Monday, November 4, 2013

The blog is in a new place!

There's a new address for my hockey blog: It is

There may be a way to change the address but let visitors to the old address be automatically forwarded, but it's too much trouble and this is much easier. Thanks!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Wings, Avs both making noise

Both of my favorite teams, the Wings and the Avs, are making noise this week... from to very different locales of course. The Detroit Red Wings' 2-0 shutout of the Blackhawks last night puts them at a 3-1 advantage in their best-of-seven Western Conference semifinals series against the top-seeded Hawks.

I had a good feeling for the Wings in their series against the second-seeded Ducks. Detroit had come into the playoffs on a hot streak. They had that cliche of "every game is a playoff game" down the stretch, and were assured of their 7th seed only on the final day of the season. I felt they matched up well against Anaheim, so I thought an upset was in order. Of course, they proved me right with a thrilling seven-game series victory. However, I had far less of a good feeling against Chicago, and really assumed things would come to a quick and decisive halt... the Wings' old rival beat them all four times during the regular season, and even though three were OT losses, I really didn't give Detroit much of a chance here.

Jimmy Howard as viewed by Jonathan Toews
(artist's conception)
Chicago is a team that lost seven games in regulation all year. They amassed 77 points in a little more than half a season... a pace which would have tied them for the most points ever scored in the standings. They are a juggernaut, such a powerful team that the best I was hoping for was a good, strong showing by the young Wings on which to build next year.

I'm happy to be wrong on this one: the Red Wings are doing more than giving a good showing, they're giving the Blackhawks fits in all three zones, and especially in net. Jimmy Howard seems to really be in their heads... as a longtime Red Wings fan, the biggest negative over the last twenty years or so has been the ability for a goalie to just shut down their typically high-powered offense in the playoffs. It's nice to see that happening for the Red Wings this time. A 3-1 series lead against a team as explosive as Chicago's is far from a guarantee, but it is certainly a great position for this quickly-gelling Detroit team to find itself.

The Colorado Avalanche have been making headlines of a different sort. A couple weeks back, they fired head coach Joe Sacco, and shortly thereafter released Pierre Lacroix from his duties as president, keeping him on as an "advisor," which I think is just the nice thing to do when you want to be rid of somebody but don't want to embarrass him by flat-out firing them. Taking his place as president and causing confusion for fans who insist he doesn't care about hockey was owner Josh Kroenke, and moving up into a more dominant decision-making position was hockey great and snow-removal not-so-great Joe Sakic. Sakic's first goal was to find a replacement for Sacco, and he found one yesterday, when he named Patrick Roy the Avalanche's new head coach.

Hey Patrick, somebody just stole your ice cream
sandwich! How does that make you feel?
I don't really like this move, for two reasons. The first reason is that as a hockey move, I think it is risky, and this is not a team in a good position to take risks at the head coaching position. Historically, star players have not made successful head coaches, and goalies have typically not made successful head coaches either... and so it follows that star goalies who've made successful head coaches are as rare as hen's teeth (Gerry Cheevers is the only Hall of Fame goalie to have even modest success as an NHL head coach). Also, while a great many successful NHL head coaches have had experience coaching junior hockey, very few successful head coaches have come straight from junior hockey to the NHL without at least a brief stop in the AHL or another professional league.

Again, these are merely historical trends, and none of it makes it a certainty that Roy will be unable to find success in the NHL coaching ranks. It can certainly happen, but in order to become a winning NHL head coach, Roy will have to buck not only one historical trend, he'll have to buck at least three. The deck is stacked against him, right off the bat... so hiring Roy as any team's head coach is a risk at this point.

When the Avs fired Bob 'Artley in 2002 and replaced him with assistant coach Tony Granato, they were a team that could afford to roll the dice on an inexperienced and unproven head coach. They were a team full of veterans who many thought had begun to "tune out" Hartley, and bringing in a new voice to motivate and hold them accountable was thought to be just what the doctor ordered. And what do you know, it worked... sorta. Granato's first stint behind the bench was largely a success, at least if you base it on win percentage:  Granato's 2002-2004 record represents highest win % of any Avalanche head coach. However, this Avs team is not that Avs team. This is not a team that simply needs a new voice in the locker room and a new guy to bring his own personality to the team... what we have today is a still-rebuilding team with a very young core, a team whose skills and habits are in obvious need of development. Many have said that Roy's experience in juniors will help him coach these young guys, and there is some truth to that, but the NHL game is as different from the junior game as NFL football is to high school football. The time to take a risk with a coach like Roy is when your team is already good and needs a kick in the pants to get better... counting on Roy to get this team from where they are to the next level is a big risk, and with a number of very experienced NHL head coaches looking for work, it's a risk the Avs did not need to take.

The other reason I don't like the move is that I just don't like Patrick Roy. There, I said it. As a goalie, he was great... one of the greatest of his era and of all time. But as a man, he's not somebody I'm even remotely interested in seeing succeed. His well-documented off-ice issues are not insignificant, and unfortunately they do cast a long shadow over his on-ice accomplishments. Fans seem to love the story about when he ripped a TV/VCR off the wall when a coach's strategy cost him a precious win (his team won, but Roy didn't seem to care about that). They relish trotting out this story as an example of his "competitive fire," his "passion for winning"... but in reality it's an example of a self-absorbed brat with serious anger issues.

