Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Tuesday Roundup/'Canes 6, Caps 5 (OT)

[Boxscore - Recap]

The Caps finished their seven-game road trip last night in Raleigh with a 6-5 overtime loss to the host Hurricanes. Despite finishing the trip with a 3-1-3 record, including 2-0-1 against the Southeast Division champ 'Canes, last night's game stung, as the Caps grabbed a pair of first period leads, then fell behind 4-2 during a horrid second period only to tie the game at four and then at five in the third period before losing on a powerplay goal in overtime after failing to score on a 5-on-3 advantage of their own in the closing moments of regulation (I can draw a diagram of that last sentence if it would help).

As in the previous three games against Carolina, the Caps did a great job of handling the duo of Baby Face (0 points in his last four games against the Caps) and Baby Food (.831 save percentage in the last four Carolina/Washington tilts), but got beaten by perennial thorn-in-the-side Butt Fugly (another three points last night) and the recently rehabilitated Josef Vasicek, who had a pair of goals to match his pair of assists. It certainly didn't help matters for the Caps that they played the whole night with only 10 forwards (Matt Pettinger was unable to play after warm-ups and the Caps have been skating 11 forwards and 7 defensemen lately to begin with) and played half the second period without another forward, captain Jeff Halpern, who was in the penalty box serving fighting majors for beating down a slash-happy Baby Face and later tussling with a creaky Doug Weight, but excuses are, as they say, like Tony Kornheisers (more on him later). The Caps simply didn't get it done last night, whether it was getting the big save, clearing a rebound, scoring on a gift-wrapped 5-on-3... Seventy-four games into the season and the fact remains: the effort and attitude are there but the talent and results simply are not.

The WTimes recaps the game here, the WaPo here. Speaking of the WaPo, I wonder how Caps beat writer Tarik El-Bashir feels when he busts his tail covering the team for a paper that prints an article entitled "He Shoots, He Scores, America Snores" (web-titled "NHL? Nobody Cares"). Yes, hockey fans, Tony Kornheiser has once again decided to trash our beloved sport for no apparent reason. Eric over at OWO takes him to task on it, but I wanted to make a couple of points myself.

Kornheiser begins beating his dead horse with the bold assertion that "Hockey is dead" (interesting, as attendance is way up league-wide over the 2003-04 season), then backtracks by qualifying his claim with "At least it's dead right here, right now." Looking merely at ticket sales, that would be hard to argue, as the Caps have lost the second-most ground at the box office over two years ago of any team in the League. But let's not forget that two years ago, the Caps had big expectations and big draws Jaromir Jagr, Peter Bondra, Robert Lang, and Sergei Gonchar for more than half the season, whereas this year the team was expected to be awful and, despite exceeding those expectations (and the record of the 2003-04 squad) and boasting arguably the League's most exciting player, the public perception of this team has been too much to overcome. Kornheiser continues:
The Caps have played 74 games. They only have eight left, and they've been playing since October. And when was the last time they came up at all in conversation? Not just the Caps, any NHL team? For five bucks, name the coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets, I dare you.
Obviously I'm not a good judge of this, since the Caps come up in nearly every conversation I have, but his "name the coach" example is ridiculous. How many people could name the head coach of the NBA's Atlanta Hawks? Or the manager of the Colorado Rockies (the baseball team)? Or the head coach of the New Orleans Saints of the mighty NFL? Are those sports dead too? For the record, Tony, Gerard Gallant is the head coach of the Blue Jackets. You owe me five bucks.
Hockey is so dead in America, the players may as well still be locked out.
See attendance figures, as there are millions of fans who will disagree with you. In fact, more people have already attended NHL games this year (18,954,089) than attended NFL games last season (17,200,324) and ten of the NHL's 30 teams are playing to capacity (or more) crowds, while 12 of the NFL's 32 franchise did the same in 2005. The article goes on with gratuitous shots at the local team, its star and the League on the whole, and maybe later I'll discuss it further. But for now there are two major points I'd like to make.

