Monday, April 07, 2014

An Inconvenient Truth


 Its my favourite time of the year when it comes to sports, the NHL is wrapping up its regular season and the playoffs are about to start. This year I will have the added bonus of the World Cup in June so its going to be a lot of fun over the next couple of months despite the Oilers not making the playoffs again and Canada nowhere near the big tournament in Brazil.

 What I can do without during the Stanley Cup tournament are the awful narratives that pop up. Its the worst.

 Now I'm a guy who loves a good story. I enjoy telling stories and I appreciate a good tale well told, its one of the few things that irritates me about my kids. They're bright and funny and they're the worst at telling stories. Its painful. Its just their age, I know they will get better at it. If they don't then I will have to disown them. NOT IN MY HOUSE!

 While I love a good story however I also want it to be accurate. Sure maybe you put in a little flourish here and there, a little exaggeration to spice things up, but the meat of it has to be true. If its not then its just bullshit.

 Sports lends itself to story telling of course. Hey if you have been around this blog for a while you know that I often talk about my beer league club or about the boy's adventures on the ice. The last post I wrote was about this very thing. There is a beginning and an ending and there are twists and turns to the plot and colourful characters and it basically writes itself.

 The problem with sports story telling though is, well its like this. There's a lot of bullshit mixed in with the natural story of who won and who lost and how they got there. I'm not old enough to know when it began but I know that at least it goes back to 1972. I know this because, like you, I was brought up on the mythology of that Series with the Soviets. A few years ago I looked at the Series in depth, watched every game, every shift, recorded what went on and discovered that actually the accepted truth was not supported by the facts. It was not a case of plucky Canadian heart and try winning the day but rather Canada being a far superior team that should have probably won six or seven of the games. They outplayed their opponents right from the beginning, even in game one where their conditioning was supposedly a huge factor. The Soviets were this year's Leafs forty years before their time. Badly outshot, badly outplayed, relying on excellent goaltending and a quick strike offence, mostly on the powerplay. If the two teams played a hundred times Canada probably wins seventy five or eighty of the games, if not more, especially if they run with Tony Esposito in net.

 But narrative, right? Especially when there was a patriotic drum to beat and an opportunity to demonstrate our superior 'character'.

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 I don't recall the seventies or eighties when it comes to hockey story telling other than there were three very good hockey clubs that won thirteen of fifteen Stanley Cups. The seventies Habs, the Islanders, the Oilers. There was no need to tell a story because the story was a simple one. Three teams too good for the league they were playing in.

 At some point though things turned. It was due to parity in the league. It was due to the World Juniors giving us an annual us vs them event. It was due to Don Cherry.

 At some point hockey became about character.

 This narrative has been pushed by the networks and their commentators who were nearly all fourth liners or backup goalies. Star players in hockey don't need the money, generally, so they gravitate to the golf course or to jobs with their clubs as ambassadors. Some go into management, usually starting with an assistant to the GM's title, often in a situation where the club likes having them around to remind fans of better times.

 But the plugs? Well they stay in the game by starting as scouts or maybe assistant coaches deep in the minors or, because they are generally 'great guys' (they have to be great guys because if you're a borderline guy you can't afford to not be great on the room), they end up in media.

 And for plugs, guys like PJ Stock and Louie Debrusk and Don Cherry, well for them they are now going to push character and the grinder and the plugger because THAT IS WHAT THEY WERE.

 And so you get tales like we did a few years back where Shawn Thornton got an avalanche of credit for the Bruins Cup win. Shawn Thornton.

 Now part of this too is that the plugger appeals to a lot of fans. Never in a million years could your beer league couch potato do what Kadri or Ales Hemsky do, not a chance. But he could back check hard and work his ass off in the corners and go to the net and stick up for his teammates. Anyone can do that of course because its monkey work. I can do that! So for Joe Fan, well he can identify with Colton Orr a lot easier than he can with Nazem Kadri. Its human nature really and so you have a willing audience in a lot of respects.

 The problem is that in the media we have guys, some ex jocks, some not, who are either not very smart or they are lazy or, to be fair, they believe in this story line because its how they were taught to understand the game. Generally these are the guys who respond to criticism with 'you never played the game' or my favourite ' you don't understand the game, just watch the game and you would see'.

 (I always find this amusing because guys like Tyler Dellow and Vic Ferrari are amongst the most astute observers of the game that I know. They watch the games and they watch them over and over again and notice the little things that make a difference. Anyhow, I digress.)

