In Defense of John Buccigross (And Beating On Some Joke from Flint)

Around here, there are three people that we love more than anyone else: First and very foremost, Barry Melrose, then Jeremy Roenick and John Buccigross. Actually, Carrie Millbank is in there too somewhere. So that’s like four people. But anyway, these are our peeps. We’re not tight with any of them — no matter what Dave tells you about himself and Carrie — and we’re not non-Internet friends with any of them. But you don’t lay a hand on them.

So the other day, Bucci said some things that rightfully irked Red Wings fans. After the Wings’ slow start, he came to the conclusion that Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg are not currently in their primes. Natch, Detroit is pissed. Not ‘Lidstrom got suspended for skipping the All-Star Game’ pissed, but close. So a lot of the criticism has been clear, concise and in all honesty, well done and well deserved. And then there’s some folks that just think they’re special. The latter group needs to be taken down a peg or three. Take Eric Fish from the Flint Journal, which probably isn’t even a legitimate newspaper. Or maybe it is, but it’s overstating things quite a bit. Kind of like we would be if we called BMR a serious work of pretentious j-school trained writing (which, by the way, suck it cause we get paid to write posts that include the phrase “suck it”). (I’ve been told by the folks at MLive.com that Mr. Fish doesn’t write for the Journal. Even the bloggers over there have to take on a newspaper byline, confusing, but nonetheless erroneous on my part.)

OK. Moving on. Long story short, Fish gave the FJM treatment to Bucci and, in Bucci’s defense, we’re going to give the FJM treatment to Fish’s piece. But not just because we love Bucci. Please note what Fish wrote is look-at-me-I-can-yell-on-Internet trash that really doesn’t hold any water (Ironically, I’m raising my voice on the Internet as well). So jump with me, won’t you?

Ink Stained: ESPN’s John Buccigross shows the world exactly how little he knows about hockey

By Eric Fish | Flint Journal

October 23, 2009, 2:00PM

People often write things that are stupid. We like to laugh at those things. Bookmark It’s Just Sports or subscribe to our RSS feed.

This column is based on the premise that people write stupid things. Oh the irony.

By the way, my quotations of Fish are italicized and my quotations of Fish’s quotations of Bucci are in bold.

We already gave you one dose of Ink Stained this week, but Eric Fish was so angry he had to put together a special Friday edition.

WOW! He was so angry that he felt compelled to write for the newspaper he is employed by TWICE THIS WEEK!?! You don’t say!

It seems that ESPN know-nothing analyst John Buccigross covers hockey and the NHL about as much as the “world wide leader” of sports network he works for does. The evidence — this garbage of a mailbag column that has already been destroyed by Snapshots and Triple Deke.

Well, clearly you don’t watch ESPN or pay attention to John’s work. ESPN has absolutely zero interest in hockey. John’s life pretty much revolves around hockey (and chicken parm). Whether or not you agree with his opinions, it’s patently obvious to anyone that pays any attention that the man cares more about hockey than ESPN does about Brett Favre’s ball sweat. OK, not that much. But close.

Oh and if it’s already been destroyed twice, why are you trying to do so a third time? No original ideas to write about on a Friday and mailing it in?

Laugh along with me, Red Wings fans, as we analyze this puppy.

Sure, lure readers in with a cute little puppy. That’s just cheap.

 

“Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg are no longer in their NHL prime. Datsyuk is 31 and Zetterberg is 29. Those are not “prime” ages to play a nine-month NHL season (training camp to the Cup finals). We’ve noted in this space for years — hockey is a young man’s game.”

 

Young man’s game? Funny then how Nicklas Lidstrom, at nearly 40, is still one of the league’s best defensemen.

OK, so since we’re in the business of using ONE PLAYER as an overall analysis of the league, let’s just use the best old guy around. Wow, what an argument. Lidstrom has been FREAKY consistent throughout his career. Kudos to him for being one of the most durable and consistent players of the last two decades, if not the most consistent and durable. Now, to be fair, there’s certainly no doubt that players are in better shape and have better conditioning, etc, etc than they have in previous generations. Players are playing late into their thirties and even in their fourties more often. But that’s not what this is about. We’re not arguing that players who are 38 or 39 — like Lidstrom is — can be effective. We know they can. We’re talking about defining “prime age”. For hockey players, “prime age” usually occurs in their mid to late 20s. Sometimes, it happens in their early 30s. So, by arguing that Datsyuk and Lidstrom are in their primes by pointing to a teammate who is a good player at age 39 doesn’t actually make sense.

But let’s take a look at the prime age argument while we’re in the neighborhood.

Steve Yzerman, a Red Wing, scored a 137 points in 1992-93 averaging 1.63 per game. The next year was shortened by the lockout but he still averaged 1.41 pts/game at age 29. He would never average greater than 1.18 (in ’95-’96) the rest of his career. Yzerman retired in 2006 just after his 42nd birthday. Did he have longevity? Abso-fucking-lutely. Was he on the decline after age 29? I’d say so.

Let’s take another example. Colorado’s Joe Sakic, Yzerman’s counterpart in Denver for much of the last two decades. Sakic retired this summer just after his 40th birthday. He’s got the longevity. But when did things begin to decline? Joe averaged 1.44 points/game during the 2000-01 season, age 32. He would never average more than 1.07 points/game in a year again except for ’06-’07 when he almost inexplicably had 1.22 points/game (100 in 82).

