Thursday, March 01, 2007

Character versus Competencies

I'm still somewhat facinated by the whole Ryan Smyth fiasco that has been going on in the hockey world since the star winger was dealt by his beloved Oilers to hockey Siberia in Long Island.

It got me thinking today to a topic that I've been pondering quite a bit in the past months and I'm kind of shocked at the parallels that the Smyth situation has to the debate that's been going on in my head for weeks.

What's more important- character or competencies? Is who you are more important than what you can do?

At the college I work for we are trying to teach our students how to "run the bases" in the right way if you will (I know that's a baseball analogy in a hockey-related blog but bear with me). In our opinion, character is paramount- it's first base- in becoming a person who can have significant influence and impact in this world.

That runs pretty counter cultural to our world today that says, "It's not important who you are, all that matters is what you can do." If you want to dispute me on that then just look at probably the majority of pro athletes, Hollywood celebs or famous politicians (Bill Clinton anyone) and you tell me if character is heavily valued in today's day and age.

We have former President's lying under oath about having an extra-marital affair and yet he's now revered as one of the most popular President's ever. We have pro athletes getting into brawls at strip clubs, producing CD's with vulgar lyrics and messages, portraying lifestyles that say "It's all about me". We have Hollywood celebs who get married and then divorced simply because it's good publicity and now, most shockingly of all, the latest trend seems to be turning towards parenthood. We have a whole slew of celebrity children who will be raised by nanny's and given every luxury in the world- save for the love and devotion of their parents. Kids have become fashion accessories. Are you mental?

And yet we celebrate them. And I say we because I'm just as guilty as anyone else. I'll gladly overlook the indiscretions of a pro athlete in favor of a few highlight goals, dunks or homeruns. I'll gladly overlook the immoral behaviour of a Hollywood movie star in exchange for a few laughs on the big screen.

I look back on the Ryan Smyth situation and I think, once again results have won out over character. The Edmonton Oilers had to make a decision about whether Ryan Smyth was worth the money he and his agent were asking for. I'm sure Kevin Lowe was very dilligent in looking at things like Ryan's career stats and how they compared to other players making similar money, and I'm sure he also looked at how successful the team had been with him. No Stanley Cups, no scoring titles for Ryan, no real statistical, results-focussed materials to compel Lowe to sign him for as much as they were asking. And so he dealt him.

Never mind the fact that Ryan Smyth is obviously one of the best character guys of this, and probably any, hockey generation. In this day and age it's all about what can you do for me and character takes a back seat. Or in this case, character gets kicked to the first flight to Long Island.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

NHL Trade deadline day

Ryan Smyth to the Oilers for two B-level (at best) prospects and a (what would appear to be) useless first-round pick in a shallow draft.

Obviously I'm not an NHL General Manager (or anywhere close to resembling one) but to my untrained eye the biggest trade of today's NHL trade deadline day makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. 5 or 6 years ago in the pre-salary cap days of the NHL I could look at this and chalk it up to a necessary evil in an unbalanced system. But wasn't the new CBA supposed to allow small-market teams like Edmonton to keep their marquee players?

Ryan Smyth is the most popular Oiler since the days of Messier and Gretzky. His popularity goes beyond just Oiler fans. He embodies the type of player that every Canadian hockey fan can easily find themselves rooting for.

He's the face of the Oilers; an excellent spokesman for the team and the league as a whole; he's a blue-collar worker who should have been the team's captain for the past couple years. He embodies everything that is good about hockey in Canada.

Sure he was going to command a high price with this next (and probably his last) contract but Smyth is one of the few players in the league who I would say is worth every penny (I'd put him in a group with the likes of Sidney Crosby, Martin Brodeur, Jarome Iginla, and Scott Niedermyer).

So instead of ponying up and giving Ryan what he deserves, Kevin Lowe ships him off to NHL Siberia where he'll get to suit up with the New York Islanders for the last month of the season. Certainly this gives the Islanders a significant boost towards the postseason but if I'm any NHL free agent looking at the situation in Edmonton I'm saying to myself there's no way I'm going to Edmonton if that's how they treat their franchise players.

