Editor’s note: Neil Greenberg is not currently affiliated with RMNB and was not consulted for this article.

During Saturday’s game between the New York Islanders and the Carolina Hurricanes, play-by-play announcer Howie Rose criticized Neil Greenberg’s list of the top 25 players under 25 for ESPN.com (paywall, but it’s worth it). That list does not include NYI’s John Tavares, who has a team-best 46 points in his third year in the NHL.

During the discussion, Rose calls Neil a “housebound agraphobe.” We can assume he means agoraphobe, since agraphobe is a made-up word that would mean “fear of farmland” or something. Rose runs standard operating procedure for character assassination of a blogger. Four-time Stanley Cup winner Butch Goring joins the routine and accuses Neil of being a provocateur. It’s a comprehensive ad hominem screed, except that they do not mention Neil by name at any point during the two-minute, telecast-padding exercise:

Howie Rose: I don’t know if you happened to see an article that was in a national online publication recently, but someone actually wrote that — there’s a list of 25 players among those under 25 in the National Hockey League. . . Can you believe that John Tavares was not on that list? Are you kidding me?

Now, think about that. We’re just talking about players under 25 and when [Neil Greenberg] was criticized for that he then came up with some kind of goofball numerical response. I don’t know who this housebound agraphobe [sic] is. I suggest he opens his shades — get a little light in there — and then watch the game and stop playing around with computers.

Open your eyes! You could make the case that John Tavares is among the best 25 players in the league. Period. Nevermind under 25 years of age. That’s just dumb.

Butch Goring: Well, I suggest the guy cover another sport because clearly he has no idea what this sport’s all about.

Howie Rose: I mean, that’s just stupid. There’s no other way to put it unless there’s some kind of personal agenda.

Butch Goring: Unless he just wants to be controversial.

Howie Rose: That’s why I’m not mentioning his name because I’m not going to give him that benefit. [awkward cross-talk]. . . As I said, open the window, get a little air, open the shades, get a little light.

Butch Goring: John Tavares is only very, very close to being in the top 10 in the scoring race, so top 25 doesn’t make any sense to me.

One other thing Rose doesn’t mention is Neil’s actual, stated reasons for leaving Tavares off the list, which basically comes down to crummy possession statistics and good teammates.

Obviously, Neil Greenberg was a RMNB team member for a few years before graduating to The Washington Post and ESPN Insider. His tweets and columns for WaPo’s Capitals Insider often stir up controversy because they tell us things we don’t want to hear about our team. But Neil’s projections are accurate, his analysis is sharp, and his intentions are honest. Like everyone else, he’s a fan– but that doesn’t preclude him from providing objective assessment. And not everyone likes objective assessment.

Personally, I don’t know if John Tavares should’ve been on the list or not, but I trust Neil and his work. And I’d urge the NYI broadcast team not to get into a battle of words with our friends, ’cause we run a blog that is basically the Dol Goldur of irrational and misplaced rage.

And it’s not too late to bury the hatchet anyway; Rose and Greenberg are both Mets fans. I’m picturing a reconciliation intermission segment during the next Isles game.

By the way, the New York Islanders won the game 2-1 in overtime. Both NYI goals came from Tavares. Heh.

Additional reporting by Ian Oland. H/T Islanders Point Blank.

  • Your Name

    Tavares is day and night better than a good number of players on that list. 
    Vlasic, Stewart, Berglund, Perron, Little, and Kostitsyn are all talented players but anyone with half a brain for hockey would take Tavares 10x out of 10 over any single one of those guys. Greenberg can dig up whatever “crummy possession” statistics he wants. In fact if you dig deep enough through anyone’s numbers your bound to find a flaw. Tavares is the best player on a weak team game-in game-out, sometimes the best player on either team.

    Also, I highly doubt the broadcast team of a professional hockey club is worried about “getting into a battle of words” with your blog or your friends. The chances that Howie, or anyone that works for the Islanders, is even aware this blog exists are slim to (more likely) none.

  • Peter

    I won’t debate the list with you, but there are three things I will point out:

    1.  What seems obvious is not always true,
    2. Neil often points out those obvious but false myths in hockey, and
    3. Corsi is a strong predictor of future success.

    The stuff about us being a crappy blog that no one cares about? I concede that point. But why are you here?

  • I don’t understand this kind of rant by NYI crew. Have some kind of proffessional solidarity! If you give up on it just to say something pleasant for you viewers, you’re not proffessional journalist, you’re a hypocritical homer. You can disagree, but you can’t go on a rant like that. And don’t say that’s exactly the situation with Steigerwald. It’s not even close. Steigerwald wrote something that wasn’t even a rumor. It was a speculation. And he knew he has no proof to that. Neil wrote the whole article to defend his opinion based on the numbers, that don’t lie.
    Guys, you better say “sorry” now. Be proffessional. Be responsible.

    PS “The chances that Howie, or anyone that works for the Islanders, is even aware this blog exists are slim to (more likely) none.” — And you know, that’s not our problem, to say the least. Our readers do better than this, even when they disagree with us.

