Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Easy, Lambert

So two days after the NHL Trade Deadline, Ryan Lambert wrote this. He apparently disagreed heartily with the moves (or lack of moves) that many teams made last week. That's totally fair and totally his right; he's a sportswriter for Yahoo, which indicates that he's generally going to be more knowledgeable and more tuned-in than I am.

However, I disagree whole-heartedly with his execution.

Take a gander through most of Lambert's comments (at least up to #8 on his list) and I think you'll agree, they're pretty incendiary. Many of them are downright insulting. And while his tone obviously is intended to express the ferocity of his disagreement, there are ways to do that without burning the house down.

If you've got a short attention span, that's okay. Lambert led off with his most brutal salvo for Kris Russell. In the first paragraph of the story, he said "Russell is terrible," and "He was the worst defenseman on the Calgary Flames." Then in his section on Jim Benning, he calls the Canucks' GM "clueless" and "not a good GM."

Then he offers this priceless statement regarding the Colorado Avalanche GM, Joe Sakic:
This was a dumb deadline day for Sakic. Bye.
It was around this point that I realized that I was reading something special. I don't know if someone ran over Lambert's cat, or if his girlfriend dumped him, or he was just really hungover and angry about the lack of movement on deadline day, but this article was the sports equivalent of a takedown piece. He lined up whoever he felt like sniping and took a shot, all the way down the line.

Then he predictably lauded the Blackhawks, because the whole goddamn hockey world does that.

Well, so be it, that's what he wanted to do, and he did it. But doesn't it just tell you exactly why people hate the analytics community?

The whole idea of analytics vs. old school reporting is that traditional journalists have to foster relationships with players/coaches/team officials in order to do their jobs. Analytics proponents will argue that reporters will withhold information that teams might not want to get out in order to preserve/build a relationship with that team. That's a perfectly valid concern. However, there's another side to the coin: civility.

It's possible that all of Lambert's claims are valid, all of his concerns are legitimate, and all of his condemnations are justified. But it should come as no surprise to Lambert that the people he's annihilating in this article are, you know, people.

When he says, "good lord the lack of effort here is astonishing" about Jim Benning's failure to complete a deadline deal involving Dan Hamhuis or Radim Vrbata, that's not a difference of team-managing opinions. He's declaring nothing less than his opinion that Benning is being negligent in his duties as general manager. He's not just saying that Benning is bad at his job; he's saying that Benning isn't doing his job.

That's beyond rude. I don't know what's three steps up from rude, but that's what it is.

What's perhaps most frustrating is that he even takes the time to acknowledge the potential reasons for a lack of a deal. He mentions the no-movement clauses in play, and that the word is that Vrbata wouldn't approve a deal to any team that approached Vancouver about a deal. Lambert shows that he understands that there are nuances, and then says, "I don't care."

I don't know Ryan Lambert's life. I don't know what he does outside of writing for Puck Daddy. But I can say this with confidence: If he finds himself in a situation where he's looking for another job in the hockey world, or even just any job where you have to deal with people in other organizations, this article isn't going to do him any favors.

I agree with Jeff Marek's assessment that there's an opening for a new star in the hockey journalism world, for an analytics expert who can speak plainly and intelligently about advanced metrics. But whoever that person is, they're going to have to interact with players and hockey professionals on a regular basis. Being rude and dismissive of half the league won't fly.

I doubt Lambert was seeking that kind of position, but he sure as shit isn't going to be getting it now.

PS: I strongly disagree with his comments about the Bruins' moves, but I think a big part of that is based on my opinion that their moves pushed them into a position where they can compete to make the conference finals. So I really just disagree on a purely predictive level, which isn't what this post is about. But seriously, watch out for the Bruins.

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