Caps Back to Early Playoff Exit Status with Grabovski Signing

On Friday we posted an article in which we mistook a fake twitter account as genuine. I say that to make clear that we at RMNB make mistakes all the time. So when I go medieval on this article below, please know I do it with a degree of self-awareness.

On Sunday morning,  The Hockey Writers published an article about the Caps by Tim Bourcier. Titled “Caps Back to Early Playoff Exit Status with Grabovski Signing”, the article contains some of the most worrying hockey writing I’ve read this year. Normally I’d just ignore something like this and starve it of pageviews, but this example is egregious. Every once in a while, we should give voice to the debate so that we might shout down the trolls all the louder.

I’m going to quote extensively from the original article, so you might as well read it first.

  1. “Caps Back to Early Playoff Exit Status with Grabovski Signing”
    A fine piece of trolling in the title. The Capitals surely have a reputation for getting bounced from the post-season early, and Caps fans have dealt with bombast like this ever since Tony Kornheiser coined “choking dogs” back in 1987 (or whenever). But I’m not sure that’s a) an actual meaningful status , or b) something the Caps ever lost considering they’ve lost in the first or second round every year since 2008.
  2. “Time to separate the facts from the hyperbole.”
    An author flatly proclaiming to be The Arbiter of Truth is never a good sign.
  3. “First, the Capitals cannot re-sign Mike Ribeiro at a decent price and he heads off to Nashville.”
    Ahh yes, the desert paradise of Nashville. The Jewel of Arizona. The Southwest’s own Music City. Powder City, AZ. Athens of the Southwest. America’s least sustainable city. Tennessee’s urban heart. (Ribeiro signed with Phoenix.)
  4. “The Capitals problem was never scoring goals.”
    The Caps were shut out eleven times in 2010-11Their goals per game fell from 3.27 in 2008-09 to 2.67 in 2010-11. I write recaps of about 75 Caps games a year; don’t tell me scoring goals was never a problem.
  5. “It is a stretch if Schultz and Hendricks roles will be adequately replaced.”
    I love Matt Hendricks, but replacing a fourth line grinder is about as tough as finding  a spare $800K in Uncle Ted’s wallet. Schultz was scratched for almost half of last season, so I’d consider him replaced since the beginning of April.
  6. “Washington did re-sign defensemen Karl Alzner and Tomas Kundratek, which made the offseason not a complete coup for free agents.”
    And thank goodness. If the Caps not did not re-sign Karl Alzner (which they did on July 10), I’d be picketing outside the McPhee house, and I would not be alone there. Though I doubt the extent to which the market was clamoring for Kundratek.
  7. “But again, the problem in Washington is defense and nothing was done to shake up the old guard.”
    I actually agree with this point. I feel dirty.
  8. “The Capitals just have a hard time with the salary cap and likely for other reasons (which could be discussed at length) attracting big time free agents.”
    The whispering campaign continues: Surely, with its comfortable suburbs, cosmopolitan city center, the team’s focus on offense, and a player-centric coach in Adam Oates, DC is a toxic anathema to free agents. No. At this point, innuendo about the Caps locker room is more damning for the speaker than the subject. When you read a line like that, you know to doubt everything surrounding it.
  9. “. . . His Corsi-in and Corsi-out and other advanced stats show that he will make his teammates better.”
    I think the writer means Corsi On and Corsi Off– measurements of how the ice “tilts” when a player is on or off the ice based on shot attempts. You’d think with eight years experience as a statistician, Mr. Bourcier would be bothered to look up the names of the stats. Or at least copy them accurately from the source articles (which include RMNB! Yay! Thanks for the link!).
  10. “Oh, and puck possession—Grabovski really can possess that puck.”
    The writer says this right after the line about Corsi, which makes me wonder if he understands that Corsi is already a measurement for possession or that we’ve been talking about shot attempts this whole time.
  11. “Here is what we know about Grabovski in facts.”
    I like the use of italics here, as if all the shot-attempt statistics before were somehow counterfactual. As if any statistics except the ones shown on an NBC Sports chyron are myth. But that’d be a curious opinion for a fellow with an nigh-PhD in economics and nearly a decade in statistics experience.
  12. “Could it be argued Toronto was better when Grabovski was playing less?”
    Sure, you could argue that. But you’d lose that argument. By a lot. Toronto Maple Leafs blog Pension Plan Puppets basically killed a small pixelated forest on this topic (also, also, also, also).
  13. “In the last playoff year, Grabovski put up two assists in their seven game series.”
    Mike Ribeiro had just one goal and one assist in his seven-games playoff series. So what? A seven-game sample during which Grabovski was used exclusively as a defensive player is not convincing evidence of anything. As a measure of either player in the long run, it’s nearly worthless.
  14. “They picked up a guy way down the list from who they were really going after and someone no one else really wanted.”
    Grabovski was the object of a bidding war (with 7-12 teams in the running depending on whom you ask) throughout the offseason– a war won by Washington based on the coach’s appeal. Yes, Grabovski was bought out by Toronto (“the opposite of smart” according to Steve Dangle), but he was far from unwanted.
  15. “At times Grabovski has score more goals than Riberio, but he has little, unproductive playoff experience and he is now on a team that needs a lot of playoff help.”
    The best predictor of playoff success is regular-season success– John Druce in 1990 excepted. Actually, Druce is a pretty good example of how tiny samples of playoff performance don’t tell you much about the player overall.
  16. “Two years in a row, Laich is getting demoted for two one-year contract guys that are basically patching holes in the roster.”
    Laich played nine games last season. He was not demoted, he was injured. And further, I’d argue that getting an assignment as a defensive forward with lots of special teams work is not a demotion; it’s playing a crucial role. Laich’s boxcar stats will suffer, but he’ll be helping his team win games. Knowing Brooks’ attitude and reputation as a team player, I bet he’ll be cool with that. He’s already got that steady paycheck after all.
  17. “At the end of the day, even with the Grabovski signing, the Caps offseason has been a net loss.”
    Except when measured by, ya know, measurements.
  18. “Defense is their main issue.”
    And the broken clock has now been correct twice today.