 Anyhow these writers and broadcasters look for stories to tell and generally the simpler the better. And so you get Jason Strudwick proclaiming last night that the Oilers were winning against the Ducks because they had three fights and were emotionally engaged.

 This is a common story and I have never understood it. Two guys fight. One team gets momentum from it and proceeds to win. But why them? Why doesn't the other team get momentum? Their guy fought too after all. Sometimes the team gets momentum because their guy won. Sometimes they get it because he hung in there against a bigger guy. Sometimes they get it because their guy got pummeled. Seriously. Remember a few years back, I think it was Prust was a Ranger and got destroyed by a Senator in a fight and the Rangers to a man said that was a game changer. Is it true because they believed it? I don't know, I never played the game. But sign me up and we'll solve three problems. I will then have played so I can talk about hockey (this entire blog and every discussion I ever had about the sport is meaningless due to not having played, right?), I will make a shitload of money (league minimum is ok!) so I can pay off my mortgage and buy you a dozen beer and also whichever team I play for will go 98 and oh, all the way to the Cup baby, because I will guarantee you momentum every night by absolutely getting killed by the other team's biggest goon.

 Now don't get me wrong, I like Strudwick, I do but by my eye, when I was watching the game, my impression was that the Oilers won because Hiller was terrible and Fasth was very good.

 And I guess the question I also had was what if the Ducks had come back? Would it have been because the Oilers became less emotionally engaged. Are they like I was in my early twenties, all hot and heavy for some girl I saw at a party, having a great couple of months of lusty boning until I became bored and more and more emotionally detached until it all crashed in ruins? Wait a second, the Oilers are mostly in their early twenties!! Maybe I should have had a buddy hanging out with me on dates to start fights so I would have stayed emotionally engaged! Maybe I would have been more successful at love!!

 But really, what if the Ducks came back and tied it. And then gone ahead. Does Hendricks fight someone else and the Oilers bounce back? Is it really a question of a character win? If Perry scores another goal or two, if Getzlaf doesn't hit the post is it because the Oilers are bad people? Or is it because the Ducks are a far better team?

 --------------------------------

 But that's how it works. Three weeks ago or thereabouts the Leafs were home and cooled, third in the conference, the local media crowing about how the naysayers were wrong and now they are dead in the water, out of the playoffs, and suddenly its a character question. The team doesn't have it.

 Its an easy answer and a ridiculous one of course. So three weeks ago they had character and now suddenly its gone! Where did it go? Did it melt with the snow? They had enough character last year to make the playoffs and push the Bruins to seven (although that character disappeared with eleven minutes to go in that game, damn!) and strangely enough people forget that Joffrey Lupul had a great chance to end it in overtime. He missed, just as Datsyuk missed a glorious chance in the slot in G7 against Chicago, Stallberg getting his stick enough of his shot from the slot was a weak one. Bergeron scored and that was that. But if Lupul scores then suddenly the team oozes character, is that how it works?

 Of course the Leafs did the right thing and dumped Grabovski and MacArthur over the summer because they were the problem or part of it I guess and they brought in the wonder twins from Mimico to solve the character issue. And it seemed to have worked ... until just recently.

 Or maybe. Maybe there is something to Randy Carlyle's system that does not lend itself to success unless you have two Hall of Fame defencemen and Beauchemin in the 3 slot as well as four lines of very good forwards and excellent goaltending. Maybe the reliance on a hot power play and out of this world goaltending while allowing the other team to outshoot you massively game after game because you never have the puck (partially because you dumped two skill guys and won't play other skill guys) is not a recipe for winning, especially when your goaltending no longer performs at Hasek like levels and your few remaining skill players go cold or don't score enough because the rest of your lineup is no longer good enough to chip in offensively.

 But its easier to say that the team has no character than to try and figure out what is going on. Its one sentence versus paragraphs of investigation and explanation.

------------------------

 I've been going on and on here and I am just going to finish up with this. Despite what Don Cherry says all hockey players are not good guys. Some are. Some are not. They are like any collection of guys you will find except they are elite athletes who play hockey very well. Because of this the majority probably have a bit of a sense of entitlement, which I would expect. And a few are pretty sociopathic when it comes to pursuing their goals. You'd have to be. There are billions of people on this planet. 690 of them play in the NHL.