Mission accomplished, dad!
Now, if that was the only time something like that happened, it could be looked back on today as a funny example of how the man's mind works, but unfortunately it was not the only time something like that happened. In retrospect, that TV incident was both a sign of things to come and a very troubling example of how the man's mind works. Police visited his home after a 911 hang-up and arrested him on a domestic violence charge, and the sad truth of domestic violence is that is not an outburst but a pattern—for every one time the police are called, there are typically dozens of times they were not. After retirement, another assault charge was filed on behalf of a QMJHL owner, and the straw that broke the camel's back for me was when, during a game Roy was coaching, he ordered his son to pummel another teen who clearly indicated he had no desire to fight the younger Roy. One instance of such violence can be forgiven as a mistake, but four documented instances is an issue, and a very serious one at that. Patrick Roy is not a guy with "passion" and "competitive fire." Patrick Roy is simply an asshole.

As a Wings fan, this situation with Roy allows me to come full circle and connect my feelings about him with my feelings about Todd Bertuzzi wearing a Red Wing jersey. Bertuzzi's victim may have suffered or lost more than Roy's victim(s), but I don't really see much difference in what these two men have actually done, and I certainly don't think it's fair to condemn one while exalting the other. The main difference is that the result of Bertuzzi's choices were played out on live TV and were recorded from five different camera angles, and so his apologists have very little to work with in face of the evidence; Roy's on the other hand occurred largely behind closed doors (or rather, doors that were closed before he tore them off their hinges), making it far easier for his many defenders to paint him as a guy just driven by his passions, thus fitting his abusive and violent nature into the "Saint Patrick the hero" narrative.

I personally think Bertuzzi has learned from his mistake and I don't have an issue with him continuing to play hockey, but that does not mean that he did to Steve Moore should be forgotten, and certainly must not be casually dismissed or celebrated as a product of his "desire to win." I feel the same way about Roy: I hope he's learned from his mistakes, that he's changed, and that he's got things going the right direction in his life... but nothing can or should erase these things he's done, because just like Bertuzzi, who he is today includes who he was.

With both Bertuzzi and Roy, I don't wish them ill, and I don't want them banned for life or see them to go to jail or anything like that. Ultimately, I will be pleased at their success because it will mean success for my team. But it's an embarrassment to have them associated with the teams I cheer for. I'd much prefer they were going about their business elsewhere, because even as a part of my favorite hockey teams I will not—I can not—cheer for either of them.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Avs win draft lottery!

The most exciting thing to happen to the Avalanche since Peter McNabb was called "Penis" on live TV has happened! Yes, the Colorado Avalanche—who came in as only the second-most-likely team to win the 2013 NHL Entry Draft Lottery—have won the 2013 NHL Entry Draft Lottery!!! This has to be the greatest bit of dumb luck to fall into the laps of long-suffering Colorado hockey fans in the history of the state! (I'm sorry, what did you say, Quebec? It was hard to hear you with all this shouting... did you hear the good news?!?)

With most scouts and prospect resources listing Seth Jones as the top prospect, and with most fans, coaches, commentators, and even little old ladies we questioned on the street listing the Avalanche defense as "shittier than crap," it seems a virtual certainty that the Avalanche will use the pick to select the promising 18-year-old defenseman. And what a great pick he will be: size, speed, good sense on the ice, great puck movement, great shot... everything you'd want out of a defenseman picked #1 overall. With talent like this, there's no way he will disappoint! (What's that, Erik Johnson? Sorry, can't quite make out what you're saying with all this noise. Didn't you hear? The Avs finally have a talented young defenseman!!!)

With this sudden windfall, Avs fans everywhere are clamoring to know just one thing: How would Seth Jones look in an Avalanche Sweater? Like this:

There you have it. But of course, among the hundreds of other questions you must have about prospective likely Avalanche #1 pick Seth Jones, I'm sure many of you are wondering: How would it look if the Avalanche manage to clone Seth Jones, and then put he and his clone together as a defensive pair? Like this:

(Note: Original Seth Jones pictured at left)
That should give you goosebumps, Avs fans! Naturally, your next question will be: What if the team were to clone likely future #1 Avs pick Seth Jones, convert both he and his clone to forward, and put them both on a line with the legendary Maurice "Rocket" Richard, also cloned (using traces of his saliva found on the Stanley Cup) and then signed by the Avalanche? Like this:

Pictured: Seth Jones (l), Maurice Richard (c), Seth Jones II (r)

Next up: How would it look if probably likely #1 overall Avalanche draft pick Seth Jones is the victim of a transporter malfunction which sends him to a mirror universe, while simultaneously bringing his mirror self to our universe, where he will probably likely still be under contract to the Colorado Avalanche? Like this:

As a definitely possible Avalanche #1 draft pick, Seth Jones will have multiple endorsement opportunities available. How would Seth Jones look endorsing miniature bottles of hand lotion? Like this:

That skin looks supple, doesn't it folks? With entirely plausibly #1 overall pick Seth Jones getting his face out there, he will be in high demand in Hollywood. How would it look if he were cast as legendarily smooth gambler and swindler Lando Calrissian in the upcoming Star Wars films, and posed for a publicity photo with the robot actor created by Lucasfilm to replicate the young Harrison Ford? Like this:

Now I really can't wait to see that movie! The obvious next question is: How would it look if Seth Jones and his writer friend were to descend on Las Vegas in a red convertible filled with almost every kind of drug known to civilized man, with the goal of documenting America's sad, excessive, and often violently self-destructive attempts to escape the harshness of life in the morally barren national landscape left among the twisted remnants of 60s drug counterculture? Like this:

And finally, how will definitely possible maybe #1 overall pick Seth Jones look if the Avalanche rush him into the league before he is ready, he fails to win the Norris trophy in his first two years, gets labeled a "bust" by fans and media alike, and Avalanche management decides to undertake another rebuilding process? Like this:

Yes, this is an exciting time of year to be an Avalanche fan! Too bad you fans of every other team in the league don't have this sort of excitement surrounding your teams in early May! (Sorry, it's kind of loud back there... what's that you were saying Pens fans, Caps fans, Wings fans, Hawks fans, Kings fans, Leafs fans, Sens fans...???)

