December 1, 2016

It is what it is, even if I don't agree with it


Almost two whole minutes dedicated to Mark Barberio's mustache...and then someone actually cared enough to bother putting it on YouTube and Twitter.

Nothing against Mark - unless he's holding me against him, but that's another story entirely - but this is ridiculous. This is exactly why people outside of Montreal consider the media that follow the Canadiens to be something of a joke.

Seriously? Talking about any guy's mustache for almost two entire minutes? Isn't there soomething better to discuss, like injuries and whatnot? And I know it wasn't a slow news day in the NHL, either.

They are the most gossipy media of all of the NHL. Toronto doesn't even come close. And as someone who has always hated people knowing my business from growing up in a small town, it makes my skin crawl just thinking about it.

It's one thing to report on a sport, and the people whose jobs are to work within that sport. But it's entirely another to report about personal things. Like Carey Price and his wife last season, where they didn't have control over their own personal information about their pregnancy.

There are some media types that I respect, but honestly, there aren't that many and they tend to be more bloggers rather than traditional media. There's an air of sleaze about the whole media scene because of those who can't leave unnecessary personal information out of their reporting. I don't think the team itself is any better or worse than any other NHL team in that regard, but the media is easily the worst about that stuff.

And the fans, too, are part of the problem. Hockey such an institution there, and the fan base is so fanatic (no pun intended), that they can't separate out the sport from the reality TV-type stuff. If there wasn't a demand for that kind of "reporting", then they wouldn't do it, after all.

Not only do players need a thick skin to play there, but so do their girlfriends and wives to live with them. Frankly, I'm almost surprised that the media doesn't get on the significant others more than they do. I'm sure their fans do, and are probably pretty harsh about it - I just try to avoid that side of stuff with any and all teams. I know when I'm better off not doing Google searches for stuff that I mostly don't want to know about, anyways.

If I were involved in that, I'd have to live in a gated community where there was strict limited access, and I probably wouldn't go out much except to games and get groceries. Not that I'd mind all that much about hanging out at home all day, but still. No one needs to be following me around with a camera, but I'd never quite be sure that they wouldn't be, considering.

If the media were just doing their jobs, and covering the team and its sport - even excessively - that'd be one thing. But some of this stuff crosses a line. Mustaches might seem harmless enough, but it's still talking about personal choices that have nothing to do with his actual job. It's not about hockey, but about him, and that's a bit over the top to me.

Now, granted, I might be more straight-laced about this sort of thing than some, but it just doesn't seem at all appropriate to me.

I mean, I was a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning media for six or eight years, depending on how you want to define that, and there were plenty of lines that I wouldn't have crossed no matter how much someone paid me to. I firmly believe that all people have a right to their privacy, and I tried my best to respect that with my writing. Stick to hockey, unless the player or coach brings up another topic, and it's all okay.

Manufacturing stories out of personal information that wasn't volunteered to get website hits and / or to fill air time isn't right, and I don't support that sort of behavior - not even in the things I choose to read online.

To be clear, I don't hate the Canadiens - I never have. I just don't agree with the casual discrimination that the team's coaching staff / front office and its fans have historically and currently promoted, and I certainly don't respect how gossipy their hockey media is. I see what could be a great place to play that's ruined by people being petty. And maybe that's just how they are there, I don't know, but I've never been able take the hockey scene there - the team, the media, and the fans - very seriously.

September 5, 2016

Taking "best available by position" one step too far

Babcock explains importance of left-handed defensemen
On Monday during a press conference, Babcock finally revealed why having a defenseman with a left-handed shot is so important.

So, in case it wasn't clear before, Babcock has clearly thought this through.
I understand why coaches think this. I have always gotten it, in fact. And it makes total sense, from a technical and a "looks good on paper" point of view.

However, from an available talent perspective, it makes little sense.

There's this on-going argument that happens periodically, and it usually happens around fantasy hockey time when people are picking their teams. And it often comes up when someone picks a guy no one else expected them to take in the fantasy league draft. And that argument is whether someone ought to pick the best available player, regardless of position, or the best available player by their position.

