Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Dave Fay Doesn't Get It

It's certainly not the first time and hopefully won't be the last, but WTimes Caps beat writer Dave Fay has once again shown how out of touch he is with both this current Caps team and hockey reality.

Fay begins his ridiculously-titled rant ("Capitals Keep Getting Worse, Not Better") with the equally-ludicrous implication that the Caps should have been buyers at this year's trade deadline.

Hours after the trading deadline ended late last month, Buffalo general manager Darcy Regier said, "The message to the players is 'We want to get you immediate help.' " Enter Dainius Zubrus and backup Ty Conklin, and the Sabres were better.

It was the same thing in Nashville. The Predators had to make a statement, and general manager David Poile got Peter Forsberg -- a pretty positive statement.

In Atlanta, the statement was Keith Tkachuk. On Long Island, Ryan Smyth arrived to help. In Pittsburgh, the Penguins talked character forward Gary Roberts into leaving Florida and grabbed Georges Laraque from Phoenix.

In Washington, where players have known for a long, long time they need immediate, mid-term and long-term help, it was more of the same: We'll be there when you need us, guys. Don't worry, we've got your backs.

Lots of mouth but no help, not unless Jiri Novotny, who arrived from Buffalo as a fourth-line defensive center and has done nothing to change that impression, is considered help.

Should we stop reading now? Probably. But we won't. Fay continues:
The Caps are fielding a team that has two players with measurable skill levels -- Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin -- and the marketing department wants fans to believe they are dealing with the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens. To make matters worse, there is nothing on the horizon that guarantees things will improve in the immediate future.
Personally, I'd consider Olie Kolzig's skill level to be "measureable" (using metrics such as "Vezina Trophies" or "career NHL wins"). I'd also consider Chris Clark's and Matt Pettinger's 20-goal seasons to be measurable. And regarding his statement above that the Pens had to add character and toughness in Roberts and Laraque - wouldn't he rather have already had that grit on the roster in guys like Clark and Donald Brashear?

As for the assertion that "there is nothing on the horizon that guarantees things will improve in the immediate future," he's right. But then again, there is nothing on the horizon that guarantees anything other than the sun rising and taxes being due on April 15 (actually April 16 this year), is there?

More Fay:
This is the direction the Caps are headed. Two years ago Washington and Pittsburgh started out about the same level -- two bad teams with one exceptional young talent. That seems to be where the teams separated. Today the Penguins are fighting for home-ice advantage in the playoffs after rebuilding to support their young star while the Nationals stand a better chance of making the Stanley Cup playoffs than the Caps do.
Not true. At all. Two years ago the Pens had four top-five picks from the previous four drafts under contract (or at least the exclusive rights to negotiate with them, in the case of Elbows Malkin). The Caps, on the other hand, hadn't had a top-five pick other than Ovechkin since 1996 (that 2005 draft lottery was really fair, wasn't it?). Quite simply, the two teams weren't at "about the same level", and only a superficial glance at a marketer-manufactured rivalry and the year-end standings would make it seem so.
Here's the picture: Take Alex 1 and 2 off the roster and this is a team that would have trouble winning in the American Hockey League.
Odd claim, given that - sans Alexes - the Caps' AHL affiliate won the Calder Cup last year and is in position to make a run at doing the same again this year.

Then comes the bombshell:
To begin with, word out of Sweden is that Nicklas Backstrom, the Caps' top pick in the draft last summer, might not want to come to the NHL this season or even next season. There goes the theory of a first-line center.
"Word out of Sweden... might not." Well-sourced and definitive. Is Eklund an intern at the Times? And what does he mean "this season or even next season?" Backstrom can't come over this season anyway due to IIHF regulations (though I'm sure he'd be chomping at the bit to race over here for a half-dozen meaningless games anyway). Oh, and the Caps see him as a #2 - not a #1 - center, pairing with Alex Semin, Dave. Do some homework.

The rest of the article details the Caps needs - center, powerplay defenseman, rightwing - offering nothing new or particularly insightful and, in fairness, noting that Ted Leonsis et. al. have acknowledged these deficiencies (though Fay is skeptical of the organization's wilingness to address them).

It's hard to tell whether Fay believes that the Caps are getting worse (which he claims in his headline, but doesn't assert in the article), that the Caps should be in a similar situation to that of the Penguins (which he implies, but it's a borderline-idiotic argument - hint: both teams essentially started their rebuilds by trading Jaromir Jagr; should they really be equidistant from the finish line when one got a multi-year headstart?) or that the Caps need to be knocked down a peg after actually winning back-to-back games (there's nothing in the article to support this, but it would fit his M.O.). Whatever the point of this article, Fay has made a larger point - that he'd only be marginally worse as an NHL general manager than he is as a journalist.



1) The Backstrom reluctant to come here paragraph would be the most ominous part of his rant. Not certain where, but thought that wasn't a new 'possibility'. That the kid is very shy and may want to stay in Europe for the forseeable future
2) GMGM needs to be there regularly reassuring him that he needs to be in the NHL next season. despite the Forsberg comparisions If he doesn't come they don't mater and blame needs to be squarely on GMGM as he had other options(Kessel) who were ready to step in
3) As for the Pitt comparison, its not totally fair. Imagine if the Caps 'won' the Crosby lottery and he was now centering the Cap's top line with AO? That one little shift would have altered things between the clubs considerably

Anonymous said...

Bang on, Japers. It's a typical ill-informed, ineptly-thought out Fay whine-job. He's back to embarrassing himself, sadly.

- EmptyMaybe

Abhinav said...

A long JP post, I love it. Looking forward to reading it after the WaPo (probably shouldn't admit that publicly)...

JP, are you going to post any thoughts on Tootoo's Booboo?

I thought of that myself.

