What I Learned: The Dead Blog Challenge Wrap

The Dead Blog Challenge, designed to kick my ass into writing again, ended on June 30th, even though I kept going for a few days into free agency.  Of course, that was part of the point, to get a writing habit started and to keep writing (which is going to lead to the next challenge).  But I learned a few things along the way, and wanted to get them out in the world, and see what you thought.

Daily Writing vs. Daily Posting -

I believe in being consistent with putting content out there, but at the same time, I don’t believe in posting just to have something to post.  A few times through the challenge, I didn’t feel like writing about hockey, and I’m sure it showed.  It was mostly when there wasn’t much happening, and I didn’t really have much to say, but still had to put out a post, because that’s what I said I would do.  Hey, it’s called a challenge for a reason.

Unless you are paid to do it, I can’t say I believe in posting every day just to have something out there.  Phoning it in publicly when you don’t have something to say is no way to use your voice.  That doesn’t mean you can’t just share a photo or video or something simple, but to really dig into something you care nothing about is no way to go.  That’s a recipe for burnout.  And what’s the point of that, if you want to keep your blog going?  Why look at your blog staring you in the face, and hating it, all so you did that one post you didn’t really care about?

That said, I do believe in writing every day, or at least every day that you possibly can.  Hey, some of us have to work for a living, and can’t do everything we want.  It feels a little counter-intuitive, to write something and not post it, but not everything you write is going to be gold.  Sometimes, it’s best to leave even good ideas on the shelf to make way for the great ones.

Editing –

When I first started blogging, I rarely went back and edited before posting.  That was probably the stupidest thing I could have done.  I bought into the hype, and was just happy to be posting.  Now, looking back at some of those posts, the writing is absolutely embarrassing.  There are posts that should have never made it to the blog, and others that should have sat in the draft folder until I had a better head for editing.

Going back and rewriting is a great thing, so long as you believe in the process.  And if you rewrite, your proof should be right there.  You should be showing yourself exactly why you rewrite and edit, because your work gets better.

I wish there were a universal editing service, where you could submit your post to someone who could act as editor, and they would give your post a once-over for you.  Having that kind of outside perspective would be greatly educational.  I would love to submit a weeks worth of posts to Wyshynski or Eric McErlain to go over with a red marker, and show me what they would do differently.  And believe me, we all have plenty to learn about writing.

Comments –

I turned off comments for a while during the challenge, and truth be told, I missed them a little bit, even though most posts don’t get commented on.  I felt bad about turning them off, but at the same time, I tried to bask in the freedom of not needing to think about what other people thought.  That’s harder to do than it is to say, but still, I wanted to try it.

I got an email from a drive-by reader – they came from another blog I had talked about and linked to – who said that turning off comments was just my way of preaching from my pulpit.  Which is what blogs are anyways.  He thought that without comments, people couldn’t challenge my ideas or thoughts.  As though that were what comments usually are.

Take a look at the comments at highly trafficked blogs.  Look at Deadspin, or Puck Daddy.  Get outside the genre of hockey and read some of the comments you see elsewhere on the more popular blogs.  How much thoughtful commentary is there?  How much challenging of ideas do you see?  I’d say 70% of my comments are either conformation or spam.  Drive-bys make up for another 20%, with 10% actually having something challenging to say, or even discussing what was posted.

People don’t leave that many comments.  I know I don’t do it as much as I used to, but the way I have read hockey blogs, as well as the amount I read, have changed over the years.

When I started this blog, I wanted to jump into the discussion, but blogs are rarely about discussion, within the confines of the site they occupy.  Discussion happens between blogs, and in places like forums (when they are run well), or on twitter or facebook.  This isn’t to say that it never happens – I’ve had some really good conversations in the comment sections  of this blog a few times – but it’s rare.  Comments are a broken system for having conversations.  It’s part of why I started a podcast.  The conversation you have when using your voice and ears is very different from the conversation you have when stopping by the comments of a blog post you may never get back to.