And that's what this argument comes down to. Are coaches picking the best available defensemen? Or, are they picking the best available defenseman by what side they happen to shoot?

Obviously, for some coaches like Mike Babcock, it's pretty clear that when he's able to, he'll take best available player at the position he's looking for - at least for defense.

Because, clearly, Canada didn't taking the best player by position when it came to for forwards. Not when there's an overwhelming number of centers on that team. What I'd be interested in - and I wasn't able to find this in a quick Google search - is whether those centers who are playing right wing also shoot right or not. I'm betting they all don't.

If that's the case, and not all of the players put at right wing shoot right, then that makes me question why he's so adamant about doing that with the defense.

(Knowing Babcock's reputation, I'm going to guess that all of the right wingers shoot right. Because he's an attention to detail sort of a guy like that. But until I see a roster that confirms that - and at this point I'd have to reconstruct the roster on my own so that it includes NHL position and what side they shoot - I'm not going to entirely believe it until it's confirmed.)

It's interesting that they decided to parse out the defensemen, but not the forwards. It shows that the decision makers are more comfortable with one group (the forwards) than with the other (the defense). Which is sort of strange, since back in the day, Babcock was a defenseman himself.

All the same, if you're going to be consistent, and handed-ness actually matters to you, then choosing by best available player by position makes sense.

But if they were going to be as particular about it with the forwards as they were the defensemen, then they should've picked four right-shooting right wingers, four left-shooting left wingers, two left-shooting centers, and two right-shooting centers. (Two of each with the centers means you can mix and match with wingers as necessary.) I mean, if symmetry of handed-ness really matters, then it should matter throughout the roster, right? Including with the goaltenders?

Apparently the argument of symmetry only matters with the defensemen, for some unknown reason, since the forward corps are mostly centermen.

The other part of this problem is simply one of numbers - not statistics, although they can play into this mentality, but just shear numbers. In Canada, most hockey players shoot left - that's just a fact of life. If you were to count up the number of right-shooting players in Canada, they'd probably be a bit more than the average percentage of left-handed people within their general population.

To help put that into perspective, roughly 12% of the world's population is left-handed, and 30% show some sort of ambidextrousness - although, they still tend to favor one hand over the other, all the same.

So let's say that 15% of all Canadian hockey players shoot right. Seems to be a fair sort of number, I think. In any given population, that percentage will vary, but the average will stick around that number.

If you're looking for defensemen to play the right side who shoot right, then you're picking out of a pool of 12-18% of all of the Canadian defensemen in the National Hockey League. I want you to think about that for a second. It matters because the smaller the group, the less likely you're going to find an exceptional individual out of it.

Because of that basic population issue, you might find a generational talent who happens to shoot right in Canadian hockey, but they likely won't be playing defense - simply due to the larger number of forwards there are versus the number of defensemen.

Again, it goes back to best available versus best available at position. You might pick the best available right-shooting defenseman, but they'll likely be of a lesser ability than simply the best defensemen available. And that's just because of how general populations are set up - standard deviations and all of that, you know.

What it all boils down to is this: Any team's coach that doesn't buy into this notion of symmetry may eventually realize that the easiest way to exploit that decision made by Team Canada is to take their best forwards, and send them down the right side of the ice in the neutral zone.

If you buy into Babcock's explanation, then making sure you have a righty with a lefty at the blue line matters primarily due to maintaining puck possession at the blue line while in the offensive zone. But, it's at the expense of general ability on the right side in the neutral zone and in the defensive zone. It's one-dimensional thinking; he's only accounting for one zone on the entire sheet of ice.

The game isn't always about offense, but also defense - there's balance between the two - which is something a former defenseman such as himself ought to be taking into account. "A good defense is having a great offense" works some of the time, but it also leads to horrific defensive breakdowns in front of your own goalie. I personally have a problem with relying on goaltending too much and letting goalies fend for themselves, but I guess most NHL coaches don't.

