Monday, May 7, 2012

Hello Again!

Hello there! It's been quite a while since I last added anything to Grading Dater (and before that, it was quite a while too), and there are a few reasons for that which I am sure you are just dying to hear. A number of fairly large life changes have been happening lately, and while these changes have been overwhelmingly positive, they've diverted my attention away from the blog. It happens, sorry! Also, even when I was full-steam on keeping up with the blog, I wasn't getting a lot of feedback, and after a while it started to seem like I was just typing to myself, which got a bit frustrating. At least Dater gets plenty of feedback, and love or hate, he knows people are reading him... so if you're out there, make some comments! Whether it's "Keep it up" or "Your blog is the stupidest thing I've ever encountered," I'd love to hear from you. And third, the Avalanche coverage lately -- as I mentioned in a number of previous entries -- has improved, thus giving me less to write about... and seeing as how the goal of this blog is to improve the media coverage of the Avalanche, this is a good thing, right?!

What has caused the Post's coverage to improve, you may ask? I've been thinking about that, and I have come up with three possibilities:

  1.  The Avalanche weren't god-awful this season, making it easier for writers to remain upbeat and focused on the team,
  2. The addition of Mike Chambers as a more-or-less equal partner to Dater on the Avs beat, 
  3. Grading Dater has fulfilled its destiny, successfully creating more discerning readers, holding the Post's writers accountable, and resulting in the higher-quality coverage that was our goal in the first place.

I'm really just daydreaming to really consider #3 as a possibility, because as I mentioned already, only crickets seem to be reading the blog. But even if it were getting all sorts of hits, I don't have quite enough ego to suppose that my little blog would single-handedly caused Dater to write better. I do know that Dater is aware of the blog, but I highly doubt he checks in first thing every morning to see how he fared, and then makes a note on his calendar for that day to "be conscious of bias," or "don't forget to put video on the blog today." So I have a feeling that the improvement we've seen in the Post's coverage is a mix of #s 1 and 2... The Avs were much improved this season, and with a number of new players in the mix, the feeling of having to write the same story they're already written a hundred times was likely lessened; and Chambers not only adds a knowledgeable, insightful voice to the coverage, but also gives Dater a reason to up his game. Dater was much better back when the Rocky Mountain News was in business and he had to fight for Avalanche readers with Sadowski... and when they folded and Terry Frei left the Avs beat too, it was only Dater, and I wonder if he just got complacent.

Anyway, even though the Avalanche coverage has improved, there are still clunkers to be found, and here is one of them:

Avalanche Grades: Kevin Porter 

That thing on there is a hockey player, Kevin...
not that you'd have any idea what one looks like.
This is one of a series of end-of-season recaps of each Avalanche player. They've done this for a few years now, and this year Dater and Chambers seem to be trading off. Chambers goes for a more laid-back approach, offering an overall recap of the player's season, while Dater actually goes a step further and gives each of his players a letter grade... which seems like the sort of thing only an anal-retentive, control-freak sort of person would do. You can read all of the player reviews here; they add a new one every couple days.

Dater gives Porter a D for this season, and I can't really argue the grade too much. Personally, I probably would have been a little more generous and would have given Porter a C, because even though he didn't play that much, when he did play he was perfectly average. However, the problem with this article isn't the grade... it's everything else.

It's odd to have given Porter his own little write-up in the first place; the guy played 35 games, most often as a fourth-liner getting nine minutes per game, and was not a factor one way or the other. Typically, bit players such as this get an "all the rest" sort of recap at the end, and that's what players like Porter this year deserve. But Dater decided to go ahead and shine his spotlight on Porter... but even after reading his article, it's hard to understand why.

Compare Dater's Porter recap with this one, his recap of Jay McClement's season. McClement receives a brief summary of his arrival last season and how the turmoil and shock of being traded may have affected his play, a number of good observations made about the things McClement brings to the Avalanche (particularly his role in boosting the PK from 30th in the league to 12th), and a thoughtful analysis on the factors that may come together when it comes time to decide whether McClement will return to the Avs next year. It's well-done, accurate, and informative. Bordering on excellent, in fact.

Porter gets none of this treatment: Dater starts with the kiss of death -- "Kevin Porter is/was (?) a nice guy" -- and then cuts right past any analysis of Porter's play and gets straight to the nasty: he insinuates that Porter is a loser who never scores important goals in important games, declares that the promising season Porter put together the previous season was merely a "mirage," says that it was a huge mistake for the Avalanche to even re-sign him, and closes by stating as a fact that Porter simply isn't good enough to play at the NHL level... and his primary argument for all of this is that "everybody who knows the game knew that."

The difference between these two recaps is like night and day. Even if Dater didn't feel that Porter was worth the effort but was somehow compelled to write a full review anyway, it wouldn't have taken long for him to have written something like, "Despite being re-signed after a somewhat surprising season last year, this season Porter was a backup fourth-liner who was a healthy scratch more often than not, didn't get many minutes when he played, and didn't do much to earn more with the ones he got. Although Porter is a restricted free agent this offseason, after appearing in only three games after mid-February it seems unlikely Porter fits in to the Avalanche's future."

See? That wasn't so hard. Porter definitely has some ability and he is always skating hard, and I think that in the right role he can put together a nice career in the NHL... but clearly the Avs don't have that role for him, or he'd have played in more than 35 games. That's not saying he had a good season by any stretch of the imagination, but I don't see how he even played enough to get a truly bad review, either, much less this scathing attack on virtually everything he's ever done or ever will do.

But even a scathing attack for no reason on an unimportant player wouldn't be so bad, if there had been anything to support the conclusion reached. This is an example of Dater at his worst. Porter may not have deserved a better grade, but he certainly deserved a better review... and Dater's readers should demand far, far better than this as well.

McClement: A
Porter: F

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