By the way, I wrote back to the person who emailed me, and never heard back.  To their credit, they did poke around my blog a bit before emailing me.  Still, I guess it’s hard to send emails from way up high on my pulpit.  Either that, or they just didn’t really care.  I’m going to guess it was the second one.

Those who took up the challenge –

Several other people took up the challenge with me, which made it easier for me to complete it.  I don’t know if I could have done it with out them.  Most of the people made it through the 15 day challenge, with one person making it through the entire month long challenge with me.  A few people didn’t make it, but hey, that’s why the call it a challenge.  It’s supposed to be hard.  I hope that those who tried and didn’t make it start their own challenge at some point.  When they are ready, they will do it themselves, and be better off for it.

A few people said thanks for doing the challenge, but the truth is, I didn’t do anything.  They did the hard work, which was sitting down and writing the posts.  They kept their commitments, and they hopefully reaped the rewards.  Putting the challenge out there for others gave me more motivation when I saw how well other people were doing with the challenge, and gave me some more fun stuff to read.  I will say, in the most humble and undeserving way I know how, you are welcome.  But really, if you did the challenge, don’t pat me on the back, pat yourself on the back.  You did the work, and you deserve the credit.  I really should be thanking you.

 

So, challenges.  I need to figure out a podcasting challenge for myself.  Because I need to kick that thing back into service again for the season.  More on that later.

But the offseason is in full effect, and there won’t be enough to write about for a few months.  At least, not for me, and not for plenty of other bloggers out there.   So the challenge has to change a little bit.  I do have something in mind, so stop back in a day or two, and see what the next one is.  I think you’re going to like it.

Long Shadows

There are three banners hanging beside the center ice scoreboard in the Pepsi Center that cast long shadows on the ice.  The shadows reach from end to end, and are particularly dark near the goal crease.

The one with the number 77 on it has the shortest shadow of the three.  Some people who aren’t fans of the Colorado Avalanche don’t think it should be there, and I’m sure there are some fans who agree.  Ray Bourque was with Colorado for a moment, but his presence was as necessary to the Stanley Cup winning team as any other person on the ice.

The shadow cast by the banner with the number 19 is pretty long.  It also has the captain’s C on it, and that is the part that makes this shadow particularly insidious.  The Avalanche had a great captain in Joe Sakic.  He was a leader on the ice, and in the locker room.  But the key word is ‘was.’  He retired as a player and moved to the front office when it was time to do so, but it is as if the rest of the organization and the fans don’t want to move on.  Moving on doesn’t have to mean forgetting the past, but it’s time to put the past where it belongs.  There is a reason the NHL keeps going back to nostalgia when it comes time to sell something.

The number 33 banner is the hardest to overcome.  The shadow is a back breaker, because it is held so highly in the minds and hearts of the fans.  Patrick Roy was an unbelievably good goaltender, the kind that doesn’t come along very often.  He helped change and refine the position.  And he left the crease for good when it was time.  He moved on, but the fans don’t want to move on.  They still want Roy back.  They want him as a coach, a GM, and falling short of that, they want his reincarnation.

The Avalanche needed three things desperately coming off the bust of last season: goaltending, a bigger defense, and goaltending.

The Avs gave up two draft picks to sign Semyon Varlamov, and wound up bringing in JS Giguere, both for two years.  Eerily similar to Craig Anderson, the Avs are taking a chance on Varlamov, and if it pans out, they will look like geniuses.  It looks like a huge price to pay, until you start looking at how many top draft picks have worked out for the team, and how many goaltenders that were drafted by the Avs ever played for the Avs.  HockeyDB provides the Avalanche draft history, and when you take it all in, it’s an interesting picture.

