Monday, October 31, 2011

Catching Up

Since the last Grading Dater post, the Avs have completed a great five-game road winning streak, and then come back to Pepsi Center where they have failed to win. At a somewhat surprising 6-4-0, they are in second place in the division behind the somewhat more surprising Oilers. When the Avs were winning, Dater's coverage was fairly good and upbeat, and once they came home and began to struggle, Dater Downer has been creeping back into the spotlight.

A pattern has emerged: Dater's "human interest" stories - often-brief articles about a specific player - have been pretty good, as seen here, here, and here. With these stories, Dater uses a detached, third-person voice to relay interesting (if somewhat low-density) information about a player or the team, and his gloom-and-doom persona seems to be locked far away where it belongs. 
A- (cumulative)

This game's over, folks!
When Dater is charged with a game write-up, things get a little dicey... that pessimist that dwells within him often takes over, with predictably Eeyore-ish results. In this article, for instance, Dater had already written a Sloppy Avalanche lose to Blackhawks article, but the pesky Avs went and won the game in a shootout and Dater had to start over. Problem is that he left bits of the original article in there (since edited out), making for a very confusing read. I know that mistakes happen, and I don't doubt that AD either a) has a deadline, or b) just wants to get home... but there is absolutely no excuse for submitting a sports article, clearly written before the game is over, reporting that the wrong team won.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Avs Mailbag 10/12

Today Grading Dater will take a look at the Post's Avs Mailbag from October 12, 2011. The Mailbag is Adrian Dater's opportunity to show off what he knows about hockey... in many cases, it ends up being a "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt" sort of thing, but lets see how he does this time.

Bright Spots and Lingering Concerns

First up is a question about Stefan Elliott, and whether Dater thinks that he "is the answer to the Avs' lack of offensive defense this season."

Dater is a sportswriter who loves to give his opinion on things. Oddly, he seems to repeat his opinion more and more the less sense it makes... I have to wonder if he believes that the more something is in print, the more credibility it receives. He's already stated a few times that he believes Elliott should be on the Avs roster, and here he takes this opportunity to put that opinion out there once again, just in case we missed it the first three or four times. I will not, however, take this opportunity to explain why he's so wrong about it for the third or fourth time.

Part of the problem here is that it's just kind of a stupid question to begin with... at this point, the Avs had yet to play their third game, and they'd scored but one goal. It was quite a bit too early to decree that the Avs had a "lack of offensive defense;" hell, it was too early to decree much of anything about this team. So this is a case where Dater picked a dumb question that really didn't deserve to be answered, just to give him the excuse to float his opinion on Elliott out there again.

The next question asks Dater whether the team did enough to address the defensive and PK issues from last season.  In an answer that kind of (but not completely) contradicts his last answer (in which he said Elliott should have made the team), he says here that with the bigger and stronger additions, the defense "definitely looks better so far" and wisely remarks on the importance of Kyle Quincey's return. 

He doesn't really answer the question on whether the Avs addressed the PK, he only says that he's "Still worried about it." A better answer might have been that of the Avs top ten PK minutes guys (as of the 15th, anyway), only three of them (Winnik, Quincey, and Galiardi) were with the Avs when they opened last season... everybody else has been added since then, four of them during the offseason. Looks to me like they did plenty to both the D and PK, and early returns are good. On what ends up being the best question of the bunch, Dater goes a bit too light on this answer; it deserved a more thoughtful response.

The third question deals with Forsberg entering the Hall of Fame, and wanders off into a discussion of Eric Lindros and Brendan Shanahan's chances for the HHoF. The question-asker favored Lindros over Shanahan, and Dater disagrees. I'm not sure what the questioner is thinking - perhaps he just can't see past an anti-Red Wing bias - but Shanahan clearly had a Hall of Fame-worthy career, and Dater agrees. 

I disagree with Dater's reasoning on Lindros, however... yes, his career was shortened by injury and he doesn't have those gaudy career numbers, but rather than having one or two great years and then fading away, Lindros still put together a string of seven or eight great, often dominant seasons. I was a bit surprised to learn that Lindros actually played in more NHL games than Forsberg. If Forsberg makes it into the Hall, Lindros should be right there with him. They were both among the very best players in hockey in the 1990s.

