Monday, July 30, 2007

A Hockey Writer makes a mistake, pt. 1.

Adam Proteau is a professional hockey writer. That is what he does for a living. He writes for the premiere sports website in North America (ESPN.com), and the preeminent hockey newsmagazine in North America (The Hockey News). So I'm over at ESPN.com the other day, looking for a quick read during an afternoon break, when I stumble on an article by Mr. Proteau entitled Screen Shots: The Busts of Free Agency.

In his article, Adam Proteau lists the 5 biggest busts of free agency, before any player plays a game. I have no problem with this. I don't really think you can judge a free agent yet, but hey, it's summer, and he needs something to write about. But let's look at his top choice for worst contract, here is what bothers me about his column.
1. Ruslan Fedotenko to the New York Islanders for one year and $2.9 million
Congratulations to GM Garth Snow for capturing my Gem (Truly, Truly, Truly Outrageous) Signing of the Summer award. It's not often a guy who scored 12 goals last season -- and has only broken the 20-goal barrier once in his six-year NHL career -- gets nearly $3 million for his efforts, but that's the gift Fedotenko has received from the Isles.

Ted Nolan is famous for squeezing out as much as possible from his players, but what do the Isles honestly believe the high-water mark for Fedotenko can be at this point? More to the point -- why on earth doesn't an incentive-laden deal make more sense for this guy than guaranteeing him a payday regardless of his efforts?


There are three things that bother me about this selection, but let's look at the two minor ones first.

1. A 1-year contract for $2.9 million is the worst contract signed this summer. After the summer we just went through, how can signing a guy to a contract for less than $3m for just one year be the worst contract signed? Daniel Briere and Scott Gomez signed contracts for more than $50,000,000, and the worst contract of the summer is for a guy that got around one-seventeenth that amount? I don't think there's anyone in the league that would claim Briere and Gomez are 17 times better at hockey than Ruslan Fedotenko. Yet, he's the worst contract in the entire league somehow.

2. Claiming Fedotenko got too much money for someone that got 12 goals last year. There is more to a players game than just goals. If Adam Proteau wants to go there, Scott Gomez only scored one goal more than Fedotenko in '06-'07. Scott Gomez is going to be paid a heck of a lot more than Fedotenko is, but hey, let's not let logic get involved here.

3. Fedotenko Should have gotten an incentive-ladden contract. Here is my biggest problem with this article. Let's quote Proteau one more time, just to make sure his point is clear: "Why on earth doesn't an incentive-laden deal make more sense for this guy than guaranteeing him a payday regardless of his efforts?" I'll tell you why an incentive-laden contract didn't make sense: it is against the NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement to give Fedotenko one. The only players that are eligible for incentives in their contracts are players that are A. on an entry level deal. B. Older than 35, and signing a one-year contract. C. Players that spent significant time on the IR in last two seasons and signing a one-year deal. None of these apply to Fedotenko, so he was not eligible to receive performance bonuses (as the CBA calls them) in his contract.

I don't really mind when fans on message boards suggest things like giving Ovechkin a contract with option years, or other things that can't happen in the CBA, it's not expected that the casual fan know the ins and outs of the collective bargaining agreement. I would like to think that a professional writer would know better when he's making it the crux of his point in an article that is appearing simultaneously on both thehockeynews.com and ESPN.com. I would like to think his editors would notice this. Isn't it their job to go through and check these types of things before they are published?

At the bottom of Mr. Proteau's article, there is a link to which one can email the author. I emailed him, and asked, as politely as I could, to go over the issues I have with his article. Again, I'm not saying he's a bad writer, and should be banned from writing ever again, I'm just trying to hold a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association accountable. After all, they cite lack of accountability as the main difference between themselves and bloggers. I wanted to know where accountability came into play when an article like that is published. Alas, Mr. Proteau never got back to me.

3 comments:

Jes GÅ‘lbez said...

You are mixing the issues just a bit, here. Proteau's logic might be flawed, and he may have forgotten about the incentive stuff, but he's not in the neighbourhood of fabricating information and being unaccountable. He's put his own name and face on the article, so people know exactly where the information is coming from. There are no outside sources...just himself.

Adam Proteau said...

Hi there,

A reader pointed out your blog and thought I might want to respond.

First, let's get to the obvious. I absolutely missed the boat on the Fedotenko/CBA thing, and don't feel great about it. It wasn't the first mistake I've ever made, and won't be the last. I'm sure most of us, regardless of our profession, would say the same.

As for your disagreement with my rankings and justification, what can I say – it's an opinion column. "Columnist" is my job title. As such, I'm under no obligations to write anything other than a (hopefully) entertaining piece about things seen and heard in the hockey world.

As well, I apologize for my lack of response to your email. But I hope you understand, with the volume of correspondence I receive every day, it is practically impossible for me to answer everyone.

Anyways, I appreciate your passion for the game, and for the coverage of it. Hope this helps enhance both.

FS said...

Thanks for the Response Mr. Proteau! It was never my intention to slag your journalism, I was merely attempting to continue the dialogue begun by Greg Wyshynski over at Fanhouse about Eklund, and the difference between professional writers and bloggers, many of whom seem more professional to me than some writers (not yourself). My reactions to your rankings were simply that, reactions. What I was mostly writing in response to was the error involving the CBA.

In the article most bloggers were talking about last week, the piece on Eklund, one of the big issues that came up was accountability, most notably the fact that the professionals have editors to answer to, and corportaions behind them. I'm not attempting to say that you are a bad columnist or anything in that vein, I'm simply saying that editors should catch that sort of mistake.

Thank you for taking time of your schedule to write back to me!