doesn't matter, if it did would Liles be able to play every game?" A guy asks a question about three or four years' worth of injuries, and Dater uses one player, in one season, to support his answer. AD would have been picked apart in debate class in high school.

Marc in Dallas, if you want an actual answer to this question, try mine: Yes, the Avs' lack of size and style of play has likely added to their injury situation somewhat over the last few years. Sure, they've had perhaps more than their share of "freak" injuries (snowblower accidents, pulmonary embolisms), but they've also had plenty of garden-variety hockey injuries, too. They've decided on a team philosophy based on speed and fast-paced play, and so they've built their roster with speedy, often smallish guys to match that style. As a result, they have a bunch of small guys playing a fast style through the neutral zone and then going into the corners against bigger defensemen. The rest of the NHL knows that the way to beat a team like that is to hit them. A lot. When you're skating fast and taking a lot of hits from generally bigger players, you get a lot of injuries.

Dater closes this half-assed attempt by throwing out an "injuries are weird, everybody gets them and the Avs just have got a few more than normal" answer. As I said, this was another good question, but Dater takes the easy way out, demonstrating once again that the mailbag is a great place to get an answer to "Whatever happened to Howler" or "What is Erick Johnson's nickname" type questions, but a lousy place to get a thoughtful and informed answer to a good hockey question.

The last question is regarding Ryan O'Byrne's fairly horrific injury about a week ago, when a skate came up and sliced open the left side of his face. The questioner asks, "why did the refs not blow the whistle?" Dater answers by chiding the ref crew, calling them "idiotic," for failing to blow the whistle, but I'm not so sure the blame is that easy to place.

I don't think anybody, including O'Byrne, realized the extent of that injury. In fact, O'Byrne finished his shift... rarely, if ever, do the refs stop play for a guy who is still skating. Had O'Byrne fallen to the ice grasping at his cheek, I have no doubt that the refs would have blown the whistle right away. But realistically, in a situation like that, the ref has to go by what the player is telling him, and by skating back to the slot and finishing his shift, O'Byrne was telling them that he wasn't that bad.

Now, obviously it was a bad injury after all, but that's hindsight. I think Dater is off-base here in his criticism of the refs that night... but, after being critical of his inability to answer any other question with any sort of authority, I'll give him credit on this one, at least, for picking an answer and sticking to it.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Avs/Sharks recap

This is a fairly good recap of the Avs 2-1 shootout loss to the San Jose Sharks. Dater wisely avoids any attempt at a clever intro, and gives a good and direct overview of the game.

I have one criticism, however: when a player as talented as Joe Thornton tips a pass into the net, I have a really hard time believing it was a "most fortunate" deflection. Sure, Elliot is going to call it a lucky bounce, but I have little doubt that Thornton knew exactly what he was doing. It was a nice play by a veteran guy.

Now, if Dater had interviewed Thornton, and he'd said "yeah, we got lucky there," then OK. But this is just Dater thinking it was pure luck, and I don't buy it.

Dater had this to say about the Avalanche defensively:

For the first time in a long time, the Avs weren't all spaced out from each other defensively. Too many times in this losing funk, there were wide-open spaces for skaters to make decisions with the puck, especially coming into their zone across the blue line.

Every time Dater writes something so perfectly cromulent about the way the game is played, I have to wonder if he overheard it from the next reporter over, or somebody in the bathroom, or something. I have a hard time believing that this is truly Dater's own observation, because it reveals an understanding of the way the game is played that is almost completely absent from his coverage. So when it shows up, it stands out, and I just find it hard to believe he didn't just grab somebody else's thought and call it his own.


All Things Avs blog: Liles stays, yipeee! Dater knew it all along, of course...

This recap of the trade deadline -- in which the Avs did nothing interesting, all their big trades occurring earlier in the year -- starts off with Dater attempting to tell us that he "didn't trust his instincts enough [to] report what he really thought," namely, that Liles would not be traded... despite this on his twitter account:

If I had to bet on Liles being traded, I'd say 80-20 yes. We'll see

That doesn't sound like a guy who's unsure of his instincts. Dater just can't stand to be wrong... you think he'd be used to it by now. But it would be nice to see him just admit he was wrong, rather than trying the "I know what I reported was wrong, but what I thought was going to happen was actually right!" nonsense. He tries so hard to show that he knows a lot about hockey, it's just pitiful sometimes. This is one of those times.