Everyone makes mistakes, and I’m not going to pick on Mr. Bourcier for typos on account of my own glass house.

But the substance of his argument make me suspicious that this article wasn’t written to explore a topic. It seems to me the author already had a conclusion in his head, (which I summarize as “lol @ caps”), and he rotely went about buttressing that conclusion with bad data, insinuations, faulty logic, false history, imprecise comparisons, one very worrying geographical mix-up, and enough troll bait to keep everyone under the bridge happy until October.

It’s fine to state an opinion like “the Caps will be worse off in 2013-14″, but the reasons underpinning that opinion should be transparent and accountable, particularly if you’re writing for a site like The Hockey Writers.

I know I went for a few cheap jokes in this refutation, and I hope that doesn’t turn anyone off from participating in the conversation. More discussion is good, more people talking is very good, more jokes is doubleplusgood.

  • capsyoungguns

    Oh boy was that article bad. Well worth your point-by-point mockery. Good job.

  • Brady Lawrence

    This guys gives so many false “facts” that I wonder if he’s a distant relative of Michele Bachmann.

  • Jake Green-Go

    Number 3 made me choke and mist my laptop screen with coffee, Thanks RMNB, you make reading enjoyable to say the least.

  • Benjamin Scarbro

    I sort of wish you did this more often… Lord knows there plenty of articles that could use a solid hip check.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com Ian Oland

    A million times yes. Peter there’s nothing more entertaining than you eviscerating troll-y articles.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    Thanks, but it feels mean. I don’t wanna do that too much.

  • Austin Adams

    Looks like he corrected his article. Now correctly says Phoenix so rock solid! Please do these more often!

  • blondinwrx

    who the hell pays these people. like really?