Thanks for reading,
Dr. B

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Red Wings' playoff streak hangs in the balance

I have been a fan of hockey since the mid 80s. I had just moved to Colorado from Utah, and somehow one of the first friends I found at my new school was a hockey player named Ross. I don't know why we became friendly, because we had very little in common (he was a jock, while I straddled the line between "quiet nerd"* and "unremarkable background high-school kid"), but he was a nice guy, he thought I was a nice guy, and we hung out. He was always talking about hockey, and so I naturally just started talking about it too. It didn't take long before I actually began loving the game rather than simply talking about it just to fit in.

The hockey Rockies were long gone, and so everybody who followed hockey and lived in Colorado had to pick a team to follow, which when I think back about it was a really great thing. Instead of a group of friends who all loved the same team, we all picked different teams, and so rather than talking about one team at the lunch table we talked about five or six. This helped me be a well-rounded fan of the game itself, rather than somebody who lived and died with just one team, and I feel I'm better for it.

Naturally, since we were high school kids, most of our favorite teams happened to be the dominant teams of the era: Edmonton, Montreal, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Calgary. Wanting to seem as cool as possible as quickly as possible, I tended to lean towards Edmonton... I figured the world's best player and a pile of Stanley Cups was a pretty safe bet, but to tell the truth I never really committed to the Oilers. Being a fan of the winner was easy, but it was hollow, too... and a part of me was a bit ashamed to go with the Oilers, when there were so many underdogs I could pull for instead.

The Flyers were in the mix for a while, because even then I gravitated towards goalies, and Ron Hextall was my man. He played the puck (Martin Brodeur gets a lot of credit for being a "third defenseman," but Hextall did it first), he took penalties, he fought, he even scored goals... and of course, he was a tremendous goalie to boot. He won the Conn Smythe as a member of the losing team, and I loved that about him. Looking back, though, I'm glad I never went all-in with the Flyers, I'm not sure if I could live with myself being aligned with Flyer fans as an adult.

There were two HUGE stars in hockey at that time: Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux. The debate always seemed to be over who was the better player, and everybody had one of those two as their favorite. I figured it couldn't be that easy, could it? Were there really only two players that could possibly be considered the best in the league, with nobody else even in the conversation? This was midway through my high school years, and I remember going to the school library every week to look at the scoring leaders in new copy of Hockey News (that's how cool my school library was: they had Hockey News in the magazine section!). Without fail, Mario and Wayne were either #1 or #2 in every scoring category. However, the same name seemed to be listed third on every list: Steve Yzerman.

The year was 1988, and Yzerman was leading his team in every category and was right there with the two superstars in league scoring, but falling well outside the tight spotlight on Wayne and Mario, neither he nor his team got a lot of attention. Perfect, I thought. He scored his 50th goal on the same night he wrecked his knee and was out for the rest of the season, but that season of following Yzerman through the newspaper, reading articles about him at the library, and staying up late to hopefully catch just one or two highlights on TV, was the year I chose my favorite player and, by extension, my favorite team.

Yzerman was a great player on an improving team, but the Red Wings weren't a favorite to win much of anything. They hadn't won a Cup in decades and they were in the same conference as the unstoppable Oilers, but they seemed to be a team on the rise: they reached the conference finals two years in a row (losing to Edmonton both times) and were assembling a good group of players, including Yzerman, Adam Oates, Petr Klima, and the great Bob Probert. Additionally, they had a very cool-looking jersey which was featured prominently in a movie that had a formative influence on the high school me: Ferris Bueller's Day Off. To this day, I believe that the Red Wings have the greatest jersey in hockey, the city of Chicago seems like a lot of fun, Ferraris are the sexiest car ever made, and Sloane Peterson is a girl I would for whom I would disguise my voice and prank the principal any day.

My new favorite player went on to score 65 goals and 155 points the next season; still behind Mario and The Great One that year but career bests in both categories, and his 155 points are a total that still has yet to be surpassed by anybody not named Lemieux or Gretzky. That Wings team got bounced from the first round of the playoffs, though, and the next year, the 1989-1990 season—despite another 60+ goal effort from Yzerman—ended with the Red Wings last in the Norris division, and out of the playoffs.

1990 is the year I graduated high school, and it's the last time the Red Wings were not in the NHL playoffs. There have been longer playoff streaks, for sure... in fact, two longer streaks have ended in that span of time, one by the Bruins that was nearly 30 years and another by the Blues that reached 25. Today, however, no other team currently has a playoff streak longer than nine seasons. But even though Detroit's streak isn't particularly noteworthy in the long history of the game, there is something really mind-boggling about the realization that more than half my life has gone by since I last saw my hockey team fail to make the playoffs. In that time, they have gone from the type of underdogs I loved to pull for, to the dominant team in hockey that everybody else rooted against, with six Finals appearances and four Cup wins in that 21 year span.

Today, though, those dominant teams are in the past and the circle is complete, because for the first time in a long time, the Detroit Red Wings are going into the final day of the season fighting for a playoff spot. The Wings won the Cup only five years ago (and probably should have won it in 2009 too), but today they are back to being the underdog... and I couldn't be happier. This year's team has been devastated by injuries, unable to compensate for the retirement of one of the game's greats in Nick Lidstrom, and frankly just caught up to by a lot of really great young teams in the Western Conference, the class of which being their long-time rival Chicago Blackhawks. But even with all the excuses, these Wings are a gritty, tenacious bunch playing their best down to the wire rather than coasting into the playoffs as they have so many years before, and it's been a helluva lot of fun.

