8/29/18 – Erik Gudbranson is right, Fortnite is a plague

I hate old man rants about video games. I used to play them a lot more than I do now, but I always thought it made people seem so out of touch to rail against them. Video games promote hand eye coordination, mental sharpness, and now they promote team building and cooperation skills as squad/MMORPG games grow.

But, this funny as hell Erik Gudbranson quote got me thinking a little more.

Yes, kids are ridiculously good at this game. It’s almost frightening how well they can play it and other games like it. Some of the kids I see are straight up Fortnite ringers. It isn’t just the kids you would expect either. Kids from all walks of life get into games like it these days. They even find free bootleg online versions of it too because they do exist.

The addictive part is what stuck out to me because Dr. Gudbranson isn’t as crazy as he sounds. It isn’t happening so much this year, but the kids I dealt with last year talked about Fortnite ALL THE TIME. We’re talking stayed up all night playing it, but doing nothing else type of devotion. In summer school it was downright scary.

Sure, there are other factors in play here, but the hold this game has on some kids is truly something to witness.

As a community we laughed last year at the draft when word started to circulate that NHL teams were sending up Fortnite Red Flags, and we should laugh at that. It’s silly. A few outliers don’t spoil the entire group of people who enjoy Fortnite.

That core dedicated group who is allowed to spend 8-10 hours a day everyday playing it while ignoring everything else going on around them though? Sute, they can kick Gudbranson’s ass in Fortnite, but the devotion it takes is scary.

I do wonder if that type of devotion or dedication is healthy. I know the extreme “I’m not doing anything else ever” types aren’t since they’re crippling their school grades, but I do wonder if it is a problem in places like professional sports where younger kids are learning how to be adults while still really wanting to blow shit up with their friends for hours on end.

Maybe nothing is really different. I do like that quote though because the groin kicks Gudbranson has gotten for it make me smile.

8/27/18 – Marginalized Backwoods Hockey Fans

This week people have been tweeting about The Hockey News Yearbook, and in our sphere of influence specifically about Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin being the only Dallas Stars in the ranking of the top 50 players. I wanted to see who all was ahead of John Klingberg only to find out that the Yearbook isn’t online, but that you could order it with custom-ish covers.

THN

The variations of the cover athletes stuck out to me a little bit. Let’s see (roughly) where these guys ply their crafts using this Ottawa Senators-inspired MS Paint map. The hastily spray painted blue areas are where the players are from, though some teams like the Senators, Devils, and Islanders get swept up into the fray.

coloring-map-of-us-and-canada-us-and-canada-political-map-us-and-canada-map-15-united-states-and-canada-map-new-download-map-america-and-canada-with-states-of-coloring-map-of-us-and-canada-us-and-cana.png

I know this isn’t breaking news, but all of the cover athletes come from the areas Top Hockey Men think matter to the sport. I realize like five of us think this is problematic, but the promotion of hockey in general is so specifically targeted to straight white northern and Canadian middle to upper class men that the sport rarely does a good job of reaching marginalized audiences.

The way the sport interacts with women, minorities, and the LGBTQ community is significantly more important as a general issue than the plight of this subset of southern hockey fans, but we’re here to talk about the general disdain for the southern hockey fan right now.

General opinion from fans and the media from across the league tends to view non-traditional markets in a negative light. The NHL and media often have as much interest in reaching out to this large group of untapped potential customers as The Big Lebowski had in seriously finding Bunny.

Is it the responsibility of The Hockey News or any media outlet to speak directly to what is, currently, an apparently small group? Responsibility? No, but if you’re trying to find new markets or expand current ones then what good does constantly trying to draw in the kids of Toronto or Montreal do? They’re going to be around regardless.

It’s easy to chalk these covers up to demand driving supply on the surface. I have a hard time buying that a product like this would do poorly with a special cover in Vegas the year after the expansion club made the Stanley Cup Finals, and the market proved the value it can provide. If P.K. Subban is on a cover people aren’t going to buy it? Los Angeles is the second biggest media market in the world, and they have two NHL teams. How easy would it be to put Drew Doughty and John Gibson on for the LA metro area?

