Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Fix the NHL: Better Awards, Better Presentations

Gary Bettman Presentation of Lord Stanley's Cup

Glass puck
Who doesn't love this guy? Oh, wait, really? Everyone?
Brendan: Yes yes yes yes yes yes and more yes. The only time I want to be offered the opportunity to vociferously boo Gary Bettman is at the NHL Draft, which I did heartily along with a score of fellow Devils fans at this year’s edition in Newark. This is obviously related to the “Bettman can’t be fired” rule, but as I mentioned earlier, I appreciate that this improvement for his current behavior was suggested instead. This is a slam dunk for everyone except for Bettman’s Massive Ego, which is so large that it has its own starring role in this tragic play. He gets booed literally every single year without fail, and the only reason he continues is because of the aforementioned omnipresent Massive Ego. Nobody enjoys this, please stop.

The Cup presentation is supposed to be about the “most celebrated trophy in all of sports” (for whatever marketing cache that’s worth), and the team that slogged through 82 games and a grueling, fire-wagon postseason to claim it. Let’s strip out the distractions and keep it that way.

Patrick: Who presents the trophy in other major sports? I've always thought the commissioner handed it to the coach, who gave a short speech thanking his wife and his team, who then handed it to the MVP who gave a short speech thanking his wife and his team. The celebration should be about the trophy and its new short-term owners, not management. I'm okay with Bettman handing it over and then just being a bystander in the celebration. Look at it this way: if Bettman was a decent commissioner and a well-liked guy, would you hate seeing him out there? This rule change reeks of "we can't fire him, but let's strip away all of his duties and PR" and seems directed at Bettman himself. Reduce the commissioner's role to being the initial presenter like it is in every other sport.

Is this easily instituted at lower levels? Bettman isn't showing up to rec rink time in Laurel, MD to hand out participation awards, so I feel like this one is pretty safely a yes.


The Conn Smyth Award

Brendan: While we’re at it, can we take a look at the Conn Smyth Award (Playoff MVP) voting? Ever since I’ve been watching hockey I can’t help but think they’ve gotten it wrong more often than not. I would love to take as much subjectivity out of individual player awards as possible (see: MVP for Miguel Cabrera over Mike Trout) but I recognize that is an unrealistic expectation until “get off my lawn” writers like Mitch Albom are worm food.

Patrick: Realistically, how else would you pick a winner? Having positions of varying intrinsic value automatically makes this one difficult. It's nearly impossible to isolate one person's contribution to his team like you can in baseball. I feel like playoff/championship MVP awards go to the QB/best player on the basketball team regardless of playoff performance unless someone has a miraculous, team-altering series. Vote-based awards are dumb anyway; they just make writers feel important (please give me an MVP vote!). The real awards are the ones online bloggers give out for highest slugging percentage and stuff like that, and that's really just a list of the guys with the best advanced stats and ends up a boring foregone conclusion late in the season. I'd like to see better awards processes, but I don't know if there are any. And heated MVP debates can be fun!

Is this easily instituted at lower levels? As long as everyone gets a game puck at some point during the season.

We AGREE, ish. But if you can tell me a better way to award the Conn Smyth or any other MVP award, I'd probably be for it.

Observational Studies co-founders Brendan Porto and Patrick Dougherty are debating the merits of the most popular ideas proposed to improve the NHL. The rules for improvements are laid out here. Send us your own ideas to fix the NHL and we'll share our commentary on a new post.

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