Say what you want about this being purely a business decision. My take is that if this was just a business decision than surely there had to be better offers out there than what Kevin Lowe accepted from the Isles.

I feel bad for Smyth. If he was going to get traded then this is a player who deserved to go to a market that will truly appreciate his workmanlike effort. Instead he'll get to play in front of what, 25-30 people each night in Long Island (20 of which are probably paid by Charles Wang to come in and fill some seats). He should be headed to Detroit, or Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Pittsburgh or a dozen other teams that would give him a better than decent shot at doing something special.

I feel bad for the faithful fans in Edmonton as well. They proved last year that they are some of the best fans in the game and they deserve more than Robert Nielsen, Ryan O'Marra and a first-round pick. This is a sad day for Oilers fans. At least the Gretzky trade brought some decent players back in return.

So now the face of your organization is who? Ales Hemsky? Jarret Stoll? Raffi Torres?

This is a terrible trade for the Oilers and a terrible trade for hockey in general.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Attention CBC and TSN

Attention to whomever is in charge of commercial air time for the CBC and TSN. When you show Hockey Night in Canada (on CBC) and when you show NHL games of the week (or any Raptors games, Blue Jays games, etc.- on TSN) during prime time hours I think it's safe for you to assume that there may be many young, impressionable kids tuning in to these great sporting events. I can tell you that my four-year-old sports fanatic is certainly one who lives for your sports broadcasting.

I am telling you this because I am quickly growing tired of the ridiculous commercials that you show during early-hour broadcasts of NHL games. Whenever there is a pause in play I have to be ready with the remote just in case some genius decides to play yet another commercial for the new DVD release of SAW 3, or a commercial for the new "Hannibal Rising" movie, or "The Hitcher" or any of the other 3,000 ridiculous over the top horror movies who's commercials depict images that no person, especially a four-year-old child, needs to see.

Since when did these types of commercials become appropriate for prime time, or even day time viewing (and yes, I have seen them during the day)? In my mind they shouldn't be shown at all. However, if you have to lower your standards for a few precious advertising dollars then I think families all across this country would appreciate it if you could leave these gong-show ads off the air until late at night when little kids aren't likely to be watching.

If my son sees a grotesque commercial at 11pm that's my fault for letting him stay up that late. If he sees it at 6pm then I think it's time you start sending one of your producers to people's houses to explain to the littel kids all across the country that the scary man with the knife was a really a nice guy and the red stuff all over him was jam from a jelly sandwich he just made.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

What does $126 million dollars get you in the year 2007?

Apparently it can either get you a gold-glove centerfielder entering the prime of his career (the Blue Jays' Vernon Wells) or a former Cy Young winning pitcher entering the prime of his career (the Giants signing of Barry Zito).

The inmates are running the asylum in Major League baseball and they've got big fat wads of cash to encourage their lunacy.

I read somewhere the other day that the average salary in MLB is reaching $3 million. There are a lot of below-average ball players making above-average money. I can tell you this, my four-year-old and I will be spending a lot of time in the old backyard this summer working on our fundamentals. Where else can mediocrity earn you $55 million dollars over 5 years (as was the case with very average pitcher Gil Meche).

As for the Vernon Wells and, to a lesser extent, the Zito signings, I actually don't have a problem with them. I applaud the Blue Jays desire to compete with the big budgets of their intra-division rivals in New York and Boston. They've realized that in the AL East you cannot compete on a $75 million dollar budget (how sad is that?). The Wells signing sends a strong message to the rest of the league and, perhaps more importantly, to the fairweather Blue Jays fans all over Canada, that the Jays intend to make a run to return to the glory days of the late-8's and early-90's. For this Blue Jays fan I'm all for them doing that if they spend the money wisely. In my mind, Vernon Wells is a no-brainer. Good on JP and Ted Rogers for seeing that as well and getting this future MVP locked up for the rest of his prime production years. The Yankees can have him when he's 40.