Adding to my joy is the fact that tonight, I am going to the Pepsi Center to watch my other favorite team, the Colorado Avalanche, who can actually help the Red Wings continue this streak. Yes, I am the rarest breed of all: a hockey fan who loves both the Red Wings and the Avalanche. When the Avs moved to Colorado, most local fans gave up on their "old" favorite teams—the teams they followed from afar when there was nothing here for them—and quickly adopted the Avalanche, but I couldn't give up on the Red Wings.

Yzerman was entrenched as my favorite player, by then a standout two-way center rather than the huge scorer he was before, and he was surrounded by a Murder's Row of a team including Paul Coffey, Mike Vernon, Sergei Fedorov, Vladimir Konstantinov, Nicklas Lidstrom, and Igor Larionov. The previous year, the Wings were the league's top team, only to be swept in the Stanley Cup finals to the ex-Rockies, the New Jersey Devils. In 1995-96, the year the Avalanche arrived in Denver, the Red Wings dominated the league like few teams have ever done, and transferring my allegiance at that time—right when it seemed sure to pay off in a long-overdue championship—was not an option. The Wings were my team, and there was no good reason in my mind why I couldn't stay loyal to them while cheering for the new local team as well. After the years of struggle to get to the top (only the last handful of which I had been a part of), they were finally there. But who should step in and ruin that date with destiny? The Avalanche, who had a destiny of their own to fulfill.

I may be the only person in the building tonight who won't feel conflicted if an Avalanche win puts the Wings in the playoffs. Detroit controls its own destiny: a win against Dallas, and the Wings are the 7th seed and earn a one-round reprieve from the mighty Blackhawks. Should Detroit lose in regulation, however, they would need a Columbus or Minnesota loss to clinch a playoff spot, most likely the 8th seed. So today, I get to cheer for the Avs knowing that their win counts double for me, and keeps a remarkable run of success for the Red Wings intact for one more improbable year.

Dr. B

*— "Quiet Nerd" is a subset of the full-on "Revenge of the Nerds" nerd. An entry-level nerd, the Quiet Nerd is one who abhors pocket protectors, thick glasses, and acne; may or may not be any good at trigonometry; and occasionally enjoys outdoor activities apart from astronomy. Yet much like a full nerd, the Quiet Nerd gets good grades, enjoys computers and robots and chess, and in the absence of a nerdier target will occasionally get shoved into lockers or made to sing an embarrassing song while standing on a lunchroom table.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Diary of an E League Goalie

Hi. My name is Dr. Brainsmart,* and I am an E-League goalie.

First, an explanation of terms. In the hockey league I play, there are four divisions, labeled "AB" through "E." A-league (strictly speaking, it's a division within a league, but we just call them all "league") is typically a checking league made up of college-aged kids who have played since they were infants and who will basically wear you completely thefuk out in about one shift, leaving you wishing you could just catch your breath long enough to allow you to throw up. B-league is (or was) what they called "Intermediate," which basically just meant guys who were a little too old to fit in with the A-leaguers anymore but could still smoke pretty much everybody else... but there apparently aren't enough A and B league players in northern Colorado to create two separate leagues, so they've been combined into a single "AB" league. C-league is "Advanced Recreational," with D-league being described as "Recreational."  Finally, E-League is the "Novice" division, which despite the name does include some players with a lot of experience, just not enough to bump them up into the next division.

Being an E-League goalie usually means one of three things: either (1) you are a person who's never played hockey before, (2) you have played hockey at some level but have never played goalie before, or (3) you have played goalie for a while and are no longer a beginner, but have been talked into playing with beginners because they don't have anybody from categories (1) or (2) to choose from. I fall into that third category... I have never been, and will never be, good enough to play in AB league, but I rate as an average C league goalie and a pretty decent D league goalie... yet at the moment, I'm a E-League goalie.

While there are plenty of adults looking to learn to play hockey, there are a couple reasons why there aren't really a lot of adults just begging to learn to play goalie. It is a position with a lot of built-in difficulties for the beginner. First, and probably foremost, it's scary. There aren't many positions in sports in which the task is to stand in front of people whipping a hard rubber disc at you. Now, no beginner player is going to be zinging Pronger slapshots at you (in fact, attempted E-League slapshots and their aftermath are often a source of amusement for the rest of the players on the ice), but that doesn't make it any less scary. And even a fat, old E-leaguer who's never skated in his life can accidentally get ahold of one, and it doesn't have to be traveling at 100mph to leave a nice bruise.

Another thing that prevents a great number of people from jumping in to beginner goalie is the cost of the equipment. Hockey is a sport with a fairly high startup cost... if you're joining a softball league, you can go get some shoes and maybe some batting gloves and you're all set, and with basketball you don't even need the gloves. Tennis requires nothing more than a racket and the right shoes, and if you want to take up golf, you can get a used set of clubs fairly cheap and play in your sneakers until you get good enough to invest in the fancy stuff. Hockey, though, requires the works from day one, and the shopping list doesn't exactly include a lot of items you're likely to have just lying around the house: helmet, shield, shoulder pads, elbow pads, gloves, pants, shinpads, and of course skates and a stick. It adds up fast, and even buying used gear one can spend $500-$1000 in the blink of an eye. When you consider that a goalie blocker/glove combo and a set of entry-level leg pads can easily be $1000 all on their own, we're talking about a significant investment before that fat, old E-Leaguer even takes his first wobbly shot at you.