JP said...

I wasn't going to. My thought on it is that the suspension was excessive - you have a relatively tough guy who just cleaned out the opponent's best player and sees someone charging at him ready to exact revenge and you're asking him to not defend himself? I'd have given him one game, maybe two, but five games for a pre-emptive strike was a bit much, imo.

And nice call on Tootoo Booboo.

Anonymous said...

JP shoots, JP scores.


1) Totally agree with your Tootoo analysis. Like the Brashear on Witt punch, this shouldn't have garnered a suspension
2) Robidas was going to blind side Tootoo had he not turned around. Ya play with fire you're gonna get burned Stephane!

DCSportsChick said...

If I didn't know the article was written by a hockey reporter, I'd think it came from the message boards.

Anonymous said...

Very minor point, but depending on the organization and the people involved, headlines are sometimes written by editors, rather than the writer. This often explains why headlines don't mesh with stories sometimes and may be the case here. Doesn't explain why the rest of the article is made of sh*t, but there you go.

JP said...

Absolutely right, FC. The editor, in fact, probably rejected Fay's original title "The Caps: Getting Shittier By The Day."

Anonymous said...

What's the big outrage? Good for him for laying in to Caps management/ownership. In general terms, it's right on the mark. He is just being more point blank than Tarik's articles of late (and by the way, I think HIS have been pretty point blank in their own right). The guy is just sick of years of the same BS.

Anonymous said...

Backstrom is the best player outside of the NHL and if the Caps see him as a #2 center then he might as well stay in Sweden.

Anonymous said...

From today's Buffalo News:
Dainius Zubrus hasn’t done much to distinguish himself since arriving at the trade deadline. Zubrus has two goals and no assists in nine games as a Sabre. So far, he’s lived down to his reputation as a player whose production never quite rises to his talent.


PS: I don't think most agree w/ this, do you?

JP said...

The Caps plan to bring in a #1 center via free agency and use Backstrom as their #2. Of course, these designations mean very little, but directly responding to your point - other than Sid, who's the last rookie to step in as his team's top center right away?

There's going to be an adjustment for anyone, and putting "#1 center" pressure on a shy kid from Sweden probably wouldn't be the best thing for him, developmentally.

JP said...

Fabu -

Sadly, "a player whose production never quite rises to his talent" sounds like the perfect description of Zubie.

Anonymous said...

The anonymous guy (what's the matter, too afraid to leave even a screen name?): The big outrage is that he's off the mark, even in general terms. By getting just about every fact wrong (as Jasper points out), he forgot his own professional responsiblity as a journalist.

I've lived through an organization fauxing a rebuilding for the sake of the bottom line, and that's NOT what the Caps are doing. Of course, if this fanbase refuses to buy into a complete rebuild--complete with a couple of seasons of struggling with young guys and journeymen--then it deserves to get whatever floundering franchise the Caps will become.

Abhinav said...

Another note. JP, maybe you could respond to this. This article in the WaPo metro section:

Verizon Center Operator Presents Case for D.C. Aid

"Under legislation that Pollin requested in January, the District would issue $50 million in bonds and increase the tax on all tickets and merchandise at the arena to 10 percent from 5.75 percent to repay the bonds. As part of the deal, the city would take over ownership of the building in 2047. In the meantime, the city would get a rent-free, 24-seat luxury suite at the arena."

I've read that part of the reason the Caps struggle so much is because they don't get a fair share of the revenue from ticket sales. 40 years is a long ways away, but isn't this potentially a problem as well?


Abhinav said...

To make my point (above) clear, let me restate. I thought Leonsis was supposed to be able to buy the building, thus guaranteeing him all revenue from the suites/seats. This would help make the Caps competitive from a revenue perspective. If the city gains ownership, the problem would presumably remain.

Anonymous said...

Dave Fay wants the attention and you are all giving it to him -- like a troll. :)

JP said...

Rage -

I'm not sure about the specifics of the deal but, as Ted Kennedy would say, we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.

Abhinav said...

Is there a bar in front of or behind the bridge?

Anonymous said...

Bengt Gustaffson was the "source" from Sweden who made the comments about Backstrom. It was based off of talking to the kid himself and his opinion based on the situation over there. It was noted in a Washington Post chat with Tarik as well as in his blog (I believe) and perhaps even in his Post article. I believe links are available in the thread on the Caps official boards regarding the Fay article.

Abhinav said...

Jay, actually the newest quotes came from his agent. Gustafsson was making an educated guess.

Anonymous said...

He's right about Ted needing to actually keep his word this offseason. It must be tough for an AOL guy to keep a promise and invest in his product, but if Ted fails the fans will make sure he pays for it.

Anonymous said...

Oh yes - I think bringing Backstrom in as the #1 guy will work wonder because of one factor - Alex Ovechkin. AO has singlehandedly turned Chris Clark into a 20 goal scorer (and a worthy fantasy hockey pickup). Since AO makes everyone around him better his presence will make Backstrom feel more at ease.

Anonymous said...

I know the most recent comments come from a Swedish newspaper quoting Backstrom's agent. And a team source confirmed it today (according to Tarik). My point was to say that the "source" mentioned by Fay wasn't Fay making it up, it was just as Fay said, a "source from Sweden" (Gustafsson, who had no reason to give bad information and who was simply giving his insight based on a direct conversation with Backstrom).

JP said...

Jay -

I don't buy Gustafsson as the source. Why on earth wouldn't he refer to him by name if he indeed was the supposed source? It would lend a lot of credibility to the claim, and if it's so widely known, he wouldn't have to fear protecting Gus.

Doesn't the fact that you have to assume who his source is, coupled with the absence of anything definitive (like a quote), tell you all you need to know about Fay's journalism on this one?