Even if we operate under the theory that this would be cost prohibitive due to not selling outside of a home market, and barely selling in the home marker, I found these for order online. It takes zero effort to have a couple special covers available only online just as a token that you care about expanding an audience in an area where it might not be as large as it otherwise could be.

The key word there is effort. It takes effort to build up an audience. That is the responsibility of a publication. Any publication that thinks they only serve an audience instead of serving and growing it is doomed to fall behind the competition. Team-specific sites do just fine, even in non-traditional markets.

Why do they succeed? They put out quality content people want to read. The most successful ones have writers who take the time to craft well-written stories that are interesting to read on the merits of their prose. They cover interesting topics. They try to provide interesting perspectives you can’t find anywhere.

Those doomed to fail regurgitate the same uninteresting garbage you can find anywhere. The audience is assumed to be stagnant or uninterested. That lack of interest is assumed to be because of a lack of interest in the team, but the harder logical road for writers to follow is that the lack of interest is in the work they are creating.

It’s arrogance and foolishness. The NHL is in so many markets that could provide so much more value if the NHL and its media cared to consistently speak directly to them. Every year I expose my 99% minority urban students in north Houston to hockey through some highlights of hits, dangles, and fights. They always love it. They don’t necessarily have the interest the media and NHL look for, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have interest.

They simply don’t have exposure.

And showing southern hockey markets how little they matter consistently, and these covers are just one small example of the larger trend that has been established for at least 25 years, keeps this larger audience far enough away to satisfy the preconceived notions of The Top Hockey Men who “matter”.

8/19/18 – Babcock tries to motivate me

Monday marks my return to standing in front of large groups of mostly unwilling children that I somehow have to convince need to learn Algebra. Our class size cap has been moved up to 33 students per room as we lost a position in every department in “all schools” for “reasons”. It should be an interesting challenge, to say the least.

This is the first time in my now seven years that I’m actually looking forward to going back. I think I finally know unequivocally that I can do the job, and do it well. I know exactly what to expect. I know exactly how to respond. I have complete confidence that I will be successful no matter what challenges pop up.

I probably relate too many things in my life to hockey, but my mind drifts towards hockey an inordinate amount of time because that’s really all I have going for me these days. When I see people scoff at the value of veteran players or the need for leadership in a lineup I think of scenarios like the one I face now. Experience is incredibly valuable as long as it isn’t used as a crutch to stifle new ideas or incoming talent.

He does some irritating things on the ice that will probably make me irrationally angry towards him this year as the Stars run his little buddy Roman Polak in the lineup at times, but Mike Babcock is easily my favorite NHL coach going. I don’t even really blame Babcock for using Polak that much because no one forced the Maple Leafs to keep him around for Babcock to use. I feel myself getting distracted already.

Babcock is great because he attacks his job the way a good teacher does which makes sense given that he was a teacher. Any teacher willing to do it could Google “Mike Babcock coaching”, or substitute teaching instead of coaching, and find numerous bits of wisdom that relate to a modern classroom. Today’s dose is this Sportsnet story that appears to be some years old.

This blurb about relationships stuck out to me when reflecting about my experiences last school year. I think it’s part of the teaching job that a lot of teachers don’t fully appreciate, and one that people who don’t do it for a living often miss.

You have conflicts with players all the time. Sometimes you resolve it and sometimes you don’t. You work as hard as you possibly can to get it sorted out. What’s interesting is that the conflicts that last a while normally happen with players who think you don’t care about them.

When someone thinks you don’t care about them, they think you’re up against them. Coaching is about trying to make people better, but sometimes you don’t handle it right. …the bottom line is you’ve got to find a way to make it work.

It’s easy to write people off when they fuck up or lash out, especially when it feels like their behavior is targeting you as a person. I think my biggest challenge from day one this year is to remove myself from conflict situations without getting upset at situations where I have every right to be upset.

It, uh, isn’t easy with 14-15 year olds who can be 6’3 and look like they should be mature adults.

I imagine it is a different kind of difficult with veteran athletes who have gotten to the point of working under Babcock by always being at the top of their profession. I always appreciate the perspective Babcock adds because he clearly remembers the difference.