Coming into this winter season, I had made the decision to skip a year of hockey altogether. Too expensive, games too late at night, and too much wear and tear on a body that seems to be aging at an exponentially hastening rate all of a sudden. So when, like every year, I received the email from our league practically begging for goalies willing to play in E league, I ignored it. I also ignored the next, more desperate one that explained that for the four teams they had planned, they'd only had one goalie sign up. And when a good friend who had volunteered to captain an E-League team contacted me asking if I'd play, I politely declined, explaining that I'd already considered it and made my decision.

But eventually, they made me an offer I couldn't refuse: half price on this season's registration fees (a $200+ savings), a credit towards half of next year's fees, and a promise to be on a team with that one friend, my cousin, and my sister. So at the end of the day, I had learned that -- much like the mafia -- you can get away, but you can't stay away from E-League hockey. They keep pulling me back in!

*. The author does not hold a PhD; "Doctor" is an honorary title, much like the one bestowed on Colonel Sanders, the Red Baron, and Queen Latifah.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


Hello! Welcome to Fourth Assist, a hockey blog focusing on everything between Colorado Avalanche and the Detroit Red Wings, to crappy ankle-bending beer league hockey! Yeah, I know it sounds like a contradictory set of topics, but I think we can make it work.

This blog used to be named Grading Dater, which focus was primarily picking on the Denver Post's utterly mediocre NHL and Avalanche coverage. So why the rebranding, you ask? Well first of all -- and you may not be ready to believe this --  I thought the title of the blog was a bit unfair to Adrian Dater. Don't get me wrong, he's still the worst NHL beat writer imaginable,1 but it's not only his work that sucks over at the Post, it takes a collective effort of a number of people pulling together as a team to suck that thoroughly. Grading Dater, Chambers, occasionally Frei, and -- as proof there is no God -- also Kizla just didn't have a nice ring to it. It's not Dater's fault that his name just happened to have the right meter and a bit of assonance with the word "grading," and so in my endless quest for fairness, I decided to change the name.

Second, I came to realize that Grading Dater had outlived its usefulness (this does depend, I admit, on the ridiculous notion that it had any usefulness to begin with). This is not to say that the Post's NHL coverage has improved -- far from it! If anything, they're getting worse... over at the Denver Post, they really don't care if they suck or not, they just want readers. They just want clicks on that blog and to collect followers on Twitter. Dater et al don't really care that they're creating ignorant, knee-jerk, Springfield-mob-type fans with their coverage; in fact, that's probably their goal. Sports journalism today is like reality TV: it doesn't have to be good, or educational, or even ethical... it only has to generate interest at an embarrassingly basic level. And much like reality TV, the only way it will ever go away is if we ignore it. Declining to further acknowledge the Post's hockey coverage is our own little contribution to this effort, and it leads right into reason number three.

Reason Number Three: The Grading Dater format limited, to a large extent, what I could write about. It was confining by design, which was fine and dandy for a while and actually created a comfort zone of sorts... it was a blog on one subject, even though that subject allowed me to write about hockey almost as an aside. A more stuck-up person than I might declare that he had "outgrown" the Grading Dater format, but you, dear reader, should know that chief among my innumerable virtues is humility... I am so F'ing humble, in fact, that I can simply say that the blog's format just got old and boring. By choosing to ignore Dater and the Post, I have stepped into a brave new world in which I can write about anything, with no pretense and no limitations! Whoo hoo!!!

With that in mind, on to our first topic:


Christ, I can't find it.
The hell with it!
The Avalanche, in case you haven't noticed -- and judging by the attendance, you haven't -- have the worst record in the NHL. They were hovering around .500 (in point %) when Ryan O'Reilly swooped down in his Charactermobile to save the season, and since that point the positive things that have happened to the Avs are as follows:

  • They ended Chicago's made-for-TV "unbeaten in regulation" streak, and 
  • Kyle Keefe called Peter McNab "Penis" on live TV. 

Seriously, that's the entire list.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The straw that breaks the camel's back...

Hello faithful reader! It has been a while since Grading Dater has published anything, and that's because we've been depressed. As the Ryan O'Reilly saga unfolded, the coverage from the Denver Post just got worse and worse. We had Dater posting an entire thing about how stupid and wrong the Avs were over the situation, and then he turned around and posted an article about how stupid O'Reilly was being, too... as if combining two completely biased articles from opposite viewpoints creates an objective reporter (hint: that's not the way it works). We had Dater posting a rambling letter (which, to AD's credit, he apparently attempted to translate into English for us) from O'Reilly's dad, essentially turning the Denver Post into the mouthpiece for the O'Reilly camp and their weird, weird ideas on how the world works. We had Dater blogging about all the possible "what ifs" that might occur within the next year or so, basically just slumping into lazy rumor-mongering rather than any real reporting. We had Chambers using the blog to promote some sort of soap opera he's trying to fabricate between Duchene and O'Reilly. ...All this sprinked with Dater's typical "Avs are losers" glumness and clockwork Stastny bashing when the team lost, peppered with the occasional decent work from Chambers (although he continues to make mistakes he should know better by now, such as "assistant captain" and the meaning of a two-way contract). So yeah, it was a tough time to be a hockey fan reading the Denver Post.

With the stupid O'Reilly thing finally-sorta in the rearview mirror, though, we thought that perhaps the Post would start returning to better coverage, but little did we know that the worst was yet to come. In this All Things Avs blog post, Adrian Dater goes so far beyond the pale of acceptable journalism that it seems clear there's no coming back.

