The snafu that was the coverage of the Iginla trade

I've always been interested in the process of reporting, at times more interested in that then in actually doing reporting myself. Of particular interest has been "breaking news" and the balance between being first and being right. In fact, I've already written about that once in the context of the trade deadline with media outlets competing for each other when breaking trades. That post can be found here.

And because there's no real lesson here and nothing can change, we're at it again with the Iginla trade. A healthy scratch for Wednesdays game, Iginla was originally reported as heading to Boston as originally broke by Aaron Ward from TSN. Many others later jumped on this train, but when the dust finally settled, Iginla was actually dealt to Pittsburgh.

Now smarter people then me can analyze the goods and the bads of the deal itself, and if Pittsburgh wins the Cup or if this signals a rebuild for Calgary or whatever. But how the deal was reported has caught my eye, because it appears to be, once again, that battle between being first and being right.

Someone at TSN, at some point in time, made the choice to run with Ward's report. It made sense, because Ward used to play for Boston and presumably still has connections in the organization, in addition to the other connections he would have around the league.

Just before Ward's report, TSN's Bob McKenzie was reporting that Iginla to Boston wasn't done, while playing an interesting game of wordplay that invites people to read between the lines. He talked about things like: does "not done" actually mean "not done" or does it mean "not done yet", while also bringing up the "wouldn't it be funny if Bouwmeester was dealt", which sometimes (not always) means that a deal like that might be closer but he can't confirm it.

In any case, McKenzie began toeing the company line shortly after the Ward report (this isn't a shot at McKenzie, because as he mentions in his own email from last year, these things are normally done by working as a team, so let's assume Ward's report didn't just occur in a bubble), but their colleague with RDS, Renaud Lavoie did not and as reports continued to filter out, he stood firm that he was getting information that there was no deal happening tonight. Lavoie really shone during the CBA negotiations in the fall, proving that he was not only first a lot of the time, but also (more importantly) right.

I originally wanted to put together a timeline of how this all went down, but some of the tweets from the night have been removed to prevent confusion (or maybe to cut back on embarrassment).

In any case, the decision was made to run with the story. I have to wonder if the fact that both Boston and Calgary were on TSN played anything to do with that decision. I have to wonder if the deal was done between Boston and Calgary and then Iginla nixed it.

Last fall, I went to a symposium at the University of King's College here in Halifax about journalism and new media. I got the opportunity to ask the question about that battle of first versus right. The immediacy of coverage and the competition.

The answer given was that you need to establish a proper process and standards to verify the source and verify the story and then as you work within those standards, speed will come.

So equally as frustrating as Ward's report going to market is that a number of other media or media-pretenders/hangers-on ran with that story without having their own rules to verify the story (or ignoring those rules). A lot more reporters should have independently verified this, instead of blindly repeating.

Unfortunately we won't learn, because it's a marketplace and a business. TSN makes a big deal off their trade deadline coverage because they get viewers. They compete with other providers to break news and fight for an ever larger viewer-share, to sell advertising and so on. The viewers demand that everything is delivered immediately and will quickly flock to who is quickest, as opposed to who is most accurate.

Sure, we can harp on the snafu by TSN and how they should be more accurate, but we need to understand that they are simply playing the game that we demanded of them.


HF: QMJHL Goaltenders – additional content

This is a bit delayed but I wanted to follow up on this article on QMJHL goaltenders who have their rights owned by NHL teams.

Here's a quick look at the list:

  1. Francois Brassard, Quebec - Ottawa Senators
  2. Brandon Whitney, Victoriaville - Chicago Blackhawks
  3. Chris Gibson, Chicoutimi - Los Angeles Kings
  4. Francois Tremblay, Val d'Or - St. Louis Blues
  5. Maxime Lagace, PEI - Dallas Stars
  6. David Honzik, Cape Breton - Vancouver Canucks

This list was a hard one to put together, because there wasn't a clear standout and every player has some ups and downs about them.

It was recently suggested to me that I take a second look at David Honzik and where I ranked him. When talking about Honzik, first let me talk about Maxime Lagace. Lagace actually finished the season with poorer stats than Honzik, despite playing for a team that earned 50 (!) more points than Honzik's hapless Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. I originally had Lagace last on this list and for good reason: Lagace had a difficult year and lost his starting position pretty early on, never to regain them. I was surprised when he got an NHL deal from the Dallas Stars and when he was named to Hockey Canada's roster for the Summer Challenge against Russia. But I also have to respect that (acknowledge that people who are smarter than me saw something I didn't see in him) and in a list of six goaltenders, Lagace is the only one right now with an NHL contract.

That said, Lagace's play rightfully should put him on the bottom of this list.

As I mentioned in the article, Honzik has been in a rough situation for the past two years. He battled for time in Victoriaville and ended the season with the team turning to Brandon Whitney when the wheels fell off in the playoffs. But that was a case of the wheels falling off for the entire team, rather than just Honzik alone. Team captain Philip Danault made mention of that enough when I interviewed him in the summer, talking about team chemistry.

The decision to move Honzik was made for a few reasons by Victoriaville, not just because they had two goaltenders capable of being starters, but I also believe Honzik's age (Whitney will return to the Q next year) and the fact that Honzik is an Import played into it (the Tigres added forward Dominik Rehak, who just turned 18, again a move for a younger team in Victoriaville as they plan for the future).  Finally, Honzik was scheduled to miss the beginning of the season recovering from shoulder surgery, which possibly was also a factor in the Tigres choice to send him away.

The shoulder is important, because it was an injury that Honzik suffered during last season in Victoriaville and played through. So that also might help explain his struggles in the playoffs and the poor numbers he put up in January and February of 2012 (a 6-2-1 record, but a .869 save percentage and a 4.04 GAA).

Which then brings us to this year. Much can be said about the problems that plagued the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. They finished with 36 points this season and just 14 wins. My error here was attributing too much of the team situation to the situation with the player.

Honzik appeared in 32 games for the Eagles, the most out of the 3 goaltenders they used this year. But more importantly, he played the majority of those games after any hope that Cape Breton had was already breathing its last breath. Because of the rehab for the shoulder surgery, Honzik did not return to the ice until November.

Honzik rejoined the team after missing the first 19 games of the year. In those 19 games, Cape Breton had a record of 5-10-2-2. Considering their final standings, 38% of their points came in the first 28% of the season. For a team like Cape Breton, who at this point had already fired their GM and would soon fire their coach, things were about to go from bad to worse.

Honzik joined a team in disarray and one that was on the cusp of being hit by numerous significant injuries. By the end of December/early January, William Carrier, Kyle Farrell, Jakub Culek and Loic Leduc would all be out of the lineup with injuries and they would not return for the rest of the year. Furthermore, top scorer Alexandre Lavoie would request a trade in late December and sat out until he was accommodated.

For Honzik, the period of December and January was his best. After needing a few games to get his feet back under himself (a 6.24/.771 November over 6 games in November), those two months were very strong. Cape Breton fired their coach at the beginning of December and that seemed to spur on the Czech goaltender.  Honzik appeared in 14 games over those two months and although his record was 2-10-0-1, his save percentage was .909 and his GAA was 3.09. Strong stats for any goaltender in the league, let alone one on a team in freefall.

So that's the story on David Honzik. In retrospect, I was incorrect in placing him last among the six. I did not look as close into the situation as I should have when doing my original research for the article.

Those numbers from that period of time in December and January, where Cape Breton was playing at the closest they came to full strength are no doubt a better reflection of the player than the situation he found himself in and place him comparable to Francois Tremblay, Chris Gibson and his former teammate Brandon Whitney.