One thing about coaching in the NHL is you don’t have as much impact on people as you did when you coached at younger levels. When you coach major junior or college I think you make a significant impact on those people.

That impact is a responsibility I don’t know that I took as seriously as I should have my first few years as a teacher. Not because it isn’t important, but I don’t know if it really can hit someone who comes from a broken home and doesn’t have kids of their own until they realize they have students who are two years away from graduating college now, or students who have kids that are 8-9 years old already.

Life is weird. Regardless of how weird it is I have 160 some odd new people to meet in the next two days, many of whom need a lot from me beyond just math.

Each team you coach is different and every person is different, so when you coach the team you have 23 different plans for 23 different players. Now, they still have to fit into the structure of the team—the team comes first—but the reality is, we want everyone to be the best they can possibly be.

Other Things You Should Click from the DMN

The Stars might11 be paying out a metric shit ton of signing bonuses during a 2021 work stoppage.

Them fancy stats of Devin Shore and why they matter.

Have the Stars done enough to be a playoff team?

Did Jamie Oleksiak improve with the Penguins?

8/4/18 – Thinking About the Top Prospects

I spent the last couple of weeks putting together a list of the top 25 prospects in the Dallas Stars system. Is it perfect? Nah. Is it going to be the exact same as everyone else? Nah. Am I going to end up being “right in my analysis”? I like the list, but players flame out or rise to prominence all of the time. I will certainly be very wrong about many of them.

Looking back at the list there are a few things that stand out to me about the way I put my list together compared to how others might that I want to talk about here a bit. tl;dr the links to the five stories on SportsDayDFW are at the end.

Colton Point vs Jake Oettinger

I struggled with which goalie to rank higher. Throughout the last season Point continued to get bombarded with shots behind a bad Colgate team, then got named to Team Canada for the World Juniors, and kept getting more praise.

Is that enough for Point to jump Oettinger? I think so, at least temporarily when coupled with Point taking the first shot at professional hockey. There isn’t much question that he’s better than Landon Bow so he should get the bulk of the starts in Austin. The real question is 2020 if Oettinger signs after this coming season.

With Anton Khudobin signed for two years do the Stars roll with Oettinger and Point in Texas at the same time? I can’t imagine, but they certainly could. It would be nice to see Point take over as the backup after one year in Texas though to make the question irrelevant.

Jason Robertson vs Ty Dellandrea

Dellandrea is a tough one to slot in. He was the Stars first round pick, but most everyone had him rated as a second round pick. The most aggressive ranking I remember seeing was, I think, Corey Pronman putting him as a pick in the mid-20’s. Usually that first round pick will come in pretty high on a list like this in the NHL, but I struggled with whether or not to put him ahead of Robertson.

I think with Robertson’s shot he has as much offensive upside and potential as anyone in the system despite his skating still being a work in progress. We’ve seen guys who aren’t the best skaters make names for themselves off of puck skills alone so it wouldn’t be unprecedented for him to do it too. I think too often it’s easy to focus on the negatives and lose sight of the positives. I’m going to lean towards upside at pretty much all turns, but Dellandrea makes it tough because I think he has a really high floor.

Dellandrea is much more likely to have a long career as a solid middle of the lineup guy, but Robertson is more likely to be a higher level offensive player. It’s a coin flip for me.

Roope Hintz and Denis Gurianov

These two are the ones I have ranked the lowest relative to other rankings you may come across. They both have time in the AHL under their belts, and both have questions about their defense hanging over their heads. My question for both is this: is either player good enough offensively to overcome questions about their defense to be a good NHL player?

I think they’re both ultimately NHL players, but compare them to Dellandrea or Robertson.

Dellandrea has literally everything you want a prospect to have, but questions about his ultimate offensive ceiling. Even if he doesn’t produce offensively the way the Stars think he will eventually he still has the profile is a good bottom six player who can play in all situations.

Robertson has the offensive chops now with work that needs to be done on the other skills. Does Robertson have enough offensive upside to make up for lacking in those other areas? I think so, and I think that’s the main thing that puts him ahead of both of them too.