Here’s the goalies drafted by the Avalanche to play in the NHL through their history, starting with the most recent:

Tyler Weiman – Drafted 2002 –  Played 1 game (16 minutes in relief) for the Avs

Peter Budaj – Drafted 2001 – Played 242 games for the Avs

Philippe Sauve – Drafted 1998 – Played 17 games for the Avs

David Aebischer – Drafted 1997 – Played 174 games for the Avs

Marc Denis – Drafted 1995 – Played 27 games for the Avs

Brent Johnson – Drafted 1995 – Played 0 games for the Avs

This is only a list of goalies the Avalanche drafted.  It doesn’t include draftees of the Quebec Nordiques, such as Tim Thomas, who never played a game for the Nords.  You may have heard of him?

The thing with that list is, the most successful goalie, in terms of games played and longevity in the league, never played for the Avalanche (and you can include Tim Thomas in that as well).  The ones who did play for the Avs did so in the shadow of Roy.  How does your guy feel when you read their names?  Most of them are disappointing, but I don’t feel like it was entirely deserved.  The Avs haven’t developed a goalie that could steal games like Roy could, or like Craig Anderson could in his first season with the Avalanche.  Taken in that context, to me, a first rounder and a second (that is made up for with the trade of John-Michael Liles to Toronto for a second round pick) seems like a small price to pay for a good goalie.  He doesn’t have to be Roy, and hopefully he won’t be held to the fire to be Roy.

The defense got bigger starting with Eric Johnson coming to the Avs for Stewart and Shattenkirk (who I think will be the one who got away), and the Liles trade made way for Jan Hejda, a free agent signing by way of the Columbus Blue Jackets.  Ever since Scott Hannan was traded to the Washington Capitals, the need for shutdown defensemen was obvious.  If the Avs have their men, then that need was addressed, even if it isn’t completely solved.

The final shadow belongs to the captain.  The Avalanche are only one person removed from the captaincy, and that was a fairly obvious choice at the time.  There wasn’t another person who had the respect of the team, or the fans, to wear the C.  But by continuing to hold out and make the C a bigger deal, it becomes heavier and heavier.  The Avs are going to have to announce a captain at some point, and the longer they hold out, the worse it is going to be for the person who has to wear it.  The obvious choice to me is Paul Stastny, and if it doesn’t work out or someone else steps up in a few years, give it to them.  It’s sacrilege to the faithful, but you shouldn’t even try.  Joe Sakic was the original captain, and after that, it’s someone else’s turn.  Let them do it their way.

Those shadows, they loom large, but they aren’t helping.  Living in the past doesn’t work anymore.  By continually looking back and wishing things were like the old days, there is no room for the new.  There isn’t room for success, or possibility.  It’s time to let the boys be boys.  Let them play, without having to live up to the standards of 2001, and come out from the shadows.  It’s time for the new Avalanche to emerge.

Free Agency Afternoon Thoughts

Just some general thoughts on day one of free agency:

Florida Panthers – Dale Talon has a lot of people scratching their heads today, but I’m not one of them.  Talon knows how to build a team, and the team he’s building looks a lot like the 2010 Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks.  They don’t have the younger draftees, and they don’t seem to have a rookie goalie in the wings to scoop the team up, but he looks like he could be a few years away from just that.  I don’t doubt the man, so long as he stays comforably away from the upper limit of the salary cap.  And considering he is in Florida, that shouldn’t be an issue.  Jose Theodore is the new Christibol Huet, Scotty Upshall is the new Dustin Byfuglien, and Brian Campbell is still Brian Campbell.  I don’t know where Jovanovski fits in yet.  The big difference here is that Florida got better.  That’s been a long time coming.

Vokoun – I don’t think we will hear much from Vokoun until later, but his options are waining.  It’s been suggested that the Panthers should have given him one more year, but I couldn’t imagine how that would help Vokoun.  His market value is as high as it’s going to get, even as his options for locations are shrinking.

Jagr – AH HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!! But seriously, it’s probably Jagr’s last year in the NHL ever.  He needed to follow the money.  Heart has never been his strongest suit, but it was kind of a dick move for Ray Shero to try and tug at those heartstrings.  Manipulative? Maybe.  But Jagr made them pay.  Hockey hate in Pittsburgh is going to be at an all time high.