September 4, 2016

You might want to brush up on your Latin



I think it was football that started this whole silly sports equals war thing. To be fair, football is the sport that's run most like a military company. All the same, it's not even close.

Which most fans kind of hate, actually. Most of us collectively roll our eyes whenever some coach or athlete starts using military terminology when talking about the game they're involved in. It makes them look like they have such an inflated notion of where they see themselves and the job that they do in the grand scheme of things.

The fact of the matter is, athletes are gladiators, not soldier or a warrior. They're paid to entertain the masses through competition. Soldiers are paid to risk their lives in a literal battlefield, where they might not come home in one piece or at all as a matter of national or international security.

Now, admittedly "preparing for gladiatorial combat" may not have that same romantic connotations as "preparing for war", but at least it's a lot more accurate. You're going out into an arena with fans cheering - a field of play of some kind - and not a battlefield. Think the Roman Coliseum rather than being stuck in a trench somewhere.

I've worked with people who have literally gone to war. They've been shot at, seen fellow soldiers die, and have killed people on the opposing side. And they're often patronizing of those athletes and coaches that talk about a game being some kind of a military battle. For good reason, since they've actually lived that, while sports tends to romanticize it.

You do get the small number of fans who love the whole comparison of sport being war, though. They tend to be the types who romanticize the military, though. They're typically the ones who would love to be a soldier, but don't have the courage to actually sign up for it.

Regardless, overhauling sports terminology has been long overdue. And not just when it comes to military stuff, either, but that's still a part of it. Just because veterans say things doesn't mean a younger guy coming into the league has to say the same things. It's be nice if thought for themselves, for once, and did what they think is right instead of mindlessly doing what everyone else is doing just to fit in.

They don't have to all think alike or even like each other in order to play well together. They just have to know what everyone else is doing and where they fit into the system. Why every team has to be some kind of group-think commune thing has never made any sense to me. If they're all professionals, then why can't they work in a professional environment instead of essentially being brainwashed to conform?

But perhaps that's a blog for another time - how the very idea of "team" is outdated and coaches deal with their players.

August 27, 2016

Having a plan isn't a bad thing, especially in this case

Social media has its ups and downs for wary NHL players
Understanding the social media landscape is essential, and some teams are trying to help. “Our policy has been and always will be that a player joining social media is his decision," says Rob Mixer, the Manager of Digital and Social Media for the Columbus Blue Jackets. "We welcome their active participation, of course, because it¹s great for our team and for the players on a personal branding level, but we'll never force it upon them.”
This is great and all, but I kind of think if you're a professional athlete that you need a plan going into using social media.

The pitfalls are many, of course, and they get worse if you're in the public eye. There are a lot of people who truly believe that if you're a public figure, then anything in your life is fair game to comment on, criticize, and outright attack. So there are things to watch out for, naturally.

But if you're going to go there, if you're going to do social media, then you need to decide upon who your intended audience and what the point of being there is for you is from the start.

If you want to connect with friends and family, with teammates, and with people that you already know, then make your account private. If it's not, and that's exactly what you want to do, then make it private now, and block those people you don't want seeing your stuff. You're not being a jerk if all you want is a friendly environment to be social in.

If you want to connect with fans, then be interactive with fans. But also be aware that there are going to be assholes who attack you for no reason. Don't be afraid to report people and / or block them if they're harassing you. If you end up earning a reputation for being "sensitive", then own that. Trust me, it'll make your life easier in the long run.

If all you want to do is get news out about your team, your charity work, your projects, or whatever, then be very picky about how you engage with fans. The entire point is to broadcast information, not be chatty with anyone and everyone. People will get the picture after a while.

Whatever you decide to do, then be methodical, consistent, and ruthless (if necessary) about it. It's your account, not your family's, the fans', and not the team's. If people don't like what you do or how you react, then that's too bad; you can't possibly make everyone happy, so why even try?

No one has a right to dictate how you run it, not even your team. I mean, you'll want to be respectful of everyone when possible, of course, but if it's a personal account that you set up, then they have no right to it. They might not like how you go about doing things, but in the end - unless it's specifically written into your contract - they can't do a damned thing about it, unless they want to trade you. And even then, in the US a team can be taken to court for violating the First Amendment of the Constitution: the right to free speech.