Here are a few more.

Gretzky had more than 140 points 11 times in his career (11!). None of those instances occurred after age 30.

Joe Thornton has the record for most points in a year post-lockout. He had 125 in 2005-06 and has decreased steadily and drastically since despite playing a full 82 each year. How old was he when he set that mark? 26. (Of course this trend will likely change since he has the talented Dany Heatley playing with him. He’s currently on pace for 123 points through ten games. However, it’s impossible not to note the assistance of Heatley who is on pace for 98 through 10).

So it’s only four examples, but they’re all on point and it’s three more than Fish used (and his wasn’t relevant).

Not to mention that those washed up has-beens Datsyuk and Zetterberg have each dealt with injuries to start this season, slowing their early production. Apparently that is enough to make this ridiculous assumption.

I don’t get it. When you crossed out words earlier in your post, it was a dig at Bucci. Now you’re being sarcastic. Or was the dig before actually sarcasm? My head hurts.

Sure, injuries are a factor. And you’re right, they’re no reason to write these guys off. They’re the Red Wings. You can’t write them off. Ever. But look at the ages of PD and HZ and tell me they’re not in the vicinity of when Yz, Sakic, 99 and Thornton all started to decline. Add to that these two guys have been to the Finals each of the last two seasons, extending their seasons by two months. Think that won’t take a toll and instigate some kind of a decline?

As George James Malik pointed out in his Buccigross roast, if hockey was predominantly a young man’s game, the Wings don’t win the 2002 Stanley Cup.

You’re right. Age didn’t matter in 2001-02. Money did.

Fact: The Wings payroll was the highest in the league in 2001-02 at $64.4M

Fact: The league average payroll in 2001-02 was $37.5M.

Fact: In 2001-02, the Wings payroll was more than double that of 12 other NHL teams. Nearly half the league.

(Source)

The Red Wings could afford to pay a team chock full of 9 current or future Hall of Famers — Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull, Luc Robitaille, Brendan Shanahan, Sergei Fedorov, Nick Lidstrom, Igor Larionov, Chris Chelios, Dominik Hasek —  to play for them and they did. I didn’t even include the young star on that team. What was his name again?

Fact: The Red Wings bought the 2001-02 Stanley Cup.

 

“I’m not saying Datsyuk and Zetterberg are Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden and will never win another Stanley Cup. Just realize that players get injured more in their 30s and begin a downward arc in their production.”

 

Wait, I thought this was a hockey column, now are you saying that Paterno and Bowden are incapable of winning in NCAA football? And players getting hurt more often in their 30s? An easy conclusion to reach based on Datsyuk and Zetterberg’s season so far. I’d say injuries, in many ways, are more reflective of proper conditioning or lack thereof. Just use Chris Chelios as an example of durability.

There we are throwing out one player to disprove a theory. Sigh. I hope you don’t moonlight as a pharmaceutical tester. Yikes.

And since when is “as people age they have more health problems” a false statement? That’s a fact of life. Players will get hurt more in their 30s than in their 20s. How can you possibly disagree with that statement?

 

“Secondly, the Wings are probably at the end of their run. Their best players are older and their younger players are average NHL players … The Red Wings will struggle to score goals and that is a problem because they are not constructed to prevent them. Coach Mike Babcock may have to make some alterations to the Wings’ normal style of play and GM Ken Holland may have to reach into his bag of tricks and try to find a goaltender.”

 

Really? Acquire a goaltender? I’m pretty sure Chris Osgood was the best goaltender in the playoffs last season. And I don’t get how a blueline with Lidstrom, Brad Stuart, Brian Rafalski and rising star Jonathan Ericsson isn’t built to prevent goals. I’m pretty sure one of those “average” younger players, Val Filppula is on his way to a breakout season, too.

Osgood was great in the playoffs last year, no doubt. That blueline is pretty sick too. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t problems this year. Osgood turns 37 in November and his stats this season match his stats during last year’s regular season in that they’re atrocious thus far. He was stellar in the playoffs, but let’s not forget that he had a regular season last year, and is having a regular season this year, both worth forgetting. Through 8 games thus far, the Wings have the 26th worst GAA as a team and 25th worst save percentage. It’s great to have a nice defense on paper. It’s even better if they play as advertised. It’s hard to condemn Bucci for stating the facts.

Oh and Filppula is awesome by the way but I’m not sure how he fits into an argument about defense (he’s a center) or how he isn’t — thus far — an average NHL player. Since when is 4 points in 8 games the definition of spectacular?

 

“Detroit won’t win the Central Division, but it has all season to get ready for the playoffs, when (Johan) Franzen can hopefully return healthy. There is still a lot of good in Detroit, just maybe not championship good.”

I agree that the Red Wings probably don’t win the Stanley Cup this year, but saying they won’t win the Central is an extremely premature prediction. This team reminds me of the 2006-07 squad that started with some growing pains as things sorted themselves out, then advanced to the Western Conference Finals.

It’s hard to write anyone off before Halloween, for sure. And they certainly, absolutely, for sure have a heck of a chance to win the Central again. But I’m glad you think they should reach the Conference Finals. ‘Cause if I’ve learned anything from this exercise, it’s to trust your opinion.

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