In a recent game, Milan Hejduk was the recipient of a fairly blatant charge from Blue Jackets center (centre, for our Canadian readers) Derek MacKenzie, who received no penalty on the play. Unfortunately, Hejduk was hurt on the play and has missed a couple games. That's pretty much your story right there: Hejduk injured, no penalty called.

Dater, however, turns it upside-down and very quickly moves from the mild irritation one would expect from seeing a player injured on a play that should have been a penalty but wasn't called (which as any hockey fan knows, happens all the time), straight into fanning the flames of the ridiculous "NHL/Shanahan hates the Avalanche" bullshit that permeates the realm of a certain sub-species of Avalanche fan/cretin that gives the rest of us a bad name. It is now clear that if Dater is not the leader of this band of neanderthals, he is, at the very least, in charge of their Ministry of Truth.

Dater calls it "a joke" that MacKenzie received no penalty, and then goes off on a list of items -- most of them involving retired players in games which happened over ten years ago -- to make his point that the league just hates the Avalanche and has a documented history of screwing them over at every opportunity. Never mind that this makes absolutely no sense and never has... why, exactly, does the league want the Avalanche to lose? And more importantly, why does the league think the Avalanche need any help to lose? Have they not been paying attention?

Perhaps the most amazingly dumbfounding part of this blog is this: in the midst of all the Shanahan/Red Wing/Avalanche/suspension/conspiracy nonsense, Dater manages to slip in a plug for his book. Wow.

This blog is just complete and utter garbage, and even though for a while I had begun to think that Dater was above this sort of thing, it's quite clear that he is not. One of the retorts often typed when anybody calls Dater out on his shitty blog work is "you know it's a blog, right?" if putting words in blog form makes it acceptable to just forget everything you've every been taught about journalism, objectivity, research, integrity, ethics, etc. So in an effort to stick up for the concept of blogs, check out the work here, and see what's possible in that format:

Are they biased? Yes, they are. Are they written by fans who bring a fan's perspective to their writing? Yes, they are. However, in this blog, you will not only get far more intelligent reporting on the state of the Avalanche than you will get in the Post, but you also get a much higher quality of discussion in the comments section. Why is that, you ask? It's for the same reason that flowers attract butterflies, while shit attracts flies.

All Dater is doing these days is creating, and then pandering to, some of the dumbest hockey fans in the world. It seems clear that the Post doesn't care, either... if Dater generates clicks on their web site, they don't care what sort of shit he publishes. So the answer is simple, ladies and gentlemen: find your Avalanche information elsewhere. You, the Colorado Avalanche fans of the world, deserve better than what Denver's only major newspaper offers you in the way of hockey coverage. You will have to seek it out for yourselves, but do yourself a favor: ignore the Post. Ignore Adrian Dater, Mike Chambers, and the crap they sign their names to. All they and the Post have done is to create a generation of the most ignorant fans a team could imagine, and then continued to feed them what they were made of. We deserve better.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Avs Mailbag

Hello! Today we take a look at an Avs Mailbag from last week.

Too early to press panic button?

In this installment of the Mailbag, Adrian Dater tackles five questions from readers. The first question asks whether, in light of the poor power play, PK, and road performances by the Avs so far, an early first-round draft pick is all that Avs fans have to look forward to this season. Dater answers by saying that the presumed #1 pick is Seth Jones (son of one-time Denver Nugget Popeye Jones... cool little trivia tidbit there) it's probably too early to start thinking about draft picks, but that "in a short season, the panic button will get pushed a lot earlier than usual."

I suppose this is a good enough answer, but it's worth nothing that at the time AD wrote this, the Avs were 2-4. Three games earlier, they had been 2-1, and two games later they would be 4-4. I would have liked to have seen an answer that a bit more emphatically points out the mercurial nature of the start of any season, particularly one that started as unusually as this NHL season has, before even humoring the "panic button" sort of reader.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

All Things Avs positively positive after win at Calgary

Hi! Today, let's take a look at the All Things Avs blog posted to the Denver Post online after the Avalanche's 6-3 victory in Calgary.

Paul Stastny's two goals helped Colorado beat Calgary

Don't spend them all in one place, Avs!
In this blog entry, Adrian Dater shares his thoughts after the Avalanche's victory against the Flames. Dater starts out with a  predictably sarcastic "time for a parade!" paragraph, but then settles into a breakdown of certain players who Dater feels are worthy of praise. The problem is, though, that Dater is so unfamiliar with praise (he admits as much), that it doesn't always come across as what he claims it to be.

Let's start with his words for Chuck Kobasew:

Chuck Kobasew – I’ve taken a couple of shots at him before, probably cheap shots. I regret it. I consider myself tough – but fair – as a reporter. I don’t want to ever take cheap shots at guys, at least not the kind that have no humor in them and and are just dumb.

Dater does go on to write that Kobasew played "a terrific game" with particular praise for his work on Colorado's third goal... but does that first paragraph sound to anybody else kinda like he just called Kobasew both humorless and stupid?

Friday, February 1, 2013

A couple-three blog grades

Howdy! Time to catch up on two or three All Things Avs blog entries, all written by Adrian Dater. Ready, set, grade!

No Avs practice Tuesday; no updates from Landeskog, O’Reilly fronts

In this blog entry, Adrian Dater explains that under the new CBA,  teams must take a minimum of four days off every month, which explains why the Avs did not practice despite their ultra-poopy PK performance of late. Good info, I had no idea about that.

Also included in this blog are a weather update from Canada (it's cold), a bit of an info-free update on Landeskog, and a closing paragraph about Ryan O'Reilly in which Dater now seems to have moved from "The Avs offers are fair" to "The Avs are subbornly refusing to give in." Dater also uses his new catch phrase — "good times" — twice in this blog entry. It isn't old yet, but it will be soon.