But, hey, if being traded is what you want, then that might be a way to go about doing just that. Although it gives other teams fair warning about what you might do to them down the road and they might think twice about trading for you. All actions and non-action have consequences, after all.

The other thing is if you're going to sign up for social media of any kind, then use it. If you don't like it or you're not using it, either make your account private or cancel it altogether. Don't leave it in limbo like so many do.

General rule of thumb is if you haven't posted anything up in six months, you might want to seriously think about the point of having that account - from a potential follower perspective, there's no point in following someone if they're not posting anything new, after all. If you're using it to read other things on the same site, but not using it to post your own stuff, then make it private and be picky about whose invitations you accept. If you're simply not using it at all, then close it if you don't think you'll use it again, or make it private if you think you might.

People will periodically purge their follow lists if no one's tweeting, for example. I usually give that a go at least once a year and I'll drop like 30-60 people in one shot - usually because they haven't done anything with their account in months or they're boring. What's the point of following someone who does nothing, after all?

The entire point of social media is to be...well, social. If you're not being social or going to be social, then there's really no point in being public about it. Broadcasting your stuff without intending to socialize isn't exactly being social, but at least it serves a purpose.

This doesn't just apply to Twitter, but to every single social media app / site out there. Figure out your purpose in using it, who your audience is, and then go for it. Yeah, people can generally be mean and ignorant, but there are fewer of those than you might think.

Frankly, if you're a part of the sports industry and you can't take stupidity thrown at you, then you probably should find a new field of work.

(I can take it, but thank God I'm not a part of it anymore. Sort of nice to not be in the sports media scene, or to be affiliated with a specific team. I'm still in it around the edges, but that's just because of the people that I know from when I used to be a blogger. Simply being a general hockey fan is pretty nice, I have to admit.)

July 26, 2016

Just because you work with someone doesn't mean you have to like them

BEING GOOD ON THE ICE SHOULDN'T SUPPLANT YOUR WRONGDOINGS OFF OF IT
Here's a reality check: Evander Kane has been known to be an elite hockey player destined for the NHL since he was a young boy. He's had all sorts of coaches, tutors, mentors, and role model figures around him, preparing him for the moment, like most star players. He's chosen to ignore it and, for reasons none of us particularly know, act in public like he's allowed to do whatever he wants.

"Well-paid" shouldn't buy him get out of jail free cards. "Talented" only matters on the ice. "Fun-loving" sounds great, until you wonder how much fun all of his accusers were having if what they've all repeatedly been saying holds true. There's no excuse for selfish, and the portrayal of a "boys will be boys" stubbornness is toxic.
You have two camps in fan bases and media.

The first camp is that athletes should be treated just like anyone else. And if someone at work is having legal problems, and it's public, then they tend to not be around work much. Because people don't want to deal with an accused criminal; they find it uncomfortable and creepy. They see the man and the player as one individual.

The other camp is that athletes aren't human, but are instead sports robots who help their teams win. So it doesn't matter what happens off the ice, so long as the guy can contribute to the winning. Because their team winning is all that matters. They separate the man from the player, because it's convenient.

It seems as if players don't seem to mind when a guy acts less than legally. And that can be due to the fact that the guys doing criminal things don't talk about those things with his teammates. So that'd be understandable. And then there's the teammate aspect - you have to play with the guy, so you overlook some things that maybe you don't agree with if you do know some of the stuff that's going on.

On the other hand, teams and / or teammates defending them in public - once certain things are known publicly, that is - seems like poor judgment to fans that believe the guy should be shunned due to his illicit activities. It's turning a blind eye to someone who children and some adults look up to that perhaps they shouldn't. Trying to ignore there's a problem suggests that you don't think there's a problem with someone being an abuser, rapist, assaulting others, or whatever.

