June 22, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on stage at the 2012 NHL Draft at CONSOL Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE
My final thoughts from time spent at the Consol Center:
"Insiders" - This was a terrible draft for self-declared "insiders". None of them hit on any of their hundreds of predictions, especially the Oilers "insiders". It was fun to read RTs on Twitter declaring the Oilers and Jackets deep in negotiations, then look down to the draft floor and see all of the significant management figures from both sides sitting back-to-back, no conversations, no talks, just sort of staring at the draft board. Or that the Flyers and Jackets were actively talking, yet neither side had visited the other at any point.
Even the extremely well-known, heavily-followed "insiders" were obviously just making things up: those talking about the Leafs and Jackets, the Oilers and anyone, the Candiens and anyone. Every time they hit Twitter with breaking news, a live view of the draft floor contradicted them. It's a shame the NHL Network didn't have a rumor cam that just panned the floor demolishing every tweeted rumor.
Bob McKenzie - It was pretty amazing to watch McKenzie work the floor prior to the draft. He walked from table to table, talking to about 10-12 teams, each for five or ten minutes. Insider news from those 10 or 12 teams eventually hit the broadcast or his Twitter account and it was pretty obvious as to where the information came from.
It's odd that these guys are so willing to talk and openly give McKenzie their secrets and do so right in front of each other on the draft floor.
Penguins Fans - Every time the Flyers were announced over the PA, Pens fans launched into a loud and lasting chorus of boos, drowning out the team's announcement, all the way through round seven. There were some boos for the Rangers and Caps, but they weren't going to let anyone leaning into the microphone at the Philadelphia table have a voice, and it was funny every time.
Craig Button - Button's draft rankings took some abuse, but after seeing the top 60 break the way it did, it's clear that Button is plugged into some specific teams. Run through his draft rankings and compare them to the first two rounds and it's readily apparent that he knew the leanings of about a half-dozen teams.
Player Size - I stand 6' even and at the draft I was wearing shoes with a normal sole, no boot or dress heel like on an oxford. Players listed at 6'1" stood next to me and I looked down at them. Players listed at 6' were 2-3 inches shorter than me. Players listed at 190 were swimming in their suits.
This is obviously par for the course in sports - as a sidebar, I know an ex-NCAA goalie who was listed at 170, but was 140 after a heavy meal - but it's strange that it's just the way things are and no one talks about it.
Feelings & Emotions - Though I wanted to ask hockey questions, it was rather frustrating to participate in the draft scrums because I was competing with variants of same two questions in every scrum. "Describe your feelings about being drafted," which isn't even a question, and "Talk about the emotions of being drafted," again, another non-question. I don't know if this is part of the curriculum in journalism and broadcast journalism school, but these question/statements are garbage.
These quasi-questions are now a standard part of every sports interview, but it has to stop. They are meaningless throwaways meant to convey some fake emotional or personal storyline to the reader or viewer and it doesn't work. If a journalist wants to ask a personal question, make it count. Don't throw out a topic of discussion hoping the subject knocks it out of the park. It never worked and it's never going to work. Sound bite sports writing or broadcasting's infiltration of traditional media is one of a myriad of reasons non-traditional media sources have become so popular.
Consumers of sports journalism need to demand meaningful and insightful questions, not campy dreck. Every sports writer or broadcaster should watch "Feherty" on The Golf Channel to gain an appreciation for high-quality personal questions aimed at sports figures.
Mikhail Grigorenko - This didn't come from the weekend, rather from a quick conversation with a Q scout yesterday. We talked about Grigorenko's tumble down the draft and the hows and whys behind it. There were plenty of nagging issues with Grigorenko, so I put the scout to the test. What scared you off? Was it the rumors about him being 20, rather than 18? No. Was it off-ice issues? No. Was it the KHL scare? No. Was it his playoff performance? No. Was it work ethic? No.
In the end it was all of the above. Teams might not have dinged him for work ethic, but the whispers about his age combined with the KHL scare scared them off. Others might not have been worried about the KHL thing, but off-ice issues and work ethic sent him down the board. In the end "...I know we weren't the only team who didn't want him at all."
Work ethic and playoff performance can be explained away by mono and he was insistent that the KHL wasn't an option, like many other Russian players. We're left with rumors about his age and his off-ice behavior, both of which should've been easy to verify one way or the other. If any GM didn't do his due diligence, but was still scared off by this, if I were an owner I'd want to understand why the GM felt he should stay in his current role with my team.
Silly Leafs Fans - After the draft was over, a couple of hundred fans milled about outside of the Trib Media entrance to the Consol Center, waiting for just-drafted players to emerge in order to pester them for autographs. As one player emerged from the door just behind me, a group of three Leafs fans, grown men all, decked out in retro sweaters began calling out "P.K.! P.K.! Over here! Here!" at him, practically begging for P.K., the hated defenseman from their hated rivals, to love them and sign their pieces of whatever it was they were holding. From behind a pair of Aviators, Malcolm Subban said "I'm not P.K." The Leafs fans turned away, but then it hit them. "Malcolm?!" Subban nodded at them. They rushed up to him to get an autograph anyway.