Thursday, November 10, 2011

Wings/Avs Coverage

Today, a look at the Denver Post's post-game coverage from the Avalanche/Red Wings match on November 8th, which the Avalanche lost 5-2, despite playing the game in somebody else's home arena. First off, the newspaper recap of the game:

Franzen is often caught daydreaming of playing the Avs.
In this article, Adrian Dater recaps the Avs/Wings game. In it, AD describes the Avs' effort as "Washington Generals-style road performance," which pretty well sums this game up, actually. He points out that the Avs' lousy PK led to two goals by Johan Franzen, who probably experiences nocturnal emission when he dreams about facing the Avalanche. Dater includes quotes from David Jones and Daniel Winnik, as well as coach Sacco... mostly standard "we've got to turn this thing around" sort of thing, but Winnik's quote about "peaks and valleys" in particular was a good one. This is a pretty well-done article overall.


Dater does include some bits I don't agree with, however, such as:

This game went like so many others against the Red Wings in recent years: The Avs seemed to be in awe of Detroit's talented forwards, playing with little in the way of physical edge, just waiting for something bad to happen.

I actually thought the Avs played a pretty physical game, and so I find this comment odd. I recall Wilson in particular lighting Zetterberg up one time really good, and there were other big hits as well (Peter McNab got so excited over the lick Wilson put on Z that he proclaimed him "the best open-ice hitter they've ever had." Haynes kind of let that sink in for a bit before bringing up Rob Blake, which caused McNab to backtrack, rather humorously). Even Erik Johnson was laying into Red Wings, and he hardly ever hits anybody. In fact, the scoresheet said the Avs outhit the Wings in that game, and their 23 hits were more than they had in their previous three games against Phoenix, Dallas, or Calgary. So I'm not sure I'd agree with Dater's assessment here, and the stats don't agree with it either.

Dater also seems to go out of his way to mention that Matt Hunwick was beaten to the puck on the Red Wings' fourth goal. Hunwick, a frequent whipping boy of online Avalanche fans, was playing in his first game of the season. While it is accurate to describe the goal the way Dater did, I find it odd that in a game with many, many scapegoats both real and perceived, Hunwick is the only one mentioned by name. A bit reminiscent of how Dater would often call Budaj out, when 90% of the miserable team in front of him was at least equally deserving of criticism. However, beyond those items there's not much to quibble about with this writeup.

Next, we move on to Dater's All Things Avs blog entry following the same game. Here, Dater continues his recent encouraging trend of dispassionate assessment of the Avalanche on the blog, steering clear of the panic button for the most part. He starts out with a solid premise: if the Avs keep losing, the questions currently being asked by some about Sacco and GM Sherman (mostly by the impatient faction of Avs fans for whom a modest losing streak sends them into a swoon), may start being asked by more -- and more influential -- people.

Dater starts with Sherman, moves on to discuss Sacco for a bit, and then gets back to Sherman before briefly addressing team injuries and closing with some video (which I always appreciate) of Sacco. It's a bit confusing the way he's laid it out -- it's kind of all over the place, but in there somewhere there are some good questions, presented without really hinting strongly to what his own answers are. While there's not a lot in the way of analysis here, it's still good to see this, rather than the typical bluster that we get from All Things Avs. This blog seems intended to make the reader think, rather than react, and that's key.

"He looks like a nice guy, let's sign him."
Dater questions Greg Sherman's acquisition of Lindstrom and Kobasew more than once. He doesn't really rip into either player; at one point he simply posts their stats from this game and then wrote, "I don’t need to toss in any sarcastic barbs about the play of those two. The numbers speak for themselves." Sarcastic barbs are like oxygen to Dater (or beer to me... I guess oxygen, too), so it is very good to see him present some facts with little added on in the way of bias.