Next is a quick question about Joey Hishon. Dater answers equally quickly that he has a concussion and will likely be assigned to Lake Erie when the symptoms clear. This questioner could have just as easily Googled "Joey Hishon" and found the exact same information. Good answer, but kind of useless question.

Next, another brief question, this one addressing the pressing issue on every Avs' fan's mind: the goal horn. Dater assures us that the foghorn is still at Pepsi Center. This is two kind of puny questions in a row; starting to get the feeling Dater is just trying to pad this thing to 800 words.

Next is a question about the equipment managers, and whether they pack five or six jerseys for every road trip, or just take all the team's stuff to the laundromat. I suppose I'm just feeling cynical by this point after two silly questions, but really? Are there really people who care enough about hockey to wonder about that, who don't instantly conclude that arenas have facilities handy for washing the team's gear? Again, Dater gives a good, brief answer to a question that is just a waste of space.

Proof that Bell existed, and that he skated like he had to pee.
The final question deals with a recent Denver Post feature about the Avalanche's Top Ten Rookie Seasons. The questioner wonders why Mats Sundin's rookie season was not included. Dater's flip answer, "There's always a tough omission. Them's the breaks" leads me to think that Dater was the author of the list, and he'd rather dismiss the question than explain his choices. 

Sundin's rookie season with Quebec was a 23 goal, 59 point effort, which was a higher scoring output than six of the players on this list (all three Stastnys, plus Dale Hunter, scored more in their rookie seasons). This list included John-Michael Liles and Bruce Bell, for pete's sake... Bruce Bell over Mats Sundin? You screwed up, Dater. Just admit it.

Perhaps Dater didn't receive any decent questions this early in the year and needed to include some dumb ones to make it even worth printing, but that doesn't really excuse some of the thoughtless responses he gave to a couple of the better questions.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Hejda Introduction and Treasure Hunt

Well, the bad news for Avs fans is that the Red Wings jumped to a convincing 5-0 lead against the Sens last night, before some late goals made the final score closer than the game was... and those Red Wings are heading to Denver for a game tonight. The good news for Avs fans is that the Red Wings had to travel across three time zones and gear up for a game the very next night, so maybe the Avs will catch them a bit out of breath. Those Red Wings are all old and soft, you know. Whatever happens tonight, it will be great to have hockey back!

And now, on to the articles...

Defenseman Hejda is feeling right at home with the Avalanche

The Geico caveman in his little-seen first role.
In this article, Adrian Dater gives us some information about one of the Avs' new additions, defenseman Jan Hejda. It is a well-done article that leaves the reader feeling that he or she has learned quite a bit about the Avs' new defenseman. Dater opens with a good intro to gain the reader's attention, and then proceeds to educate his reader about the big Czech. Included are quotes from both Erik Johnson and Hejda himself, a bit of history for the man, and a hint at the sort of game we can expect from him paired with Johnson as the Avs' top defensive pairing. Needless to say, the Avs defense went from speedy-but-undersized to freakin' huge seemingly in the blink of an eye, didn't it?

This article continues Dater's Jekyll and Hyde pattern of doing a decent (and sometimes, very good) job with the real-news articles for the Post, while simultaneously providing irritatingly banal, subjective, and often downright cranky offerings with his blog (and presumably, Twitter. I'm not even bothering with Twitter but I understand he's quite snippy there also). His recent blog entries have been biased, uninformed, and downright misleadingexamples of everything a journalist should avoidand then he flips the switch and offers a fairly well-done piece like this one.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Just like Titanic, Avalanche Without a Captain

Colorado Avalanche waits to name its captain

In this article, Mike Chambers does some last-minute housekeeping before the Avalanche start their regular season. The first bit is about the team's decision to go with three alternate captains rather than naming a captain. Much has been made, including in the comments for this article, by Avs fans of this decision (or indecision, depending on your point of view), but frankly I think it's 99% hot air. I don't think a team functions any better with a captain than they would with three alternates. Chambers includes a quote from coach Sacco to help explain why the Avs are in no hurry, and I agree. A team either has leadership or it doesn't...a cloth "C" sewn on to one guy's jersey doesn't change that in the slightest.