 All that said they have all worked their asses off to get where they are. All of them. The endless drills, the tedious hours in the gym, the rehab when necessary. Its like toughness. The softest hockey player in the league is a hundred times tougher than your regular citizen. They play through pain that would leave you or I bedridden and their job involves fighting for space with enormous armed angry men, all on ice. Think about that. Oiler fans used to go on about Tom Gilbert being soft, a guy who blocked more shots than most defencemen in the league in his time in Edmonton, all the while getting pounded into the boards, sticked, elbowed, often while playing injured. Yeah, he's soft. Don't pull a muscle cracking open that Coors Light fatty.

 Are there players who are tougher than others? Sure. Jason Smith and Ethan Moreau and Matt Hendricks are three that come to mind right away but this idea that players lack character or toughness is a hilarious one.

 The falsest of all accusations stinks the most however and that is what people like Cherry and Mark Spector and others put forward about European players. Now think about this for a minute. These are people who whine about players who won't talk to them or about donuts getting yanked from press boxes or about games being boring and they claim that European players lack character. (My favourite remains Spector assassinating Ales Hemsky's character last spring, following that up with a column where he whined that Hemsky wouldn't talk to him. Better yet a few days after that it was revealed that Hemsky had played for a month with a broken foot as he tried to help his team get into the playoffs. I mean what a piece of garbage this Spector guy is.)

 So now who lacks character? The guy who confesses to a conflict of interest essentially (this guy doesn't talk to me so he is a bad person) and also does not investigate whether or not the player in question was hurt (nice journalism!) or the guy who came to a strange country as a teenager, unable to speak the language, in order to pursue his dream. Pictured above is Michal Rozsival. At the age of 17 (!) he moved to Swift Current to play junior hockey.

 Seventeen. Mark Spector wouldn't want him on his team though. (More on that later.)

 What do you think?

 Its plain xenophobia is what it is of course. When Kovalchuk played the 2012 finals with a wrecked back CBC roasted him every chance they got. He didn't care about the Cup!!! Never mind that he had been lights out the first three rounds, suddenly he didn't care. And then with a minute left in the last game Hughson ripped him one last time and Healy piped up 'well he's been playing badly hurt' like this was a revelation and what does Hughson do? He sniffs that he shouldn't be playing then.

 A double standard. Marian Hossa plays through an injury so severe that he cannot feel one foot and Tony Amonte, who couldn't hold Hossa's jock if you taped it to his hand, talks about Hossa not being tough enough. Europeans don't CARE ABOUT THE CUP, don't you know.

 Why we're even having this conversation these days I don't even know. To me if you have common sense you know the whole myth is garbage. Look at the history of the game over the last twenty years. Pick any year. 1998 - three of the top five scorers were Europeans. In 2009 four of the top five were Europeans. Europeans have lead their teams to Cups and won the Conn Smythe trophy. Last season Spector (there he is again!) said that you could not win with Europeans or skill guys in your support roles.

 Chicago's bottom six forwards in the playoffs - Saad, Shaw, Stallberg, Kruger, Bolland, Frolik.

Chicago's bottom four defencemen - Hjalmarsson, Oduya, Rozsival, Leddy

 Good thing nobody told them!!!!

-----------------------------------------

 Anyhow if you managed to stick around this long, thank you, a bit long winded I know. My final thought is this. The hilarious thing about the this whole narrative idea is that you get the people generally going on about character and pride, guys like Simmons and Spector, are the guys who go on and on about 'WATCHING THE GAME' the most. Bring up Corsi and JUST WATCH THE GAME they say.

 I'm not a huge stats guy, mostly because I have slight ADD (look, a bird!) but like most thinking people I think they help tell part of the story and when properly applied they add important information. That said I find it hilarious that the biggest proponents of 'just watching the game' are also the biggest proponents of things that you cannot see, character and clutchiness and whatnot.

 I believe in Corsi and Fenwick taken in context. I also recognize that Joffrey Lupul is usually going to bail out rather than get smoked to make a play while someone like Hossa is not, mostly because the guy who hits Hossa is probably just going to fall over, but also because Hossa is tougher than Lupul (who is a million times tougher than you or I) and a lot better hockey player.

 Just don't try and tell me that a team's fortunes can be explained through character or lack thereof because these arguments are only so much voodoo. You find 'advanced' stats hard (hint, its shot attempts basically, they are not that advanced), tell me how a team has loads of character and try one month and then weeks later they do not. Tell me how a team has heart and knows how to win one round and then do not one round later?

 You want to talk about hocus pocus bullshit.

 You want to talk to me about intangibles and character?

 Just watch the fucking game and spare me the fairy tales.


34 comments:

Jen LC said...

This was an absolute delight to read. I really enjoyed it.

Grey said...

