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.

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