  • yv

    This article in hockeywriters reminds a lot (maybe the same author?) the one that I accidentally read somewhere like “GM on a couch(?)” 2-3 weeks that was about Why Grabovski is not good for Caps. The main reasoning was he is not good in playoffs solely based on 7 games series with Bruins. My comments, that with such’ deep’ analysis Crosby and Malkin should also be bad to any team, because together they produce something like couple points in Pens loss to same Bruins, were not published there.

  • Alistair Cookie

    The word “taking someone to the woodshed” is thrown around pretty carelessly these days so I don’t want to use it lightly, but…

  • Benjamin Scarbro

    If both of you were doctors and I went to get a check up for this weird growth I have, I’d want you to be straightforward about why I shouldn’t trust him with my diagnosis based on the evidence, and ya know, facts. Is this a poor analogy and a logical fallacy? Yes. Do you get my point? Well, hopefully.
    You two are professionals and his article was awful. You manage to correct it and do it without bullying (ultimately what I think you were trying to avoid). Well done.

  • Kyle K

    You wanna chirp the hockey news next? I’ve never seen a group of people hate the caps more. They consistently bash every single key player and they even rated players like Lucic, Krejci, Backes, Yandle, and Mike Smirh over Backstrom!

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    My secret weapon in the war against THN is I don’t read THN.

  • Ash

    If ever one article was as solidly pimp-slapped by another article in all facets of logic, argument, facts, grammar, style, and humor– well, I haven’t seen it done as well as this article did. Bravo.

  • bourciertm

    Peter, et. al,

    Thanks for your response to my article. I posted a response to your comments on my personal blog: http://bourciertm.wordpress.com/2013/08/25/a-response-to-peter-hassett-and-rmnb/

    Facts are, we likely disagree on what Grabo’s impact on the Caps season will be. Nonetheless, hopefully my responses will show you that the article wasn’t written to ruffle anyone’s feathers. I did my research, linked several articles, etc. I didn’t use advanced stats…enough people have done that already. I should come up with the same results, right? I was taking a more direct stab at what Grabo has done in his career. Enjoy :)!

  • https://twitter.com/Haddaweezy Holy_Cal

    I didn’t even know THN existed prior to today, I’m still an avid reader of Whyno and his new gig in the great white north.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    Thanks for the response.

  • seandlax9

    I read what you want to call your “retort”. It was laughable at best. Not only are several of your counterpoints blatantly wrong, you fail to cite any of your refuting claims, and you had this little gem in there in regards to defense, “Grabovski won’t help much here.” completely disregarding, or in the more probable case, not realizing that Grabo is a MASSIVE upgrade to Ribs defensively.

  • seandlax9

    Not to mention that Ribs was the team leader in PIMs in the regular season (I excuse Mr. Hendricks because he will engage in honorable bouts of fisticuffs), and the postseason. While Grabo had less than half the PIMs Ribs had while playing on a team that led the NHL in penalty minutes.

  • Tommy

    When can we make signs announcing the “Great Grabo” is coming to town. Grabo! Grabo! Grabo!

  • Tommy

    I understand he has already signed with our team. But, I can’t pass up a Simpsons reference in real life.

  • bourciertm

    Thanks for your retort.

  • bourciertm

    I clarify in my retort, there is a lot of stuff cited in the original article. This is hockey journalism, not a Master’s thesis, guy. Grabo’s possession numbers could take enough chances away from the opposing team to offset his lack of production on the offensive end. That is possible. His potential better 5v5 play could offset Ribeiro’s high production on the PP. But these are a lot of ifs, a lot of question marks. What we know is in Toronto, in a number of roles, he is a 45 – 50 point scorer and couldn’t get his team to the playoffs. But these ifs could make him a 60-70 point guy and be the missing piece for the Caps, especially add in Oates coaching, etc.

    Sorry, these claims seem absurd to me when you see what he has done in his career….which isn’t much.