Great stuff.

Unknown said...

I'm cheering over here. Bravo.

Anonymous said...

Dean Lombardi (a guy who is quite a bit into "advanced" stats) brings in Mike Richards as a guy to put the team over the top.

He didn't bring in Dany Heatley, Marian Gaborik, Ilya Kovalchuck (latter forced to court by ownership, wildly documented meeting where Lombardi essentially points out Kovi's mistakes on video to him).

Aside from the fact that Mike Richards is a center which obviously played quite a big role, the sole reason why Richards was brought in is because he won at every level and because of his competitiveness and character. You can read any Lombardi interview you want on this, he's pretty elaborate.

Fast-forward to Game 1 in Vancovuer, first game of the Kings Stanley Cup run. Watch the game. Yes there, I said the phrase. Watch it. ALL Mike Richards, near single-handedly establishing who the top dog in the race is.

"Advanced" stats will say false narrative blah blah blah, go watch the game and tell me that with a straight face, if you do and as much as I respect advanced stats work... well you are simply wrong.

That's why Boston wins, that's why LA wins, that's why Chicago wins. I don't know whether you think character exists or not, but to me it's pretty clear all the top teams in the league place a huge emphasis on it.

Anonymous said...

We can go on further. Stoll, Greene, Williams, Handzus all brought in based on character. Mitchell, Scuderi.

I remember people laughing at Lombardi for dealing a premier puck-moving D in Visnovsky for two "plugs" in Stoll and Greene. Again the entire LA team is built on character. In fact post trade-deadline interview with Lombardi pretty much confirms that the reason why he didn't match NYR's offer for Gaborik was because he didn't feel his locker room was established enough to take in a guy with that kind of personality. That's some heavy hocus-pocus shit right there.

Michael Polo said...

I liked the post, even though it doesn't support my theory of the leafs poor record of late is due the drop in the value of the Canadian dollar. ;)

HabsinOttawa said...

Fantastic and dead on.

Garnet said...

Outstanding.

Travis said...

100 percent the anonymous character comments are just Dellow trolling.

Anonymous said...

So because a Cup winning GM from a team that is on record as using analytics says in several very elaborate interviews, not only that character exists but that he places huge emphasis on it, it's trolling?

Black Dog said...

Thanks for the kind words everyone.

Anon - Funny I thought the Kings won because they were a possession machine, same as they have been the last two years. And that Richards and Carter were actually problems in Philly and Columbus due to character. That's how the story went. And then suddenly they weren't problems.

Richards is a hell of a player.

I don't remember anyone complaining about the Lubo trade. Stoll was a good player in Edmonton. Greene is a third pairing D.

Mitchell has always been a shutdown top four D. Scuderi the same. Williams a top six possession winger.

See you say they were brought in because of character. I would say more importantly (and probably why they were brought in) is they are all good hockey players.

Same as Boston and Chicago. Really good hockey teams full of really good players.

Anonymous said...

Nobody is denying they are good players. But they are meticulously selected good players. I admitted Lombardi pays attention to puck possession and whatnot. That doesn't really change the fact. And yes the Kings did their homework on Richards and Carter, neither was a locker room cancer despite what the Philly media drummed them up to be. Visnovsky trade was wildly criticized at the time (as was trading O'Sullivan who went on to well do whatever he ended up doing). I don't care much for what media says, but NHL teams do place a huge amount of emphasis on character, this isn't rocket science, it's wildly publicized, Lombardi is just one of the most outspoken GMs in the league in general so he's the only one to publicly admit he didn't want to bring Gaborik in earlier because the locker room wasn't ready for it. Good article to call out the bigoted media but you went a bit overzealous with your hocus pocus ending, usually tends to happen in advanced stats circles from what I've read of the community anyways.

Black Dog said...

Hm you don't know me very well. I'm not part of any 'advanced stats community' any more than you are my friend.

And you haven't convinced me, sorry. Appreciate the comments though, seriously.

Bruce said...

I guess Gaborik must have grown some character between trade deadline 2012 & trade deadline 2014? Because that crack judge of character Dean Lombardi just traded for the guy.

Anonymous said...

I was making a general comment about the advanced stats community not claiming you are part of it.

No problem, my goal isn't to convince anyone about anything, I am simply presenting easily verifiable facts coming straight from the horse's mouth, in this case a guy who successfully oversaw two rebuilds both of which resulted in successful teams, with one of them culminating in the Stanley Cup. Not that he is the only one as much as he's the most outspoken about it. To me this is less about convincing and more about facts - those being that a Stanley Cup Winner was built and character-emphasis was a big part of it, not the only one, but a major part of the foundation. Now your opinion about that fact can be whatever you like it to be though.