Which isn't to say that they have to come out and say what they think in detail. Acknowledging that this player is a teammate and that you're not going to comment on their personal problems is the most graceful way out, and then moving on from that is best. It's the "I support my teammate 100%, and if he says he didn't do anything wrong then I believe him" stuff that's not the best approach public relations-wise.

Ultimately, the problem isn't that someone like Evander Kane is doing this stuff - although, that is a problem. The problem is that no one's helping him realize it's a problem. It's one thing to make a mistake and then learn from it. But when a guy like him or Patrick Kane are saying they did nothing wrong, and they're still getting arrested for things, and the teams and teammates are backing them up...that's not a pretty picture for the rest of humanity.

And maybe that's because NHLers and the former NHLers now running teams don't understand what the problem actually is. Which is a massively huge problem in and of itself. I mean, how do you not know how to treat fellow human beings on the street? And then also thinking that treating them what the majority of people in both Canada and the US consider badly is okay?

The sad part is that this goes so much deeper than the NHL. The prevailing culture of the NHL is the exact same as what's going on in the minor leagues and the junior leagues. Rookies, desperate to fit in, follow the veteran examples of how to treat people in their teens in junior hockey, presumably unlearning the rules set by their parents, and so it becomes a self-perpetuating problem.

Basically, it's a more civilized version of Lord of the Flies. There are various social theories that generally suggest women are the civilizing factor of humanity - and to some extent, that's probably true. But without women around to help men keep themselves in line, as most sports are men-only clubs that shun women as distractions (among other things), they start to think that some things are okay even when they're not.

The bottom line is, just because a guy is a good teammate and / or an athlete of great ability, that doesn't automatically make him a good person. It's a difference that most people realize and understand, and being a good person matters to a whole lot of humanity. However, in hockey, that doesn't seem to often be the case.

While it's totally understandable that teams want the best players they can get - despite any accompanying baggage - the fact is that the baggage matters, too. And that baggage doesn't seem to be properly addressed, probably because there's this ridiculous assumption that people are adults and they can make their own decisions. Well, if they're constantly making bad decisions, then others need to straighten them out, even if they're adults.

Sign who you want, and play who you want, but at least acknowledge the fact that the fans aren't stupid and admit that there are problems - and that they're actually being addressed. Pretending otherwise when there are police reports floating around just makes you look like a clueless ass. And, trust me, there are plenty of fans who will quit the sport for less than that.

After all, the financial bottom line is selling tickets to games. But when you alienate the fan base by acting stupid or treating them like they're stupid, you won't sell as many tickets. It's really rather sad that the NHL hasn't figured this whole connection between respecting fans and selling tickets thing yet, despite being around for almost 100 years.

And to address something Patrick Kane once said about coming back better to shut up the haters - the reason people hate you has nothing to do with how you play, but what kind of person you appear to be.

July 19, 2016

A tale of two defensemen

We’ve finally reached that point in the post-trade dialog where people are finally comparing players. That took long enough. The outrage over Subban being traded (which vastly outweighs the talk about Weber being traded) had died down enough so that people can get down to cases.

Shea Weber versus PK Subban will be one of those trades that will define both Nashville and Montreal for years to come. Books will be written about it, TV shows will be produced about it, and discussions about it will last for potentially decades. And it’s not all about the caliber of the players involved, either, but the team politics in Montreal.

However, purely from a statistical perspective, Weber and Subban are fairly comparable except in one are: possession. Subban last season had much better possession numbers than Weber did, but Weber had more goals. And you also have to take into consideration that Weber was on a better team.

The issue isn’t actually statistics, though. The issue is actually preference in style of play. And that is also colored by what you might think of the players themselves.

Defensemen are weird in that most people tend to ignore the position – at least until someone makes a mistake. So a lot of people don’t have a great grasp as to what makes a great defenseman. They know what makes a great forward (scoring and playmaking), and they know what makes a good goalie (stopping pucks), but defensemen…?

There really are no statistics specifically for defensemen. Plus-minus comes close, but that’s only for even strength. Corsi, supposedly, is an adjusted plus-minus – but I’m not entirely convinced it’s calculated the right way and it was really intended for goaltending, anyways. I could probably come up with something that’s more suitable and specific to defensemen, but I’m not sure I really want to bother.