  • seandlax9

    Couldn’t get his guys into the playoffs? Last time I checked its a team sport “guy”, and putting up 45-50 points is certainly doing his share. The Leafs had a plethora of problems in the past decade, and Grabo putting up 50+ points certainly wasn’t one of them, you’d think a hockey analyst would know that.

    By the way, last I checked, journalism is the reporting of facts to the public with quotes and cited credited sources to back up your claims and points, but what do I know.

    All those citations in your original article? Not one was towards trying to back up your statistical claims, just links to articles refuting your claim, just one an off the ice incident 3 years ago, and the biting incident, and suddenly, as if by magic, that somehow proves your point.

    Then again, I am talking to a guy who’s trying to argue stats, claims to be an 8 year statician, and then dismisses Corsi numbers because they refute your point. Funny how literally no one seems to agree with your point of view, and how easy it was for Mr Hassett to wipe himself with your article.

  • Matt McNeely

    “And the broken clock has now been correct twice today.”

    Priceless.

  • Matt McNeely

    So, you care enough to exhaustively defend yourself on RMNB, but not enough to proofread your own article or to take 5 minutes to properly numerate your defense? I don’t get it. You can’t really ask to be taken seriously when you’re not even concerned about looking like a competent writer.

  • Anon

    “Grabo’s possession numbers could take enough chances away from the
    opposing team to offset his lack of production on the offensive end.”

    First, just want to point out that “lack of production on the offensive end” is misleading. Check out the top 30 scorers for a full season on NHL.com’s stats page. Grabovski’s scoring range is near the bottom of the centers’ list, which makes him a 1/2C. That’s pretty good. He does “lack production” compared to a point per game player, sure, but let’s not pretend that this past season–48 games under a coach that really disliked him, with less ice time total and worse ice time, too–is the new norm.

    Regarding chances: there are easy ways to check this. Look at Behind the Net’s +/- rel (or RATING): it’s the plus-minus per sixty minutes of ice time of the player in question minus his team’s +/- per 60 without the player in question. (So if a team is +1 goals/60 with Player X on-ice, and even without him, Player X’s Rating is +1.00.)

    Grabbo, 08-09 to this season: -0.03, +0.51, +1.49, +0.85, -1.64

    Ribeiro, same period: +0.49, +0.06, +0.12, +0.08, -0.51

    Ribeiro at 5v5 was merely “less bad” (results-wise) than Grabbo. Scroll back a few years and Grabbo has the clear edge, and it’s not even close.

    Ribeiro scores a lot, but he gives a lot of it back defensively. The step back this year for him at 5v5 could be indicative of a bigger problem–he’s at an age where a sharp decline from one year to the next isn’t surprising.

    Grabovski, meanwhile, is a few years younger–I’d bank on his decline in this metric being an abberation instead.

    (Note: I prefer shot-based metrics to goal-based ones, but here, goals and shots paint similar pictures, so I’ll cite goals instead of shots.)

    Ribeiro does score a lot on the power play, but the power play also scored on better than 25% of its shots with him on the ice. That sort of stuff doesn’t happen long-term. Plus, how much of a drop off is it to replace Ribeiro with a solid playmaker like Erat or Perreault? How much of the credit for Ribeiro’s production do you give to Ovechkin (the guy on the receiving end of a lot of those passes on the power play) ?

    “What we know is in Toronto, in a number of roles, he is a 45 – 50 point scorer and couldn’t get his team to the playoffs.”

    Let’s assume that Kessel’s center is Toronto’s 1C. Are we actually going to blame the Leafs’ 2C–whose production was in line with a good 2C’s production for three years–for their missing the playoffs year after year?

    Grabovski isn’t a replacement for what Ribeiro actually did last season. But Ribeiro himself I highly doubt would have been able to replicate that success, too…or even come close. The ’13 season was a big overperformance on Ribeiro’s part. (Performance and actual caliber of play don’t always match up.)

    I’m confident this roster has a better chance of going deep into the playoffs than the roster on May 1, 2013. And that’s the bottom line.