Christian Ehrhoff – What a joke of a contract.  Two signing bonuses? A signing bonus 4 times the amount of the salary for the year it’s handed out? Just a freaking joke.  Contracts like this give the owners more ammo for the next CBA.  This is the bastard child contract of Brian Campbell and Ilya Kovalchuk.

Colorado Avalanche – I’ll do more on the Avalanche later, but for now, the best I can say is that they got better.  They worked towards filling holes on the club with the available market.  I’ll go deeper later.

Carcillo to the Blackhawks – AH HAHAHAHAAH!!!!! Oh, how the Canucks are going to hate the Hawks twice as much next year.

Erik Cole – I would have liked to have seen him in an Avs jersey.  He’s quietly good, the kind of player the fans like here in Colorado.

 

Overall, lots of teams got better today.  I think the overall sentiment online has been, “why can’t I be a GM?”  In this market, there are more role players than difference makers.  If you had a hole to fill, this is the market to do it in.  If you need big stud, you have few options, and you will pay for them.

More later….

Varlamov to the Avs: Why I’m Not Worried

Semyon Varlamov is now an Av.  After making a lot of noise about going to the KHL, the Avs traded a first and second round pick for Varlamov, and the Capitals got out of a bind.

To Caps fans, the general sentiment on Varlamov is, don’t let the door hit you.  It reminds me of how fast the Avalanche faithful turned on Budaj after his stellar season that almost shoehorned the Avs back into the playoffs in 2006-07, after Jose Theodore (who signed a two year deal with Florida) tanked.  Then again, Budaj and his agent weren’t talking smack about the Avalanche either.

The knee-jerk reaction on twitter (which is where I go for my calm and well thought out analysis) is that the Avalanche overspent by a country mile on this deal.  A first and a second is a lot to give up for what was essentially negotiating rights, and word is the 2012 draft is kind of deep.  And the Avs faithful don’t think they will do much better next season than they did this season.

But then again, the Avalanche seem to be addressing some of their needs, regardless of the ‘rebuilding’ tag.  They have a much bigger defense (Liles and Shattenkirk out, Johnson, O’Byrne, and Hejda in), and from the goaltending tandem of Budaj and Elliot, we have Varlamov and (insert someone here).  It’s not like the Avalanche have been good at developing goalies anyways.  Look at the time spent on Tyler Weiman, and he was shipped off.  Vitaly Kolesnik didn’t get a legitimate shot,.  And the Avalanche system was stocked with third and fourth goalie talent last season, and doesn’t look much more promising this season.  At this point, if you were going to stick with Varlamov, and not go after Vokoun (which I am not convinced that the Avs are out of the Vokoun race yet), you might as well bring back Budaj (too late, 2 years with Montreal).  If there isn’t anything worth using in the system, why not give up a pick for a guy who at least has NHL talent?  If you can’t develop ‘em, buy ‘em.

It’s way to early to pass judgement on this deal.  People think Varlamov is washed up, but what do the fans know?  I’ll refer you to the fans in Boston who thought Tim Thomas was washed up a year after winning the Vezina.  He had lost the starting job (and justifiably so) to Tukka Rask.  One off-season hip surgery later, and he won the Stanley Cup, Conn Smythe, and his second Vezina.  I don’t think Varlamov is going to do the same thing, but there is a lot of unknowns for those of us who are sitting behind our keyboards.

In the end, it’s going to be up to Varlamov as to how good this deal is for the Avalanche.  If he plays his ass off, he will make those two draft picks less and less valuable for the Capitals.  Since he signed a 2 year, $5.5 million contract, he’s with the Avs for the foreseeable future.  I’m happy to sit back and see how it goes.

Besides, if the Avs can get this kind of thing from Varlamov, why not?  Maybe the Avs can capture lightning in a bottle again.