Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Mob Bays for Blood

Dear God. Jeff Schultz has written a column. It's the standard Jeff Schultz rabble-rousing stuff; he really enjoys whipping the slavering fiends in the comments section to a frenzy.

He's obviously not wrong when he says that Waddell has made some boneheaded moves, and for my part I would be delighted with a new GM...but let's try to keep some historical perspective (which is NOT the same thing as blindly applauding everything DW does, contra some of the philosophers who post in the comments section) and remember a few things.

Like Kovalchuk, like Toby Enstrom, like (and I know many of the bright sparks in the comments thread will vehemently disagree) Kari Lehtonen, like Hossa for Heatley, like Marc Savard (who we eventually couldn't afford; not DW's fault I'm afraid), like Hedberg, like Braydon Coburn. Yes, Braydon Coburn of the horrific trade that brought Zhitnik to Atlanta. Remember, though, that we were headed to the playoffs that year and needed some veteran talent. Alexei Zhitnik was having a fine year. Hindsight is exceptionally clear etc. etc. etc...

But there's no denying Schultz's point that the Thrashers are in disarray and that the key to alleviating some of our bigger problems is making a bold, risky trade or free agent signing. Amen to that. But Schultz is either ignorant of a few important facts or is withholding them from his target audience:

1) He says that our draft picks won't be ready to play in the NHL any time soon, if ever. This is nonsense. Anyone with a nodding acquaintance of most of the important hockey press knows that Drew Doughty and especially Zach Bogosian (our likeliest new Thrasher) are NHL-ready now. Not next year. Not in two years. Right now.

2) He rehashes the old paranoid meme about Kovalchuk's imminent departure. It IS possible, of course, that Kovy could leave in two seasons if we continue to perform as badly as we did last season. But it seems more likely that he won't, based on a few things: after Russia's recent gold medal victory in the World Championship, Kovy told an interviewer that he wouldn't be leaving the Thrashers because the NHL is unpredictable and you never know, we might actually be good next year and the year after. This is empirically true. Which brings me to point number

3) Lovable amnesiacs that they are, people forget that when Ovechkin signed his massive deal with the Caps the team was languishing behind US in the standings. He committed to a team and the team committed to him. Where Schultz and some of the commenting hordes are right is in their skepticism about whether this team will live up to the standard set by Kovy. According to Waddell (I know, I know, I'm using Lucifer himself as a source) Kovalchuk explicitly told him that he was interested in an Ovechkin-like deal with Atlanta.

One last thing about Schultz himself: The quotes from Kovy's agent aren't exactly pregnant with implication to me. They're typical room-temperature non-answers of the sort beloved by agents, publicists, and bureaucrats of all kinds. The quotes only have an ominous ring to them because Schultz imposes it on them. Like the man says, "read between the lines."

Many of the comments on Schultz's column are, of course, dumber and more ahistorical than the column itself. Everyone likes to posture and beat their chest ("Be ready to talk about Atlanta hockey from the early 70's onward, asshole! YEAH! Smash this brick on my forehead!") and Americans love a good enema of paranoia and hysteria, but again, let's try to maintain some perspective.

One commenter says that "hockey in the Southeast" is a death-trap, and that if Kovalchuk played in a market with more hockey fans he would have a career like Ovechkin's. First of all, Kovy DOES have a career like Ovechkin's. It's not a matter of who's better: we should feel privleged to be following hockey at a time when two great goal-scorers--both Russian, both playing in the Southeast--are slugging it out in a friendly rivalry. And secondly, has this person ever BEEN to Washington? It's not exactly Hockeyopolis. NO ONE cares about hockey in DC; the crowds at Verizon Arena are roughly equivalent to crowds at Phillips. Washington DC is not a hockey city like Buffalo, Pittsburgh, or the Canadian cities.

Commenters that pride themselves on their deftness with the CAPS Lock key and on blood-and-thunder proclamations about the "sheep" that go to Thrashers games and "Donnie FRAUDell" (chortle chortle chortle) really need to mellow out. Not everyone who hasn't burned their season ticket renewal forms and hasn't sworn on a holy book (written by Jeff Schultz, of course) never to return to Phillips Arena until Don Waddell's head is placed on a stick is a mindlessly optimistic "sheep," dudes. They (we) just enjoy hockey, and they're (we're) willing to pay extra money to watch the likes of Kovalchuk battle the likes of Ovechkin, Crosby, Lecavalier, and on and on and on. You really ought to drop the apocalyptic tone in your comments; Kovy and the Thrashers will have their day. Look to NHL history, that's all. Patience. Delayed gratification. Enjoy the ride.

You fucking dickheads.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for bringin' the common sense! There's not enough of that going around right now!