A couple of weeks ago former Puck Daddy editor and current senior writer at ESPN Greg Wyshynski made a remark on Twitter about the culture that surrounds the NHL specifically and hockey in general.
This week, in his mailbag article, Jermey Rutherford made mention of the same culture when discussing who on the Blues current roster is the most interesting to interview or who has the biggest personality.
You should really go read his response but the jest of his answer was that due to the culture in today’s NHL players are really afraid to be themselves.
We all know what that culture is. Keep you head down and play hard, don’t say or do anything that could be seen as negative against your team, don’t buck the chain of command and don’t ever, ever question your coach in public.
Jermey made mention that a lot of that culture is based on how social media has affected today’s society. How once a player says something, whether it be out of context or in the heat of the moment, they can never get it back and it can be viral in a matter of hours. So to prevent that from happening they error on the side of caution.
And yeah, some of that is true but the biggest reason is that the ones in charge (coaches, GM, owners, Gary Bettman) don’t want to risk losing the power that they hold over their players.
Think about it, the few times that players have accidentally let a criticism of their coach or general manager slip it has started a category 5 shit-storm.
When T.J. Oshie complained about how much information and game planning that then head coach Ken Hitchcock was force feeding the team 4 months later he was traded.
When Jonathan Drouin had his spat with the Lightning brass he was pretty much ran out of the league until he conformed and then was still traded away when Tampa Bay could afford to.
When P.K. Subban showed some personality in Montreal they immediately sent the All-Star defender out of town on the first thing smoking.
I wish I had a few more examples to provide but it’s hard for me to remember them. It’s hard because they don’t happen that often. The NHL has done a fantastic job of driving the narrative to the fans (myself included) and the media that if a player talks about the team or the game in any sort of negative way then that person is not a team player and is just trying to create drama for some kind of personal gain.
I’ll admit that I used to agree with that motto but lately I have found myself repeatedly asking the same question, “Is that drama really such a bad thing?”.
The NHL season is a long one and after being on this side of the story for awhile I can tell you that it is hard as hell to find interesting things to write/talk about from December to March.
That may come off as a bit of a whine but you can’t tell me that there is an over-abundance of interesting stories on any given day during the regular season. The reason is the teams and players are so tight lipped that there simply is anything worth writing about.
The reports don’t want to be gossip columnists. They would kill to write about the stories they think are happening but they aren’t going to do that on a whim. They aren’t going to say something that isn’t at least partially founded in facts or does with a quote or two.
Why is that such a big deal? Because that is how you grow the game. Drama is interesting. Players feuding with their coach or another player is interesting. And right now, casual fans think the game of hockey is boring.
And sure, you are going to get the good with the bad. You are going to get players whose personality outshines their talent. The bad apples are going to be more visible because they will always be in the spotlight but that is still going to get people talking. It is sill going to sell tickets and it will still sell merchandise. A rising tide lifts all boats.
How awesome would it be if you could wake up every morning and read something engaging and interesting about your favorite team. How awesome would it be if you could turn on the NHL network and not just see the same top 50 list playing on a constant loop. The reason those things haven’t happened yet is because there is nothing to talk about. And that all goes back to the culture surrounding the game.
The NHL wants to grow the game but they want to do it in a manner that only suites them. It’s time that we fans starting standing up for ourselves because it is quite obvious no one else will.
As for the Blues,
Boy, how good is that Vince Dunn? After 11 games he has two goals and is a +6 while averaging over 16 minutes of ice time a night. He has a 54 Corsi For% and a 54.8 Fenwick For% at evens. He is starting to look like a seasoned vet after only one month in the league and that presents a problem.
Granted it is a good problem to have but when Jay Bouwmeester finally makes his return to the lineup who heads to the press box?
Right now the Blues have 3 right handed defenseman (Alex Pietrangelo, Colton Parayko, Robert Bortuzzo) and 4 left handed defenseman (Jay Bouwmeester, Carl Gunnarsson, Joel Edmundson, Vince Dunn).
I know that Bouwmeester disappoints a lot of fans but his ability to eat minutes while playing against the best in the league in all situations is going to be critical going down the stretch.
In perfect world Joel Edmundson would be permanently attached to Alex Pietrangelo. Bouwmeester could slide down to the second pairing to provide him with more favorable matchups as well as reduced ice time. Vince Dunn would be permanent fixture on the left side of the third pairing while Gunnarsson and Bortuzzo would share the duties on the right. Unfortunately, this is the real world.
Joel Edmundson is struggling and has not returned to last year’s post-season form. Or last year’s playoffs were an exception and this is his norm. Either way he is not ready for the responsibilities of being on the top pair.
So until things change Bouwmeester will have to resume his old duties. Edmundson will have to slide down alongside old partner Colton Parayko which leaves two lefties (Gunnarson and Dunn) and one righty (Bortuzzo).
You don’t want Gunnarsson playing on his off side and with the success that Bortuzzo and Dunn have had you don’t really want to break that pair up. However, with the way that Gunnarsson has been playing this year you still want him in the lineup.
So you either somehow alternate Bortuzzo, Gunnarsson and Dunn which is a bad waste of resources and doesn’t do Dunn any favors or you send Dunn back down to the AHL so he can get 20 minutes a night, keep Nate Prosser up with the club as the seventh D-man and role out Gunnarsson and Bortuzzo on a regular basis.
I know it sucks for Dunn and it sucks for us fans who have feel in love with the kid but remember the Blues are still building for the future and with Pietrangelo, Parayko and Dunn signed through the next two seasons, the future for the Blues defense looks rather bright.
Thanks for reading and Go Blues.