Anonymous said...

Really enjoyed that post. (I'm not the whining Anonymous guy.)

Donna said...

Anon, please explain what it was about Gaborik the LA locker room wasn't ready for. He was great to have in Columbus. Unfortunately he was injured for most of his time there, and in the end Jarmo decided he didn't suit the Jackets style of play, but he was a positive presence in the locker room and publicly stated that he wanted to stay.

I guess I don't understand what it is about his personality that was so worrying to Lombardi.

And of course there's such a thing as character. But it has nothing to do with winning hockey games.

Black Dog - very enjoyable and sensible piece.

Anonymous said...

When Gaborik was a UFA the Kings weren't as established as they are now, their leadership group was younger, they didn't have much success yet. Bringing in a guy like Gaborik who is a big personality and a specific kind of player that is never going to be just "one of the guys" can change the fabric of the team. The difference between Gaborik then and Gaborik now is that now he is simply a secondary piece fitting in with an already established identity of the team that already experienced success.

"Everybody’s got to pay a price and that’s why this team has had success. The high-end guys like Kopitar, Carter, Doughty—all these guys have never lost sight of the fact that there’s a price to be paid, now go do your thing. That’s what we’re expecting from him..."

"Again, it’s a weapon I’ve felt we would like to add to the mix here to throw a little bit of everything at you. But not at the expense of what this team stands for."

"Marian wanted to come here before, don’t forget, before he went to New York, but I didn’t think it was the right time. He was very interested in playing here but I thought where our franchise was at, it wasn’t the right time. I thought we needed to put other things in place first before you added a player like this. "

Frankly Lombardi has a library of quotes and video interviews and character is pretty much a huge deal in just about everything he does. So whether you agree with it or not, the fact is at least one Stanley Cup Winner was built with that foundation.

You wanna say that the organization is suffering from mass delusion that thankfully didn't interfere with what REALLY matters, you wanna say Lombardi is just throwing super elaborate soundbites for whatever reason, you wanna say that he's doing it to throw everybody off etc. That's your right, just don't expect me to take you seriously.

Anonymous said...

Forgot to post the source to the quotes:
http://mayorsmanor.com/2014/03/lombardi-talks-marian-gaborik-trade-and-price-for-rentals/

Good night everybody.

Anonymous said...

Handzus wasn't brought in to Chiacago because of character. They got him because he could win a faceoff. Literally, they looked at a number on a stat sheet and said "can we have that guy? The one with the high faceoff win percentage?" I don't think Stan Bowman could have cared less about his character when that trade happened.

wetalkinboutpra said...

Fantastic Read. It's why sports' MSM is so pathetic it actually makes me mad that any of my friends or anyone with a computer or smartphone would read them. They peddle bullshit stories, that are wildly uninteresting. I live in Asia and get most general sports news from deadspin--they tell us what's going on, who the main and supporting characters are, what's at stake, and about interesting subplots, etc. fucking simple. Not interested in hearing some hack read me a story like I'm a fucking 10 year old or the alternative of some other dipshit hack overtly trolling us with inane narratives that they latch onto (ie Reimer = rebounds, durrrr Bolland grittitude, durrrr can Peyton Manning win the big one, etc.)

Makes me want to yell and scoff. Great read.

Black Dog said...

Another example from another sport - Tom Brady. When he won all of those Super Bowls he was clutch and had loads of character. Now suddenly he has not won in quite a while and what is it ...? Does he no longer have character? Is he no longer able to execute under pressure?

Or if the Giants' receiver doesn't make that circus catch and the Pats win another is he ok?

Or not?

Its just an easy narrative is all I am saying.

Back to what anon was pointing out, Lombardi may have liked the character of these guys and feels that its important. That's fine but Richards, Carter and Stoll all had questions about their character and it was said that Carter pouted his way out of Ohio.

The opposite of character if you believe in that.

But in LA and for Team Canada there is no problem?

Essentially unless a guy is truly a bad actor (I suspect for example that Kris Versteeg is a poor fit on losing teams although I have no way to prove this or hard evidence to support it) when is playing on a good team his character is going to be fine, if its a bad team then its a problem.

The key is the team. Its like chemistry. On a bad team it always becomes an issue. Its a catchall easy phrase. They have bad chemistry. And its sexier than 'well they have no depth' or 'they aren't very good' or their number one defencemen has been hurt for months and is worn out'

So on Chicago a guy like Patrick Kane has matured or is a character when they win but when they are not he has maturity issues as an example. Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin are two other examples.