Michael Sgarbossa recalled by Avs; Brad Malone bound for Lake Erie

In this blog entry from later in the same day, Dater lets his reader know that Brad Malone has been sent to the AHL to make room for Micheal Sgarbossa. Dater offers some good, albeit brief, facts about Sgarbossa, guesses at where Sacco will use him, and writes that a guy like him could help address the Avs' scoring woes (scoring being something which is not really Malone's forte). This is an example of the perfect recipe for the blog: 3 cups facts with a dash of speculation.

Ryan O’Reilly update: Not much goin’ on

In this blog entry, Dater lets his reader know that those backwoods Russian doctors did not permanently cost Ryan O'Reilly's the use of his foot, it's just a "minor sprain." Whew! I was worried he wouldn't be able to get back and forth to the fridge for beers over the next couple weeks.

Dater goes on to restate his feelings about O'Reilly's contract holdout. AD does not think things are going well, and blames the Avalanche, writing:

The Avs have just let this kind of thing go on for way too long with players. They cut off their nose to spite their face time and again with players who want what – fair or not – is their perceived value. Then they leave and thrive elsewhere. Maybe it’s time for Avs management to take a good hard look in the mirror and say “Maybe it’s us, not them” as to why players seem to do great things away from this team, after, you know, other teams show they care about them at the bargaining table.

I didn't have any other photos to add to today's blog,
so I figured a shout-out to sweet old trucks was in order.
It's now clear that the hint from the earlier blog about Dater's change of heart with O'Reilly's situation was correct; this is pretty much a complete about-face from the attitude Dater had just a couple weeks ago, when he called the Avalanche's offers to O'Reilly "more than fair."

Dater does acknowledge he said that, but writes that "circumstances with the roster have changed." I guess Dater means that if the Avs have a healthy bunch of forwards, O'Reilly is worth $3.5 million per year, but when guys get hurt, he's now worth more? I'm not sure I agree with that logic. If my wife's car breaks down, my truck doesn't suddenly become more valuable. More useful, definitely... but if I'm selling it I'm not going to be able to say "Yeah, I'm asking about a grand more than it's worth, but that's because it's our only car right now." When a team starts paying players based on how much they need them rather than how much they're worth, that team gets into trouble.

While I do see Dater's point to a degree, I feel he's trying to straddle the fence here... on one side he's saying the team is being smart with their money and not overpaying for a guy who's demanding far too much compensation than his body of work would call for, and from the other side of his mouth he's saying the team is being cheap, stubborn, and stupid and chasing away their fans. Perhaps the truth, as it often is, is a mixture of black and white, but here it just sounds like Dater is waffling. If Dater wishes to make his point about the Avalanche front office's attitude towards players in certain situations, he'd be wise to pick as his example a player the Avs are truly trying to underpay, rather than one he's already stated the team has dealt with fairly.

One other note about this blog: Dater writes that under the new CBA, a restricted free agent in O'Reilly's situation can become a free agent if he sits out an entire season of hockey. He has offered no source for this claim, and from what I can tell from reading through the changes to the CBA, he is completely wrong here. If this were the case, why wouldn't EVERY player hold out after his entry-level contract was up, go play in Russia or Sweden for a year, and thereby become a UFA six years early? I think this is a case of Dater severely misunderstanding something he overheard, not bothering to check it, and then throwing his readers into a state of confusion by publishing it as fact. I could be wrong, but the only place I can find this supposed CBA change is in Dater's own writing, so I'm not betting on it. The grade here would be a C if not for this misleading factual error. 

EDIT: Today, Dater published this blog entry, explaining that what he wrote about O'Reilly's RFA status changing after a one-year holdout could be (and as he later adds, is definitely) wrong. He writes that it was told to him "by people I trust," but calls this a "misunderstanding" of the new CBA.

A few readers have blasted AD in the comments section, but perhaps surprisingly, Grading Dater is not going to join in that fun. Although Dater does deflect the blame somewhat by pointing a finger at his unnamed source, the fact that he has created an entire blog entry just to admit that he was wrong and that he was sorry, is pretty cool. Certainly, as a reporter, there should have been some part of his mind that said, "Wait a minute, that doesn't make any freakin' sense at all, I should spend another five minutes googling shit to see if this is accurate before I commit it to print." If he'd done even a little bit of research before he wrote and published it, he'd have avoided this entire thing... but even so, here he comes clean and admits publicly that he was in error, and that's about all you can ask for once the mistake has been made.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Avs lose, O'Reilly celebrates?

Hello! Today Grading Dater will take a look at a recent game review from Adrian Dater of the Denver Post.

Colorado Avalanche loses 4-1 to Edmonton after giving up four power-play goals

This article is a bit of a hybrid: one-half basic and decent recap of the game, and one-half commentary on the Ryan O'Reilly situation. The recap part of the article is fine: quotes from players and Sacco, critical of the Avs as a team where they were soft (special teams), mention of how Landeskog's absence isn't helping, and an acknowledgement that the Oilers are a very tough team right now. The only real beef with the recap side of this article is that Dater calls out Stastny in particular, only later mentioning that his linemates have also been ineffective. Yeah, Stastny being the highest-paid player makes him a target for such criticism, but Stastny has always been a guy who looks great when his line is clicking but never really carries anybody on his back. Calling out "the Stastny line" is probably more constructive and accurate than singling out Stastny simply because he's paid a lot of money, but it's a minor quibble.