Dater moves on to ask some questions about Sacco. In particular, he questions the decision to move Duchene back to his own line, only two games after switching him to Stastny's wing (a move which did generate some significant output from that line). Dater doesn't explore the question, really, he just brings it up... but I do like the way he asks the question that many fans (including me) are asking, without coming across like he's a fan asking the question. It's a line he's going to straddle on this blog, but this time he comes down on the correct side. 

Dater finishes his Sacco thoughts by writing a good bit about the often-mentioned "players tuning out the coach" thing, and how he believes it's largely nonsense. I agree, and I don't think that the Avs' problems can be attributed to them not responding to Sacco. What we're seeing here is not a team that's quit on a coach, it's just a team that on many nights isn't as good as their opponent.

Dater takes aim at Sherman next, drudging up the EJ/Stewart and Varlamov deals once again. His approach here is somewhat negative towards both deals, and it's here I find myself disagreeing with AD the most. Varlamov has been very good, and while EJ isn't setting the world on fire, he is playing top-pairing defense on a team that is still getting some very sloppy defensive play from their forwards. I think that here, Dater should have concentrated on the current issues with the roster rather than the two big moves Sherman made last season... it's just biting off more than he (or his reader) can chew.

When Dater does look at the two more recent acquisitions, Lindstrom and Kobasew, he does better. Overall, Dater gives the impression he thinks these were bad signings... they aren't, they just look like bad signings in the absence of a legitimate top-end forward. Dater does address this point, and finally seems to have come around to an opinion I've had since before last season ended: the Avs should have made more of an effort to re-sign Tomas Fleishmann. Dater has said previously that the Panthers overpaid, but here he writes,

I still think Florida overpaid for Fleischmann. But I also think the Avs gave up on him too quickly, and the larger point is: they didn’t adequately address his loss. That’s on Sherman, that’s on Pierre Lacroix and everybody else who gets the big checks in the Avs front office.

Here Dater makes his best point regarding the job Sherman has done: whether they kept Flash or not, they HAD to have seen what happened to the team after he was injured last season, HAD to have seen how important he was to the team and to Duchene's success/development, and HAD to have known that neither Lidstrom or Kobasew was going to fill that role. If this had been the core of AD's Sherman discussion, rather than being kinda tacked on at the end, it would have been a more sensible approach.  You need guys like Kobasew on a winning team... you just don't need them on your top line.

Overall, this blog is strong. I find myself considering and debating the points AD brings up, without feeling like I'm actually arguing with the author, and I think that is an excellent use of the blog. This is three or four blogs by AD in a row, now, where he's kind of backed off his in-your-face, know-it-all persona. Dater's voice is still present, of course, but it's not the center of attention, and it's not overwhelming the message. It's a good, reasonable look at some of the issues that may lie in the future for the Avs if they don't start winning some hockey games. There's very little in the way of nuts and bolts here... AD doesn't say that so-and-so needs to shoot from the point or that Varlamov's glove looks slow. That aspect of hockey isn't Dater's strong point, and he wisely avoids it here. Dater's strong point is getting the pulse of the team overall, and relaying that to his reader. By stripping away a lot of the "Dater" from the blog, the heart of the matter is both easier to see, and easier to digest.

At one point, Dater actually wrote these words:

 I don’t really want to throw my opinions all over the place here. I’m the beat writer of this team. Yeah, I’m a columnist too, but when it comes to things like job security of coaches and all the decisions they make, I generally like to defer to the numbers and just let the people in charge of their business do what they do and I report about it.

This is really the bottom line of what Grading Dater is all about. If AD can apply this line of thought to the Avs as a whole, rather than to only "job security" things as he says, then things will be heading in the right direction. The Avs and their fans deserve a great sportswriter covering them, offering insightful and unbiased coverage to make them better-informed and more knowledgeable fans. Too often, the All Things Avs blog has not supported that goal (often actually sabotaging it), but this entry offers hope that the Denver Post can provide their readers with that sort of sportswriter, and that sort of coverage.

1 comment:

  1. Your description of Franzen's reaction to dreaming about playing the Avalanche made me laugh out loud. Keep up the good work.