First, who is Kornheiser's audience here? Presumably hockey is so dead that the only people who will read this piece are the dozen or so hockey fans out there who read the WaPo. In that case, TK is telling his audience that they're a bunch of dolts who would be better off waiting for parachute pants to come back than for the NHL to be resurrected. On the other hand, if casual sports fans care enough about hockey to read this drivel, it seems proof positive that there is interest in the sport and that perhaps it simply needs a marketing makeover. So take your pick - either Kornheiser is condescending to and insulting his readers (and colleagues) or he's dead wrong on the central premise of his article. Journalism at its finest either way.

The second point is more narrowly focused on the Caps. With just eight games remaining in a season that has long been about goals other than those measured by wins and losses, what purpose is served by writing this article now? The Caps are rebuilding and Ted Leonsis, George McPhee et. al. are doing it the right way, and that takes time. Of course they're not winning right now, and attendance reflects that. But with the team's best player chasing 50 goals, 100 points and the Calder Trophy, why pen such a mean-spirited piece of garbage? Why not write an article about how this team is headed in the right direction and how people should take notice and get in on the ground floor? Then again, why would I expect Kornheiser to start being positive or constructive now after 20-plus years of pissing in people's Cheerios?

Thread of the Day: Uh Oh, Tony K. On The Caps And Hockey (Caps fans react to TK's latest)

Elsewhere 'Round the Rinks:
Daily Awards


Spe said...

TK is that dangerous breed of journalist posessing both limited knowledge and a wide readership/brand awareness. He hasn't altered his POV since the 80's (i.e. hockey sucks, Caps suck, no fan base). He's poison to the League's efforts in "non-NHL" cities.

JP said...

For the life of me I can't figure out why, on the day after baseball's Opening Day and the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship game (and the day of the Women's Championship featuring a local team), the WaPo would have any interest in printing this lazy, boring, fall-back article.

"Tony, how about something on hoops or baseball?"

"Nah, I'm too busy, so I'll rehash one of my old articles about how little I care about hockey and project my view on the general public. It'll only take a minute. Cool? Thought so."

JP said...

As I commented over at Ted's Take:

Many hockey fans ask "who cares what Kornheiser thinks/says/writes?" but my bottom line on Kornheiser is this:

The reason Caps fans care what he says is that he is not talking to us - he's talking to the rest of the DC sports fans who may be casual hockey fans and he's telling them that hockey's a joke, the team's a joke, the League's a joke, etc., thus dissuading them from getting to better know the sport and team we all know and love.

Obviously what he says doesn't impact my enjoyment one bit. But truth be told, I wouldn't mind sharing that enjoyment with 18,000+ next time I'm at the Verizon Center, and Kornheiser's condescension and ignorance lessens the chance of that happening.

David L. said...

As a fan of the Caps and of TK, I agree that TK was pretty off the chart in this article. The Caps have been pulling in a lot of 14k-15k crowds lately, huge compared to the smaller ones they were seeing this season. Plus the NHL in general is doing pretty well. The guy works in one of the smallest hockey markets out there, but the fans are just as intense and just as interested.

As for TK? What can I say, the guy has a solid knowledge of sports, a witty writing style and an entertaining persona to back it up. Sure, I'll admit that he seems to prefer negative matters, yet not always, such as his solid article about Patrick Ramsey leaving the Skins a couple weeks back and how he felt he shouldn't be knocked for being a mench about the situation. I'm a fan of Mr. Tony.

CasonBlog said...

Mr. Tony has gotten too big for the room-the room being metro DC. It's only gonna get worse when he moves from a late afternoon show to prime time.

Anonymous said...

JP, i'm going to have to accuse you of the same offense as the Kornholer.

What's with the unnecessary jab at fans of parachute pants? We have feelings, too, y'know.

CD said...

That wasn't anonymous, that was me.