The other half of the article is Dater's way of making this game relevant to the Ryan O'Reilly saga, and to a point I do get it: the PK was awful (two straight games with three or more PP goals allowed), and O'Reilly is a very good penalty killer. The pieces do fit. AD writes that the more the Avs lose, the better "O'Reilly's leverage" against the Avs becomes... whether that logic tracks or not I'm not sure, but Dater makes a decent enough case for it. The part that really doesn't work, though, is this:

Wherever he was Monday night, Ryan O'Reilly might have sat back with a smug grin and thought to himself, "That's why I'm worth the money."

Unlike most of his readers, Dater has actually met and talked with Ryan O'Reilly. He knows a bit about the man's personality and how he treats others. And while I understand that this is just a winking attempt at a clever intro, the impression created here about Ryan O'Reilly is that he's, well... kind of a dick.

Maybe Ryan O'Reilly is a dick, and is just cackling with glee as he watches the Avs get trounced, making this just great, factual reporting from Dater. However, my gut feeling is that even if O'Reilly is a huge dick, he doesn't appreciate the Denver Post -- even jokingly -- making it sound like he wants his Avs teammates to continue getting BF'ed just so he can get his money. All in all, a decent write-up of the game, but with an O'Reilly tie-in that misses the mark.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

No Suspension for Brad Stuart

Hello! Today we will be taking a look at a recent All Things Avs blog by Adrian Dater. This blog deals with the lack of disciplinary action taken by the league over the hit by San Jose's Brad Stuart that knocked Avs captain Gabe Landeskog briefly out of that game, and caused him to miss the following game in Edmonton. Not only will we take a look at the blog entry, but we will have a little discussion about NHL rules and the Laws of Physics, to boot!

No Suspension for Brad Stuart

There is very little to this blog. Short and sweet, it's basically a quick update on the situation in which Dater informs his reader that the league has elected to take no action against Stuart for the hit, which also received no in-game penalty. My take (which will be evident by the time you finish reading the blog) is that while an in-game minor wouldn't have been out of order (Stuart's elbow made contact, but it wasn't extended, it was in the follow-through... so in my view that aspect is borderline), this was a fairly clean hit. The reason Landeskog got hurt was not a dirty play by Stuart, but because Landy skated head-first into a monster open-ice hit, the sort we Avs fans would love to see somebody in maroon -- say, Erik Johnson, for example -- dishing out to people.

Brad Stuart explains to reporters about how his strict diet
of infants and kittens has helped prolong his NHL career.
Things like this are when the All Things Avs blog is at its best: delivering little bits of information that are either too small or too trivial to create an entire column for them. So in theory, this is a good blog entry. Dater writes that he's not surprised there was no suspension because "Landeskog emerged OK." Fair enough, I guess... although I think it's more because it was a legal hit AND Landeskog emerged OK (or so we thought). It goes off the tracks, however, when Dater chooses to add in this sentence.

The head was the initial point of contact and Stuart left his feet delivering the hit – which Todd McLellan and the laughably homer-ish Sharks TV announcers said didn’t happen (might want to get your eyes examined boys, cuz he clearly left his feet)

To discuss the problems with this sentence and this blog, we can first look at the video of the hit. Landeskog approaches the collision with his body held much lower than Stuart's, there isn't enough height difference to cause this so it's either invisible stilts for Stewart, or Landy is crouching, having reached out a bit for the puck. It appears (although this is difficult to discern with 100% certainty) that Landeskog's head and shoulder are actually the initial point of contact with Stuart's shoulder, immediately followed by pretty much every part of Landeskog's body north of his shins (as opposed to the last time Landeskog got clobbered at the blueline, in which Andy Sutton hit almost nothing but his head).

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Avs Mailbag: Landeskog a superstar in the making?

Hello! Today we're going to take a look at the latest Avs Mailbag by Adrian Dater. In it, Dater tackles seven questions from readers, ranging from the future for Calder-winning forward Gabe Landeskog to the relative ugliness of the Avalanche jerseys.

Avs Mailbag: Is young captain Gabriel Landeskog a superstar in making?

First of all, let's discuss the headline: Landeskog either is, or is not, a superstar in the making. It's entirely possible that someone other than Dater wrote the headline, but whoever did write it should be made aware that "the" is a part of speech called an article, and they're free, so let's go head and use them. In the old days of printed newspapers, articles were often dropped in order to fit a headline into its allotted space, but since the Avs Mailbag only appears online, this is not a valid excuse. It may seem like nothing to quibble about, but seeing as how this entire blog is about quibbling, I might as well do it right.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Hockey is Back!!!

At long last, hockey has returned, and so has Grading Dater! With the lockout wiping out half the season, there hasn't really been much reason to update the blog.  Why? Two reasons:

1. I found it difficult to get motivated to get online and write a blog about hockey (and hockey reporting) when there is no hockey. Just seemed kind of pointless, and with the Broncos being very interesting/heartbreaking this year, the NHL became very easy to ignore.

2. I realize that the DP's writers probably feel exactly like I do about writing when there's nothing to write about, but unlike me they're actually required to write even if they have nothing to write about. So in sympathy with their situation, I was more than willing to cut them the same slack I cut myself.

What articles and blogs the Post's writers (even Terry Frei popped his head back into the NHL to contribute an article or two) did offer were few and far between, and consisted of two general types of article: the Dry & Boring Update Article ("After two weeks of no contact, the NHL and the union are set to meet again today. ZZZZZ") and the Gripefest Blog. Even though I have often stated my distaste for using the All Things Avs blog for such blatant opinioratory (I'm pretty sure I just made that word up), I wasn't too bothered by these because, as I said before, the poor bastards have got to write something.