  • Sarah

    I don’t understand why so many people are so vitriolic towards statistics in sports. The fact that these ISLANDERS announcers are saying that Neil has some sort of subjective agenda is hilarious.

  • Rob Rosenthal

    The Isle’s play by play persons name is Howie Rose not Ross.

  • Hassettpm

    Thanks, Rob. I’ll correct.

  • Your Name

    I didn’t say it was a crappy blog at all. I just pointed out the fact that Howie Rose or anyone employed by the Islanders MSG broadcast staff likely has never, and will never, hear of it. 

    To answer your question as to why I’m here: I googled the article because I don’t waste my money on an ESPN Insider subscription, and along with someone copying and pasting the entire thing into some message board, this article came up.

    Corsi is A predictor of future success. Judging players based only on their Corsi score is the same as judging them on only +/-, save %, etc… It’s a one sided view. No GM or coach that wanted to keep his job is going to take a single one of the guys I mentioned in my first post over Tavares because their Corsi scores were higher. Not one. Maybe Mike Milbury. 

  • Checking in from Puckbuddys. Don’t tell the bosses Im here. This is blatant circling the wagons by the RMNB crew. Neil is a good guy, he’s just way off base. Tavares is capable and has been elevating the play of the entire team. He’s a unique talent. Why doesn’t Neil do a hit piece on Ovechkin? Oh, that’s where his bread is buttered and the Isles are an easy mark to pile on, get some hits, and not face any numerically significant outcry. Shocker. More disrespect from ‘the worldwide leader’ for the NYI. Now, like I said, we’re an easy mark. That’s true. But John Tavares deserves better. I’ll be discussing this at length at some point.

  • Peter

    Hey Vinny, Neil isn’t part of the RMNB crew.

    He makes a pretty straightforward argument that I haven’t heard rebutted: Tavares is a fine finisher, but he doesn’t drive play and benefits vastly from his linemates.

    Neil hasn’t written hit pieces on anyone, but he’s written reams of stuff critical of Alex Ovechkin– much to the chagrin of Caps fans. There’s a bunch on this site alone.

  • Peter, that’s like me saying I’m not part of my alma mater. He cut his teeth here, you guys have a vested interest in vigorously defending him. That’s fine. I just wish all of you knew what you were talking about. Tavares most consistant linemates for a year and a half were PA Parenteau and Matt Moulson. Who were exactly where before they ran with Tavares? Getting occasional cups of coffee in the show and holding open the bench door in the AHL. He’s gotten both of them PAID with his PLAYMAKING, not his finishing. He’s 14th in the NHL (Not for guys under 25, but the whole NHL) in assists. Hardly a one dimensional finisher. So which of these guys is driving the play? the pair of AHL journeymen or the number 1 overall pick?

  • Vinny,
    I’m not saying Tavares belongs or does not to the list (I don’t care because he is not a Washington Capital). The way Islanders crew put it is inappropriate, non-proffessional and unacceptable.

  • Frank Soto

    If the man can’t take criticism he shouldn’t be publishing analysis at all. Howie’s point is that using you eyes on any given night, it’s obvious that Tavares is the best player on the ice.  The claim that he doesn’t drive play is either the data being heavily influenced from his first season, or some other flaw in methodology.  When advanced stats stop reflecting the real world, it’s best to take a step back.   Tavares is now 6 points behind Malkin for the scoring title.  Can Neil hide behind sabermetrics at years end if Tavares is holding the Art Ross Trophy?

  • Upstate Islander

    Last night in Carolina Tavares was the best player on the ice. He was way better than Stall. What ever the advanced stats might say Tavares is raising his game on a nightly basis. He is not 25 under 25. He is top 25 any age. For all the advanced stats he uses he has no way to quantify the diversity of the league and the random drafting each year that is caused by a team rebuilding.

  • Ktracey10

    You want some statistics? 4th in the league in points. On a shit team. The isles are the only team in the LEAGUE with three 45 point scorers and they all play(ed) on his line.. By the way, before tavares they were all cut and picked up on wavers. I’m talking about 9th round pick matt moulson who tavares has turned into a 30 goal scorer and possibly 40 this year. And ranger trash PA Parenteau. Greenburg is a hack and this is just simply ignorant to say that tavares isnt a top 25 player in the NHL.

  • Peter

    It’s spelled “Greenberg”

  • Ktracey10

    The spelling of his name is as worthless as his articles

  • Neil Greenberg is an agraphobe! I would love for Neil to be a GM in the NHL lol his team would be horrible if he would pick Michael Neuvirth or Kostitsyn over Tavares, who is 5th in the NHL scoring race at age 21 on one of the lowest scoring teams in the league. 

  • Awhl

    Just a quick note about CORSI…I believe Greenberg manipulates the numbers by using standard Corsi vs relative CORSI.  When you use Relative Corsi, it changes everything.

  • Houstm

    Neil’s work is garbage. Obviously he has a connection to work for ESPN. Tavares is better than half the list. 

  • Agoraphobia, is fear of crowded spaces the O is silent.

  • The O is not silent: ag-er-uh-foh-bee-uh. Maybe you’re thinking of agraphobia, which is hysterical fear of sex abuse. Either way, thanks for the attempted fact check.