Chambers moves on to discuss the team's final roster moves, which included the reassignment of Stefan Elliott to the AHL, and the placement of three others on the IR list. Unlike Dater's blog entries about these moves, Chambers tells his reader about these moves without any bias or commentary (and without the misleading, uninformed, flat-out wrong stuff Dater threw in about Elliott being forced out to make room for Cumiskey). He finishes this line of discussion by noting that Gabriel Landeskog made the team. Chambers indicates on what line the rookie will likely be playing, and provides a quote from Landeskog as well.

Overall, this is a good, tight, and informative piece of newswriting. Chambers writes with a direct and objective style, which I admire. I read this article, and I have no idea if Chambers thinks having three alternate captains is a good idea or is completely stupid, I have no idea if he thinks Stefan Elliott should have made the team or if he thinks Matt Hunwick and Kyle Cumiskey suck, and I have no idea if he thinks Landeskog is going to win the Calder or fall flat on his face. I have no doubt that Mike Chambers has his own answers to these questions, but he doesn't tip his hand at all in his writing, which is one of the things that makes it so good. His goal is to inform, not to convince... and as usual, he does a great job of it.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Local Reporter Surprised, Upset over Extremely Commonplace and Reasonable Event.

The Avalanche season opener is fast approaching, and the team has finalized its roster. This has led Adrian Dater to climb up onto his stump and declare that the Avalanche have made a "very...very, very bad decision" in sending Stefan Elliott to Lake Erie:

Stefan Elliott to the minors? Bad decision

In this All Things Avs blog post, Dater makes it abundantly clear that he thinks Stefan Elliott should have made the Avs' NHL roster and that the Avalanche front office is a bunch of nincompoops. He makes it equally clear that he would much rather sit around and gripe about the Avalanche with his fellow fans than to report on it like a... well, a reporter.

Elliott, pictured moments after the Avalanche began the plot to destroy his life.
Having predicted that Elliott would make the Avs roster ("take it to the bank"), Dater reacts with surprise here that he didn't, and takes his embarrassment out on the Avs mangement. Dater got caught in the same trap when he predicted that Vokoun would be the Avs next goalie... he makes a prediction, ends up being wrong about it, and then reacts (and reports) emotionally rather than objectively. An objective view of this situation reveals many very good reasons for Elliott to start the year in the AHL.

Dater took the same approach a couple days ago with the decision to send Tyson Barrie to the AHL... and just as he was then, he's just wrong, plain and simple. As good as these guys may have been, it's pretty clear they aren't going to break into the Avs' top four without an injury or two occurring, so why bury a talented young kid at the bottom of the NHL roster, rather than send him to the minors where he will get gobs of ice time playing against men instead of boys, and–just maybe–learn a thing or two?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Various Preseason Stuff - Hockey Coming Soon!!!

The Avs' preseason schedule is complete, and the Red Wings (and the rest of the NHL) await. Few things are as useless and tell the fan as little as a pro sport's preseason schedule, so I must admit haven't been paying a lot of attention to either the Avs or the coverage they receive... but here are a couple tidbits to carry us through to the start of the regular season, just a few short days away!

Kings rip Avs, new goalie Varlamov, 6-0 in preseason

Quick glove but slow feet, poor lateral movement.
In this recap of an Avs loss to the LA Kings, Dater goes out of his way to rehash the deal that brought Varlamov to the team before bothering to write that neither Varlamov or the Avs played very well in what he admits is a "meaningless" game. Pointing out that Varlamov didn't play well is fine, and there's no problem recalling the fact that the Avs gave up a couple high draft picks to get him. However, Dater has a history of placing way too much blame on the goalies he doesn't like, while turning a blind eye when "his guys" don't play well, and I hope this isn't an early sign that he's gearing up for that again.

Dater made no secret this offseason that he thought the Avs should get Vokoun, but instead they traded for Varlamov... and so while there's nothing in particular wrong with this article, the fact that AD took so much time talking about the goalie situation makes me worry that he's just priming the pump for a year's worth of throwing Varlamov under the bus. If the Avs are struggling after a few weeks and Dater is repeatedly pointing out how well Anderson and/or Vokoun is doing, we will have our answer.