I've been trying to avoid Bucky Gleason as much as possible the last year or so, but his most recent column just happens to touch on something I mentioned in passing in my last blog post. I said that I didn't think the Buffalo News had enough smart talk about the NHL and things that, as boring as they may be, have a huge influence on how a team functions: the salary cap, arbitration, revenues, that kind of thing. Bucky's whole column is a mess ("Here's a bunch of guys who were good at some point in the last three years. It was/will be a HUGE MISTAKE to not sign them!"), but the part I have a beef with is this:
Evidence [that expansion has worked] can be found in the salary cap, which is tethered directly to revenue. Many were predicting a $6 million decrease for this season after the economy tanked, but the cap actually increased by about $2 million.
This isn't entirely false. The salary cap is tethered to revenue. But it's not really true either. Based on revenues alone the cap probably would have gone down. Those predictions weren't wrong. The reason the cap is going up is because the players' union elected to approve a 5% inflator. Moneys the players put in escrow in case the actual revenues didn't live up to the projections are being used to push the cap up. In fact, this is the second year where the cap would have gone down or stayed flat had the players not elected to use the inflator.
Now, is all that tough to explain to a casual fan? Yeah, maybe, especially in a newspaper column where space is limited. But there's a difference between simplifying something for the average reader and simplifying it to the point where it's just not true and is, in fact, kind of wrong. If Bucky can't accurately explain how the cap works, then he shouldn't use it as support for his opinion. Especially since once you inject the inflator into the conversation, I think you have a debate about whether an increased cap is really good support for the argument that expansion has been successful. When I read the above excerpt my immediate response is to wonder if Bucky even knows how the cap works or what the inflator is, and that's not a good thing. Either he doesn't know, he doesn't care to explain it, he's incapable of explaining it, or he's choosing to ignore it because it doesn't fit in with his argument. Again, no good options there.
I once complained to Mike Harrington that TBN doesn't do enough behind-the-scenes talk, again things like the cap, RFAs, arbitration, that stuff. He told me that the average person doesn't want to read that stuff, that when the sports department has tackled stuff like that, there's been a lot of disinterest. I think that's crap. It's a part of sports. More and more, it's a huge part of sports. If you're going to write about Tim Kennedy going to arbitration, or the Sabres taking Patrick Kaleta to arbitration, or suggest that the Sabres buy players out, or talk about cap hits vs. actual salary, and whether and when the Sabres make a profit then I think you have the obligation to make sure your readers know what that stuff means, how it works. And if you don't think it'll fly in the newspaper, then put it on the blog where the more hardcore fans will find it. Sabres Edge shouldn't just be a regurgitation of what's in the newspaper and a lot of times, especially in the off-season when there are no game blog or links lists, that's what it is. Yes, there are a lot of casual fans in Buffalo who just want to know when the Sabres sign someone. But there are a lot of smart fans who are willing and able to dig in more. I think the ever-increasing popularity of writers like James Mirtle proves that. I mean, it's totally crazy but maybe if TBN raised the level of conversation, they'd be surprised at how many fans joined them.
The bottom line is that when I read local fan-written Sabres blogs, I feel like they have a better understanding of how the NHL works. I feel like I'm reading smart, informed, thoughtful writing from people who have actually watched a hockey game or two recently. The season before this last one, I sat in a Sabres chat and explained to two TBN staff members why exactly Tim Connolly wasn't eligible for an incentive-based contract under the current CBA. Today on Twitter, atleast ten people who I follow questioned whether Bucky knew what he was talking about regarding the cap. The only good analysis I can recall reading recently in TBN is Harrington's column on the current NHL no-name goalie trend. It's smart, well-written, and is actually based in the reality of the last few months in the NHL. Why is that so hard? Why don't we get more of that? I don't get it. For me, TBN is rapidly losing ground to bloggers even though we're supposed to be the lazy, irrational, uninformed ones. They have the access and for that, I'll stick around. But more and more, that's about it.
And for the love of all that is right and holy in this world, SHELDON SOURAY SUCKS AT HOCKEY NOW! Give it a FREAKING rest!