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.

After leaving the Flames game to a local reporter, Dater was back in the captain's chair for the Oilers game, which the Avs lost 3-1 despite outshooting the Oil by a 2-1 margin and looking fairly good overall. This write-up is decent... Dater correctly points out that a couple mental mistakes and sloppy plays made the difference in a game the Avs could have won. There's still a fairly negative vibe in this story, though, and there really shouldn't be, because the Avs played a good game. It would be nice if games like this would get a "games like this happen" write-up, rather than always seeming to hint that a twenty-game-streak meltdown could be right around the corner.

As an aside, Dater came oh-so-close to the elusive clever intro on this one, but his sentence phrasing lets him down. "The Pepsi Center is where the fizzle is for the Avalanche" has potential, but it's just awkwardly written and doesn't quite work. Half points for the attempt, though.
'Hawks D Oilers B+

To complete the Good/Acceptable/Ugh pattern, we check in to the All Things Avs blog, which should really be retitled Whatever Pops into Dater's Head, Maybe Occasionally Some Hockey, Who Knows? These blogs are all over the place, and they are often really, really bad. Even promising entries, like this one after the above-mentioned Avs win in Chicago, have really stupid, useless things in them. In this one, he calls Hejduk's slash near the end of the game (a slash which broke a player's stick) a "incredibly ticky-tack" call. You'd think AD would check the replay before going quite that far with his description.

Dater also gets a bit schizo when he writes about Duchene's 'demotion' to the 4th line. He starts with a bunch of "I think..." statements, which as I've said many times, have no business anywhere near professional writing. If Dater wants to write "I think that such-and-such-a-hotel sucks," fine... but when he's talking hockey -- even on his blog -- he should be objective and keep himself out of it. That's just a cardinal rule, really. But in the same Duchene section, he comes up with this:

There seems to be a disconnect between the way Duchene thinks he’s playing and Sacco. Duchene has said he thinks he’s played pretty well, but Sacco says “He knows he can give us more.” But playing him with fourth-liners isn’t going to get him going offensively.

Now that is a pretty good insight, and (until the end, anyway) he kept his own opinion out of the way. Nobody really expects any writer to keep his or her opinions entirely out of their writing, but there is a way to do it that's professional and ethical (and which doesn't sabotage their past and upcoming work). Why Dater can't frame his opinions like this more often, I don't know... I happen to think it's just laziness.

Then we come to this blog entry, about Andy Sutton's hit to the head of Gabriel Landeskog which earned him a suspension of as-yet-undetermined length. The hit was clearly to Landeskog's head, and a suspension is clearly warranted -- there's very little debate about that (although you wouldn't know it judging by some of the (presumably) Oiler-fan comments). However, Dater really has his undies in a bunch about this incident, and crosses the line any number of times, including the following:

"blindside cheap shot elbow to the head..." 
"Sutton, a bad player on a lot of bad teams..."
"Landeskog could have had his career ended over this hit." 
"I think he should get something like 20-25 games..."
"A goon defenseman on his last legs could have ended the career of a bright young NHL star with that cheapie"

Opinions vary, but the way I define a cheap shot is an intentional act meant to hurt another player for reasons that have nothing to do with the progress of the game: Bertuzzi slugging Steve Moore, Simon hacking Hollweg, Hunter hitting Turgeon... these are cheap shots. Sutton's was a bad hit, but it wasn't a cheap shot... Sutton was trying to light Landy up as he crossed the blue line (a spot where one should expect to get lit up), and he got his head rather than his shoulder. It happens. It is careless, it is illegal, and it should be a suspension... but it's not a "cheap shot." And even if you're a giant Avs homer and you thought it was a cheap shot, it's still inflammatory language that belongs at a sports bar, but not in the newspaper.

Same thing with the "his career could be over!" stuff. Any hit, at any time, can end a guy's career. The hit was bad enough, and it speaks for itself; there's no reason to enlarge this hit as Dater has done. Landeskog is fine, and I'm sure nobody is happier about that than Sutton. Again, it's biased, inflammatory language designed to get people all riled up rather than making an effort to report on what happened or offer any real insight.

Speaking of bias, where does Dater get off taking... well, cheap shots at Sutton? A "bad player"? A "goon defenseman on his last legs"? Talk about unprofessional... this blog entry is an example of nearly everything Dater does wrong, all in one place. And then he goes and says that this should be a 20-25 game suspension... which means he believes this hit should rank among the longest suspensions ever handed out in modern NHL history. (Only six NHL players have been given suspensions longer than 20 games; the longest-ever was Chris Simon's 30 games for his stomp on Jarko Ruttu's leg. Two other NHLers have been given 25-game suspensions). Anything even approaching twenty games is just absolutely ridiculous for this hit, and a guy who's been covering the NHL for 15+ years should know better.

Now, Sutton is not a favorite of mine or anything, and I'm certainly not defending the hit. It seems like he has quite a number of dirty plays on his resume, and in this situation, even though I wouldn't classify it as a cheap shot, it's still his responsibility to avoid hitting Landeskog in the head. I know the guy is like 6'7" and all, but he still needs to do something to avoid hitting his opponent's head, and I didn't see that effort. I do think that a suspension here is necessary, because this is the sort of hit that the NHL doesn't need... and if Sutton can't learn to avoid them, then Sutton is the sort of player that the NHL doesn't need.  A two- or three-game suspension is likely and would be appropriate, and we might see an extra game beyond that, perhaps, because he does have a reputation as a less-than-clean player.

Either side you take on this (or any) discussion, you're going to gain much more respect and consideration for your argument when you speak from an objective and rational standpoint, rather than a biased and emotional one. Basically, Dater just makes a fool out of himself with this blog entry. He writes like an emotional pre-teen Avs fanboy rather than a seasoned, professional hockey reporter. Frankly, there are PLENTY of emotional pre-teen fanbboys blogging out there, and if I want to read their blogs I will do so. The readers of the Denver Post, however, should rightly expect a much, much higher quality product than that... but as long as the All Things Avs blog exists in its current form, the DP product is far below what we should expect in this NHL city.
Hawks C- Oilers F-

No comments:

Post a Comment