In regards to touching the puck and / or possession, that’s all guesswork. I’ve tracked sports statistics before, and while most of the time you catch most things, being human you don’t catch everything. So until the NHL institutes some technology changes, that’s not going to be entirely accurate, either. Especially since home team bias creeps into statistics tracking.

So, essentially, there’s no adequate way to determine how good a defenseman is at his position right now. And because of this, people determine how good a defenseman is in three ways: points, hits, and blocked shots. That’s pretty much all there is to it.

Because everyone’s so focused on forwards and scoring, points is the biggest determination of what makes a good defenseman. Almost gone from the NHL is the “stay-at-home” defenseman type of player, who only touched the puck to clear it out of their defensive zone or to keep it in the offensive zone. Bottom pairing guys might still play that way, but that’s why they’re bottom pair guys.

So if you can set up plays (including that crucial first pass out of your own zone), rack up the assists, and score a few goals (might want to work on your shot a bit), then you’re considered a top defenseman. Seriously. That’s all there is to it. You don’t even have to be all that great defensively, which is sad but true. You might turnover the puck a lot in the neutral zone, but all can be forgiven if you consistently score or set up goals. (**cough cough** ...Mike Green.... **cough cough**)

This is almost entirely why both Weber and Subban are considered elite defensemen; they’re both scorers and playmakers.

The difference between them, comes down to hits and blocked shots. Subban might throw the occasional big hit, but Weber does that all the time. And that’s a big reason why some people prefer Weber over Subban. They see hitting as being tough, gritty, and being into the game. Which isn’t true at all, but that’s the perception – and is why some think Weber is better than Subban.

In shot blocking, too, Weber has the edge on Subban. Subban’s not afraid to block shots, but Weber does it more often. That might have been due to the teams each played on – we won’t know that for sure until the next season starts – but that adds to the tough-gritty-leadership perception.

(Random note: I really hate the term "eye-test".)

Weber playing that way, though, shortens his hockey career and slows him down faster. The more physical abuse a guy takes, the shorter his career tends to be. It’s not a perfect correlation, of course, since Chris Chelios played for a very long time and he was a physical player. But generally speaking, if you want to lengthen your hockey career, consistent overly physical play isn’t the way to go about doing that.

Partly because of that, but also because of his size and perhaps his age, Weber isn’t as quick as Subban is. In that way, Subban definitely has the edge. And in today’s NHL, the quicker you are the better. The better teams in the league want fast players, no matter what position they play. Going out of your way to make a hit just for the sake of hitting puts you out of position and often out of the play.

The biggest thing to take into consideration between the two is their age and how long they should play. Weber, as mentioned above, being more physical will likely have a shorter career. And as he’ll be 31 years old when the season starts, he’s looking the downside of his NHL career right in the face. His level of play might not decline significantly for another couple of years, or it could decline this year; you just don’t know.

Subban, however, is only 27. In the NHL, that’s just starting the peak performance years. Well, I think so, anyways. A lot of people seem to think defensemen peak earlier, but I don’t agree. Late 20s to early 30s seems to be when defensemen are the most productive to me. Then again, most are also judging them by the standards they have for forwards, too.

Perhaps if this were the NHL before the last lockout, Weber would be better suited for the NHL than Subban overall. But, again, the better teams of the NHL have gotten where they are partly due to very mobile defensemen who are quick on their feet and can make plays, join the rush, and score goals in their own right. (And play defense well in their own end, too.) Weber just isn’t that mobile, and he isn’t that quick. He’s still a very good defenseman who’s very strong positionally, don’t get me wrong, but skating isn’t what he’s known for.

And, ultimately, foot speed is such a priority for the better teams in the NHL, that that's really the determining factor in this trade. (Age would probably be a close second.) If you can't skate, then the top teams in the league aren't going to want you. Weber might be better than Subban in many areas, but he probably couldn't out-skate Subban.

Try to imagine Weber in Pittsburgh or San Jose or Tampa Bay, and then try to imagine Subban on any of those teams, and then get back to me.