Hintz could take another step forward this year in his second season in North America. Gurianov is still young, but at some point he needs to produce like he has some top end offense in there. This is the same problem I always had with the prospect version of Jamie Oleksiak. If he hasn’t ever done it at a level that suggests he can do it, anywhere, then how long are you expecting to wait to see it come out?

College and European Prospects

College and European prospects tend to get rated lower than they should. They’re playing against adults who are physically mature. When they succeed against those guys there is probably a reason for the success. Joe Cecconi, Rhett Gardner, Riley Tufte, and John Nyberg all fall into this camp for me. Tufte not so much because he was a first round pick, but I’m definitely curious to see what the others do when/if they turn pro with Dallas.

1-5

  • Miro Heiskanen
  • Ty Dellandrea
  • Jason Robertson
  • Colton Point
  • Riley Tufte

6-10

  • Albin Eriksson
  • Jake Oettinger
  • Roope Hintz
  • Joe Cecconi
  • Adam Mascherin

11-15

  • Denis Gurianov
  • John Nyberg
  • Rhett Gardner
  • Nick Caamano
  • Fredrik Karlstrom

16-20

  • Curtis Douglas
  • Jakob Stenqvist
  • Oskar Back
  • Gavin Bayreuther
  • Jermaine Loewen

21-25

  • Tony Calderone
  • Jacob Peterson
  • Riley Damiani
  • Dawson Barteaux
  • Brett Davis

Other recent reads

Gemel Smith arbitration comparables….from within!

Stars defensemen NHLe

Stars forward NHLe

That time Grant Ledyard got walked in Game 7 of 1997

 

8/4/18 – Bogorad Takes Over the Mic

It’s easy to overthink things when an obvious solution is right in front of you. Overthinking things rarely turns out well. The Dallas Stars decided to take the obvious solution to the broadcast booth that was staring them right in the face by announcing that Josh Bogorad will take over as the play by play man starting with the 2019 season.

I think the tendency is to think that the obvious solution is the safe choice. Maybe it is sometimes? That doesn’t mean it’s the wrong choice. Bogorad is knowledgeable, has always done a great job in any broadcasting role the Stars have asked him to fill, and strikes the perfect tone that the broadcasts have been lacking since Dave Strader had to take a medical leave of absence prior to his untimely passing.

Obvious, in this case, is a perfect fit.

During the 2016 training camp in Austin I headed out to what was then Cedar Park Center for the weekend to check out some practices and the scrimmage. For the scrimmage I sat in the press box. As one would expect I was at the far end of the press box near the broadcasting equipment.

I had already watched John Klingberg legitimately skip down the hall to the dressing room in skates, and almost tripped Antoine Roussel prior to sitting at the far end of the press box. I don’t know if the events are related, but I assume they aren’t. Seated right next to me was Bogorad and to his right was Texas Stars broadcaster Brian Rea who were going to broadcast the game I assume for dallasstars.com

Sitting next to them as they called the game was the most entertaining experience I had that weekend. Have you ever tried to sync a radio broadcast up with the TV, or tried to listen to the play by play while in the stadium on a radio? This was like that, but it felt like they were broadcasting the game to me since I was sitting right beside them.

I can’t tell you how many times I almost replied to something they said. What impressed me the most was how effortless Bogorad made what had to be a somewhat chaotic presentation seem. The scrimmages have players randomly on different teams, some of whom are AHL lifers he has barely ever seen. I think that was the year the jerseys didn’t have names on them either. There were no commercial breaks, just period breaks.

When there was a break in the action Josh would just talk like he was completely comfortable in his surroundings, like what he was doing was completely normal while being the nicest guy with whom you could hope to interact. I’m happy for that guy. He’s going to do a great job for as long as he wants the gig.

That same year I rode in the media elevator with Craig Ludwig. I feel like it’s relevant to this story, but I don’t know how else to tie it in.

I didn’t think this would happen because you always heard that Daryl Reaugh wanted to do play by play. Former players rarely seem to take to play by play, and Razor had his ups and downs. I imagine this transition wasn’t easy for him to accept. The broadcast is better for him accepting it though because he is easily the best color commentator in the business. His experience should help easy Bogorad into the chair full time.

Good for the powers that be for making the right decision. Now find a way to get Julie Dobbs back into the fold and call it an offseason.