This week’s SI has a great article discussing NHL players and their residency periods in their respective coaches doghouses. The explanation of the Penner situation in Edmonton and the difference in his performance really is striking. I had heard rumblings of disappointment in Penner’s play last season, but how many of us had any idea that Penner theoretically was bicycling his way through the Tour deFrance.
I did get a small laugh out of this statement from Penner.
“You have to read between the lines in what a coach is saying,” Penner says. “Sometimes there’s swearing or demeaning stuff, but I’ve always had a pretty good filter. I’m like, What is it he’s really trying to say to me? So, ‘You’re a f—ing idiot’ becomes ‘There’s something I’ve done that he doesn’t perceive to be smart.‘ … You tune in the part about what you can do better and tune out [the rest].”
The bolded statement is particularly ridiculous because it sounds like something straight out of a corporate visualization/positivity seminar.
The SI article is particulary timely because of the TSN story detailing Ron Wilson’s ripping Phil Kessel a new asshole at practice today. (And by “ripping a new asshole” I mean, “having a frank, honest and calm discussion like two mature adults.”) I can’t blame Wilson for being frustrated. The Leafs aren’t doing so well. Kessel hasn’t lived up to the glories he had with the Bruins. But to be fair, Kessel was trumpeted as the saviour of Leafs hockey this summer. And really, who can live up to the expectation of being a franchise’s saviour? (Sit down, Sidney. You too, Ovie. No one asked you.)
But at the same time, I think Wilson was in the wrong by ripping the Kessel and the team in front of the media and then turning around and bitching out the media for having the audacity to a) question him on it and b) even be at practice in the first place. Sure, the media can come across as a pain in the ass (sorry, media in the audience) but it’s nothing personal. It’s their job to be that way. They report on what you do. And if you rip your players at practice, of course they’re going to ask you about it. And duh, it’s going to be eleventy-seven times worse in Toronto where a Leaf sneezing makes news, than it would be in many other NHL markets.
I think that the openness of NHL practices and the locker rooms is one of the good things about the league. Sure, the teams still have their inner sanctums where angels fear to tread, but the media being able to see and report on line combinations, player injuries, interactions and even impromptu games of baseball is much better than what we see in other sports. I mean, aren’t reporters only allowed to see the first 20 minutes or so of Bills practice before being told to scram? Imagine how much richer Bills stories would be if the media was allowed to see the entirety of practice, but league (or team) rules prohibit that.