July 15, 2016

Decision making tools should be used to make decisions

The problem with analytics….

So much is being made of the whole Subban-Weber trade fiasco for a number of reasons. One of which is the fact that someone apparently lost their job over this trade. The Montreal Canadiens decided not to renew the contract of an analytics guy, and so the numbers people on Hockey Twitter are all up in arms over this.

Long story short – according to the media the guy did his job, crunched the numbers, and reported his findings to his superior. The numbers were in favor of keeping Subban, of course. But since the numbers didn’t agree with the decision already made by upper management, his contract wasn’t renewed.

Now, this is hardly a new or surprising development – especially within the NHL. However, to be fair, things like this happen in corporate America all the time, too. And they’re equally thought of as stupid in much of corporate America as well.

The problem here is two-fold. One, on the analytics side of things, numbers people tend to think the final numbers produced are gospel. They are an absolute truth, and to not automatically go along with them is folly. So their threshold of what they consider appropriate in this situation is set absurdly high, and should be taken with a grain of salt.

The other side of the problem is general hockey thinking. Numbers do serve a purpose – they’re a good decision-making tool to help people decide upon aspects of the game that can be quantified. How people go about getting these numbers might be flawed, but that still doesn’t mean that the results shouldn’t be seriously considered.

But instead, so-called hockey people seem to focus on “intangibles” – which really ought to be renamed “unquantifiables”. And, quite frankly, most of them have little meaning when it comes to the sport. Being "gritty” doesn’t really mean a damned thing, if you stop to think about it. "Mental toughness", on the other hand, does and in a few different ways.

That’s not to say that those unquantifiables don’t exist or don’t have meaning. It's a fact that people perform better at things when they're happy than when they're unhappy, and while you can capture performance, it's difficult to capture mood along with performance. So sports psychology exists for a reason, after all. The thing is, there are few people who are running teams that are being particularly scientific about player assessment. Heck, some basic critical thinking might even be helpful, and they’re seemingly not doing much of that, either.

What it comes down to on the team management side of things for most teams is really that they like a guy, and they’re trying to justify why they like him. It has nothing to do with his “toughness” (in a physical-fighting sense) or his “grittiness”. It’s all about how they want a player, and they feel like they need to have a reason for why they want that player so that it doesn’t seem like it's an arbitrary decision – when it usually is.

So when general managers and coaches start saying words like that, they sound like they’re clueless about the player. They may be trying to sound intelligent and reasonable – and maybe within the sport itself they do – but to the general fan bases and media, they sound like they have no idea what they’re talking about. They come off as just a bunch of crotchety old men tossing around descriptive words to make them look like they know what they’re doing. Or something.

Now, I’m not a numbers person, so I know that some fancy stat isn’t going to be the end-all be-all of player evaluation. However, even I recognize that they’re useful if taken the right way. If you’re evaluating people, then you take whatever tools are available that make sense – or, you create ones of your own if none of the ones available do. And I’ve done that before in my own job.

The thing is, it’s literally my job to give and / or create decision-making tools so that upper management can better manage their assets. So I have some very specialized experience in this area of business – both with government as well as with private industry. And I’m here to tell you that the NHL does things in a very backward and outdated way. From the outside looking in, at least.

And now everyone but them is noticing that.

I’m not even going to get into the whole “yes-man” thing. An intelligent person surrounds themselves with people who have different perspectives that aren’t afraid to share them. The more views you have available to you, the better your decisions will be. Only someone who’s insecure and / or egotistical rejects opinions that contradict their own. I could go on – and on, and on – but that’s the gist of it.

If the NHL and its member teams were run like a real business – and without the rampant and blatant cronyism or the nepotism – they’d be raking in the money and be incredibly successful. They could easily compare to the NFL in many ways if they broke away from their crumbling so-called traditions, in fact. Doing things “as they’ve always been done” is simply a bad business model, no matter what industry you’re talking about.

Yes, hockey is still a business, but it’s really a very poorly run one by just about any standard in North America.