(I was going to start this post with, “The dictionary definition of grit is…”)
Since moving to Ottawa, I’ve had the opportunity to watch a lot more Oilers games. That seems counter-intuitive, considering the time difference and distance, but when you’re starting out in a new city, you also have a lot more time. Also, actual (non-Vancouver) winter weather makes it feel apt to watch hockey, eat stew and drink stout.
It’s easy to see why this team of the last year and a month has not been successful. One team is scoring more goals than the other (or one team is letting more goals in than the other).
That’s the basis for all the fancy stats that internet commenters rant or rave about.
To make your team better, you add players who create opportunities for goals or prevent opportunities for goals.
Or maybe I’m wrong, maybe it’s about having the best damn bunch of try-hards who ever did try.
Yesterday came the news of two moves that would infuriate everyone I follow on the Twitters.
1. Marincin sitting in favour of Keith Aulie. “We’re looking for some grit and not just out of Keith. It has to come from everybody on our team but especially our back end,” said Eakins. EDIT: Marincin has now been assigned to Oklahoma City, so things are even worse than when I started this post. But here’s to hoping it’s just a roster management move. (Though I can’t help but think the Oilers will stuff this up.)
2. Will Acton on waivers… is not a bad thing in itself. But… @JirelandEJ: Coach Dallas Eakins said Will Acton deserved Flyers game for time he’s put in as Oilers 13th forward.
I’m not going to go into the details but… You could have a defenseman who has been trusted with the hardest zone starts and was the second best defenseman the Oilers had last year, or you can start a guy who has the footspeed of my Australian husband who learned to skate last year. (He’s going to read this and point out to me that he actually learned to skate three years ago, but the cadence sounds better my way.)
As for the Acton thing, I think Ryan Batty does a good job of explaining why the move isn’t bad, but the rationale is.
I’m used to bad decisions by the Oilers. That’s my expectation after eight years of disappointment. I think this off-season had more good than bad for the first time in recent memory, but it will take more than the signing of Fayne to change my perspective long-term.
What I hate more than anything is the justification for the bad decisions. Justification that so often relies on TERRIBLE MEANINGLESS HOCKEY WORDS.
Growl. (@EdmontonOilers·Jan 31: Coach Eakins says Fraser will likely make #Oilers debut tomorrow vs. Boston, adds he’s “highly competitive and has a growl to him”. – Personal favourite, had to throw it in.)
I’m sure you have your favourite. And don’t get me started on the verbification of some of these words.
If I could ask one thing of journalists, media, broadcasters and anyone talking about the Oilers, let’s keep the vocabulary to actual things. If it means telling me about home and away powerplay numbers, then so be it. At least it’s measurable – even if it is pointless. The hit count is pointless too, especially because teams that are hitting tend to not have the puck. But at least it is real. (Sportsnet’s Grit Metric is dead right? Using stats to pump up an immeasurable metric is one of the worst things we see in sport.)
I know it is hard. I’ve been a broadcaster having to fill time talking about the Vancouver Canucks during that unfortunate cup run of theirs. It’s hard not to delve into the world of intangibles. But the difference between me anchoring a news station and the broadcasts Rogers is producing is staff. Instead of writing puns, Gene could be scouring the internet and past game footage for things to pass to the broadcast team.
Just don’t tell me about grit. Grit is not a thing.
Good players who score and prevent scoring are a thing.
Grit be damned.