Anonymous said...

Have you ever heard of a guy named Patrice Bergeron?

Anonymous said...

Fantastic article, but the improper use of 'its' really bugged me plus a number of other grammar issues. Not trying to be 'that guy', just dropped down the quality a bit.

Anonymous said...

I am a very busy guy. Friedmans 30 thoughts is a fave because it covers lots in a short time. This was so good, I couldn't stop reading to the end. Thank you.

George B.

Unknown said...

Way to show character 'Dog", Excellent read, great points

Black Dog said...

Thanks George and other for the compliments, appreciate it.

Yes I have heard of Patrice Bergeron. He plays for the Boston Bruins.

Ken Te said...

This post is one for the ages. Although specifically about hockey, it could be applied to other sports as well, not to mention the news and mainstream media in general.

Reporting has always been a part of sports and has always shaped our perceptions, but now the MSM seem to be mostly out of touch or irrelevant.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, for giving us some perspective, and for reminding us about what is really important in our lives and fandom.

Oiler_Kiwi99 said...

Brilliant read Pat. As someone said previously in the comments it can be applied to a lot of sports.

P. said...

Great article, thanks for injecting some realism into the modern world of 24-hour-news-cycle sports journalism by pointing out the inconsistencies of "character" as a narrative. I'm starting to think that the term "character" requires an additional qualifier - such as a time or date, or possibly a timeline with defined beginning and ending points - to indicate when a player actually possesses this elusive trait and then just as quickly loses it again. You list several quality examples in the comments section, players who were brought to new clubs because of their "character" while having been touted as trade bait by their previous teams for lacking the very same. Carter and Richards are excellent examples, and it seems to me Carter has always been a streaky scorer, and any time the puck isn't going into the net, his effort (and not his character) gets questioned.

Or is it that character is just an interchangeable term with "effort," where the former is intangible but the latter is visible if you "JUST WATCH THE GAMES." But that also leads me to wonder if character is another substitute for locker room chemistry, because I struggle to understand why certain players like Dominic Moore or Adam Hall get shipped from one team to another almost every year even though it appears to me like they give maximum effort every shift and tend to positively affect the outcome of a game with careful possession and smart plays. Is it because they have off-ice issues of another kind that seep into the locker room and impact chemistry? Is it because some teams consider quality bottom-six forwards to be expendable? Is it because they had character but forgot to bring it with them when they moved?

Just some random thoughts, thanks again for an excellent read.

Black Dog said...

Thanks Ken and Oiler Kiwi!

Thank you P. as well. You make a salient point and i want speak to it, about guys getting moved around.

Its not that I don't believe that 'character' exists. As I noted some guys work harder or have a higher tolerance for pain. And we know for a fact that certain players are not good teammates or that others are great teammates. In some cases it might cost the former money or they may wear out their welcome. (Sean Avery is a guy who comes to mind).

What I object to is the lazy narrative where media/fans apply character as a catchall answer to a team's success or failure.

A team does not win the Stanley Cup because they have the most character, they do so because they are usually the best team who also happen to remain healthy and get a little bit of luck. Hard work and willingness to sacrifice matters but as I noted these guys are professional hockey players and they are in the NHL because they have worked their asses off and sacrificed their bodies already.

Black Dog said...

Also grammar anon, point taken, I would love to be able to take note of what you are talking about but I usually fire these off in what little time I have to spare. I write it, give it a quick once over and then post it. Three kids and all that, unfortunately I don't have the time to pay attention to the finer points. ;)

Zach Frey said...

I really enjoyed both Black Dog's take, and the Anonymous guy's counterpoints. all seem valid, and that's the complexity of any team sport. Yes, character/chemistry/etc. are a part of the success formula, but not all of it. It's just a part. For the Kings, maybe it's a big part. For other teams, maybe not so much. I'm sure teams that didn't get along and didn't really like each other or have a lot of respect for each other have still won cups due to loads of skill, talent, luck, what have you. But of course, the media does love to blame everything on character, because sometimes it's just so easy to look at a player and say 'look at that lazy SOB, can you believe he just gave up on that play like that?!' But a player can still give out and be a piece of shit and still help your team on the overall. Case in point: Ovechkin. Is he worth 9.5mil/year? No. Would I rather have him than a Kadri on one hand or a Ladd on the other, if I'm building a cup team? Yes.

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