Hello! Here is the latest Avs Mailbag review. Dater seems to have stepped up on the toughness of the questions in this edition, although he still swings at a couple of granny pitches, most of these are a bit tougher questions that required a bit more of a thoughtful answer than some of the other early-season Mailbags.
The first question Dater tackles in this edition of the Avs mailbag is actually two questions for the price of one: both questions deal with the Avs current handling of the captaincy, which is to say that they don't have one, but rather are running three alternates out there every night. As far as I can tell, Stastny and Hejduk have been constant alternates, with the third one alternating among a number of players.
Dater doesn't really answer the question of whether the Avs need a captain. But what he does do is to connect the fact that they don't have a captain with the notion that there isn't any leadership on the team, and I think that's a fair point. Dater says he believes that the Avs decided to go with no captain more as a novelty than anything else -- which without any sort of support must stand as his opinion and nothing else -- but he also implies that if there were a clear leader in the locker room, that guy would probably be the captain already. So when Dater says that they need a leader, I think he's right. But simply putting a "C" on somebody's chest isn't going to transform them into a leader any more than putting goalie pads on a guy will transform him into a goalie.
I mostly-agree with Dater here... the main reason they have no captain is because they have no leader. I think Dater might have been clearer in his answer, though, that naming a captain does not create a leader... it's more of a symptom than the cause. Seems like that's what he thinks, but I'm not sure that's really what he said.
The next question also deals with the captaincy of the team, this time the question is whether McClement (one of the players who has worn the rotating "A") is deserving of that honor. Dater quickly answers that he doesn't feel that McClement has done enough in an Avs jersey to get the A. I disagree... if a guy like Cody McLeod can wear the A on this team, anybody can. It's not a skill thing, and it's not necessarily a seniority thing... it's a character thing, and rather than pointing out that McClement doesn't have the stats to be an alternate captain, I think Dater should have looked at it from the other direction, and pointed out that the fact he HAS worn the A so much, despite his short tenure and lack of scoresheet ink in Denver, tells us a lot about how his coaches and teammates view him as a man and a teammate, rather than simply as a player... and that's what leadership is all about.
The next question is a bit of a creampuff... it basically asks if the Avs are just better against Eastern Conference teams than Western Conference teams. I think it's pretty generally accepted that even though the elite Eastern teams are as good as any team in the NHL, the mid- and low-ranked Western Conference teams are just generally tougher to play against than the similarly-positioned Eastern Conference teams. Dater's answer is correct, but this one strikes me as kind of a wasted question.
Next is a question about Avs rookie Gabriel Landeskog, and the fact that he's taken a few big hits already in his short NHL career. Does he need to be told to keep his head up?
Dater answers briefly, but in this case it's a good question that requires a brief answer. Yes, Landeskog needs to adjust to the speed of the NHL game and have a better awareness, and the hit by Sutton should teach him a lot. No need to overreact, and Dater doesn't. "I think he'll adapt fine," says Dater, and I agree. Ultimately, I think Landeskog is going to dish out more big hits than he takes.
Next is a question about pulling the goalie. The question asker apparently does not like Joe Sacco's tendency to pull his goalie with more than 60 seconds left in the game... as if the Hockey Gods of Olde decreed "Thou Shalt Not Pull Thy Goalie Until The Number of the Counting Reacheth 59:00." Dater answers that he doesn't think it's an issue, and that even though Sacco seems to pull his goalie a bit sooner than most NHL coaches, the Avs have actually tied a couple games already this season with their goalie pulled.
Here is a case where I think the question asker is just misguided. Pulling a goalie with a minute and a half left, rather than a minute, is not going to lose you any games... but it might win you some. Of course, pulling the goalie means your net is empty and you're probably going to get scored on, but a loss is a loss, so unless you're betting hockey (which nobody does), there's really no reason to fret over an empty net goal.
I think coaches should pull their goalies earlier, generally speaking, unless they have a super-high-scoring team like the Hawks or Caps, who have a decent chance of scoring a goal at any time of the game. The Avs, as we know, are struggling to score goals (especially at home), and so they need every advantage they can get. If that means they lose a game they were already going to lose by two goals rather than one, then so be it.
In his answer, Dater gives a quick and succinct response to the question. Personally, I'd have gone a bit further to defend Sacco's choices regarding pulling his goalie, but Dater's answer is a fine one.
The next question deals with the NBA lockout, and whether the NHL plans to increase its advertising to gain an audience that would have otherwise been watching basketball.
It makes sense that the NHL teams would try to grab some of the money that NBA fans would have been spending. I'm not sure how many crossover fans there are going to be, as the NHL seems to have its fans and the NBA theirs. I know I wouldn't pay to see an NBA game... I rarely even watch them for free on the TV. Dater pretty much says "yeah, sure," and then mentions that he thinks the Avalanche marketing has been a bit better this year than last. Another half-assed question with a shrug answer.
The final question deals with Dater's Sports Illustrated rankings. The questioner seems upset that Dater has not ranked the Avalanche higher in his rankings, despite having defeated teams ranked above them (such as Toronto and Chicago). Dater smartly responds that his rankings are an overall impression and will not be tied directly to win-loss and head-to-head records... and that the current standings, in which the Avs are decidedly middle-of-the-pack, pretty much correspond to his rankings.
Dater's right here, frankly. The Avs, even when they won six in a row (or whatever it was) on the road, should not have been considered a top-ten team. Any ranking is going to have a team above a team that defeated it at one point or another. Dater's not perfect -- in the rankings linked to in this question, he has the Red Wings as the 16th-ranked team, and the Bruins 18th -- but overall, his rankings are consistent with the best teams, rather than the best records.