  • Ash

    More of a brutally accurate smackdown than retort, but, you know, semantics.

  • Ryan

    Great article, can tell you did your research. It would have been nice if Mr.Bourcier had taken the time to do the same.

  • Capsrus

    Great piece. I know there was a lot to cover, but one point from Bourcier’s post that you did not mention was his claim that Ovie is “…not known as a great locker room presence.” I’m just an in-the-tank Caps fan, but what is your take on that? Put the Hunter days aside (although you could argue otherwise), I see nothing but engagement, encouragement and energy from Ovie when it comes to his ‘mates. Even the guys who leave have nothing but positive things to say about him. Are my glasses too red colored?

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    Who am I to say?

    My whole thing is– I don’t know if it’s a great locker room or a bad one. People might grab onto a story like Matt Bradley trashing Alex Semin, but for everyone one of those there’s Brooks Laich saying it’s a great vibe.

    It’s a very information-light thing– trying to ascertain the mood of a room we’ve never been in.

    (Okay, I’ve been in the room, but not when they’re having meetings and stuff.)

  • Red

    Usually this type of blatant trolling will predictably trigger needless bickering and flaming. Peter has handled this meaningless provocation with the poise and class which could only be attributed to the most interesting site in the world. You guys have solidified me as a fan. I’m in for the long haul, cap space permitting. I don’t always read hockey blogs, but when I do, I prefer RMNB.

  • Edanger6

    “This is hockey journalism, not a Master’s thesis, guy.”

    I’d go with neither.

  • JenniferH

    I’m going to go off on a tangent here but it’s on point. There is a serious problem in journalism today. And I use the term journalism very loosely. There is so little fact-checking when writing articles on so many different subjects, and so little calling out on that lack of fact-checking. “Journalists” write articles without being fact-checked, they get rushed through and posted without being fact-checked, they get circulated and reposted, linked elsewhere without being fact-checked and it becomes gospel and fact by millions who read these articles, assuming it’s been fact-checked.

    So when someone, like you, actually knows their stuff, does the fact-checking and calls out these so-called “journalists” it is refreshing, it is rewarding and if you do it with a bit of tongue-in-cheek, more power to you. Trust me, my friend, we are laughing along with you… and at them.

  • JenniferH

    RMNB is the best blog ever. I wish this group of people were fans of everything I was a fan of us and had a separate blog for everything I’m interested in because then I would have a favorite, awesome blog for everything I’m interested in because I’ve never seen another site do mix reporting/fandom so dang well!

  • JenniferH

    Not THN, but this made me wonder… why do you guys dislike The Bleacher Report so much?

  • Guest
  • Rhino40

    Somebody buy Peter a case of his Perfect Beer.

    “At the end of the day, even with the Grabovski signing, the Caps offseason has been a net loss.”

    How like a troll to refer to a season which has yet to begin…in the past tense.

    What is this “The Hockey Writers”, anyway? Some kind of poor-man’s bleacher report? meh.

    Bottom line: Bourcier trolled so hard he for got his geography and can’t grasp the concept that Past Performance Is No Guarantee Of Future Returns…only one word to describe that, my friends…

  • Anon

    Sensationalistic headlines and most of the commentary (at least, for hockey) isn’t particularly good. There are some other issues, too, but those stand out right away.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    Ha.

    I actually don’t like wit beers!

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    <3

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    What Anon said, but also they make their money (a lot of money) on the backs of amateur writers working for free.

  • JenniferH

    Ah, thanks for the answer.

  • JenniferH

    OK, I did not know that.

  • Rhino40

    I considered that possibility…still, when I spotted it in the grocery store, I couldn’t resist the potential for its applications as a compliment, paid to your razor sharp intellect and a sense of humor that I most definitely “get”

  • Steve Seagle

    I looked at the site to find a contact to email this douche and let him know how horrible of a writer he is. But no info found… and USA Today owns this garbage.