At least he pokes a bit of fun at himself by sending that weakness to "the judges," who treated it more kindly than I would have.

Dater moves on to suggest that Liles will be captain of the Avalanche. I can only assume that when it ends up being Duchene, Dater will then write that he knew it would be Duchene all along, but because he had temporarily been taken over by some sort of brain slug, he accidentally reported that it would be Liles.

As far as I know, Liles has never worn the "A" other than for one- or two-game stints. The team's full-time alternates are Hejduk and Stastny, and I haven't heard of too many veterans getting appointed captain unless they've worn the "A" for a while. I don't really see Hejduk as a captain, and so the smart money is on Stastny. However, I think the Avs will try the "name the exciting young star captain" thing, as many teams have done recently, and go with Duchene.

Of course, "smart money" is also quite often on the exact opposite of whatever Dater says, so I wouldn't put much money on Liles as the next Avs captain if I were you. Just doesn't make a lot of sense, except in the mancrush world in which Dater spends much of his time, where all sorts of ridiculous things apparently make perfect sense.

Dater continues with a bunch of little travel stories. Honestly, these don't really bug me all that much. I know it's an Avs blog, but hearing what the guy's up to as he covers the team isn't bad, and sometimes it's even entertaining. I have to wonder, though, about the hotels the Post is putting the guy up in... no wireless? You'd think that by now, the Post would know what hotel to send their reporters to give them the tools to do their job. 

Dater's silly attempts to backtrack on his Liles prediction just come across as desperate attempt to hide the fact that he doesn't know everything about the NHL, Don't worry, AD... that secret's been out for a while. Nobody's going to hold it against you.


All Things Avs blog: things get uncomfortable

Not really sure where to go with this blog entry. In it, AD starts with a personal story (which in itself is not so unusual) that gets very personal, divulging to his audience some severe depression and suicidal thoughts he went through a number of years ago. It's tough to criticize a person for opening up like this, but then again, I question its appropriateness in a blog that's supposed to be about the Avalanche. I really don't mind some personality coming through in a blog, but this is such a personal story that it threatens to (and ultimately, does) overwhelm the subject. As I've said before, it's "All Things Avs," not "Some Things Avs, and Some Things Adrian."

I did really like the bit about Keith Jones noticing something was up that night and talking to AD about it... I think it's a good insight into the relationship an athlete and a reporter can have, and I enjoyed both that section and the idea AD was going for with it. But, if that's the sort of thing AD wanted to relay, it could have been done while still keeping that story as the focus, rather than the focus turning towards Dater himself.

Things really take a turn for the worse, however, when Dater tries to relate his feeling depressed and suicidal in the Avs' locker room to how Lilies might feel at the possibility of being traded. Really? A guy considering ending it all is in the same ballpark as a guy who might get traded within the next couple days? That's really a stretch, and frankly, I worry it's a bit insulting to those who have suffered true depression. If Dater hoped there would be any weight to the initial, personal parts of the story, he really sabotages it here, essentially trivializing his own struggles by suggesting that Liles' emotions at maybe being traded are somehow similar. Unless it turns out that Lilies was suicidal about the possibility of leaving the Avs, this ends up being really rather far off-key.

Things like this really make me question Dater's ability as a writer... when writing something like this, there should be a common thread that runs throughout it, from beginning to end. Dater tries to find one, but the thing he settles on ends up kind of wrecking the feel for both his personal story and what he was trying to say about Liles. So while I am glad to hear that AD's apparently worked through his issues, I do think that he could have done better with this entry.

The remainder is fairly standard, "will he or won't he be traded" stuff, primarily about Liles. Nothing new, nothing informative, but I guess it's OK. He closes with a very oddly-worded phrase

"You’ll all have a better memory in that room some night."

Again, while I can figure out what he was probably trying to say here, it's written so oddly that I find myself shaking my head in confusion rather than nodding it in agreement.

Overall, I give props to Dater on this one, actually. He made an attempt to do what I think should be done with a blog like this: to combine his personal thoughts about the Avs with some insider information and present it to the reader. If he can find a better balance between those "personal" and "insider" sides and create a more cohesive, flowing story, I think he'd have been on to something. The result was spotty at best, but I feel the effort deserves some recognition, so this entry gets a