As for Zito, pitching always wins in the NL and Zito was by far the best available pitcher on the FA market. Say what you want about the potential of Daisuke Matsuzaka but the reality is that he has not survived a major league season yet and, until he proves himself on the grandest stage of all, there's no way of knowing if he's the next Ichiro Suzuki (albeit he's a pitcher not a hitter) or the next Kaz Matsui (a bust of Godzillian proportions).

The NL West has some outstanding pitchers there now with Zito, Greg Maddux, Jason Schmidt, Brandon Webb, Jake Peavy, and young Canadian stud Jeff Francis. If you like pitching matchups that division should provide some beauties this summer.

I'm also fairly optimistic about what's been going on in Cubsland this winter. As a long-suffering Cubs fan I've seen a few off-seasons like this one where there were lots of big-time acquisitions but then little substance when it counted the most.

Here's to hoping that Alfonso Soriano isn't the next Adrian Beltre. Here's to hoping that Ted Lilly is actually a $10 million/yr type of pitcher (that should be equivalent to 17-20 wins I would say). Here's to hoping that Lou Piniella is able to light a fire in the bellies of a Cubs team that has looked fairly disenfranchised during the past couple years under laid back Dusty Baker. Overall here's to hoping that the Cubs get a chance to exorcise the Steve Bartman demons and finally earn a chance to go to the big dance.

My dream World Series matchup for the 2007 season? Cleveland or Toronto for the AL against either Chicago or San Diego from the NL. Probably terrible for TV ratings but I at least know that my house would be tuned in for every game.

Only a few more weeks before spring training begins!

You stay classy San Diego . . .

The Benallick family has returned from our Christmas getaway to sunny San Diego. After 6600 km's in the van, 5 states travelled through (Montana, Idaho, Utah, Arizona and California) and $200 in stolen American money (you'll have to ask my dear wife about that one) we have wrapped up our great California adventure with many great experiences shared.

- Disneyland on December 23rd was a lot of fun. Sure there was probably a quarter of a million people there that day but our kids had an absolute blast. The highlight of the day was the Christmas parade during the evening. We got great seats on the sidewalk right along the parade route so Carter and Jenna could see everything up close and personal. Jenna was in her little Princess dress and pretty much stood and waved to all the Disney characters as they walked by. It was by far the best parade I have ever seen and seeing the huge smiles on my kids faces was the highlight of the trip.
- touring Petco Park was another highlight. As much as my kids smiled like crazy people at Disneyland, their Dad was doing the same at my own version of Disneyland:). What a beautiful ballpark. If you want to know what my definition of heaven on earth is it's a major league ballpark. The tour guide was awesome. If you ever go and tour Petco make sure you ask if Don is doing the tours on that day. He showed us the visitor's clubhouse (which we were told hardly ever is allowed) so that was cool but stepping on to the field and sitting in the dugout was really the best part of the tour. Oh how I wish I had played baseball growing up. Oh well, maybe I'll get to live out that dream through my sons:). They can be the next version of the Giles brothers.

Anyways, there were lots of good times had but we're glad to be home in Saskatchewan (bet you never thought you'd hear someone say that in your lifetime).

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Weighing in on the MVP debate

Canada has their third major sport MVP in a row. First we get to celebrate the great accomplishments of Steve Nash and his back-to-back NBA MVP awards. Then it's Joe Thornton and his Hart trophy for NHL MVP. Now Canada gets to embrace yet another major sport MVP in the form of BC's Justin Morneau, he the slugging first basemen for the Minnesota Twins.

While Thornton's awarding of the NHL's top award was met with very little debate, the same can certainly not be said about either of Nash's MVP awards nor Morneau's recent AL MVP award.

The highly upset, and perhaps a tad dillusional, media types in New York are all crying conspiracy as their beloved, Derek Jeter, finished a close second to Morneau in yesterday's MVP voting.

I have to say, I'm really on the fence on this one.

On the one hand I love to see Canada receive it's second MLB MVP award- Larry Walker was the first Canuck to do so. It's a great testimony to the fact that Canada does have something to offer a sport otherwise dominated by US and South American-born players.

On the other hand I am a big time Derek Jeter fan. If there's any reason to cheer for the Yankees it's because any pure baseball fan has to at least respect what Jeter brings to the table. Many people say he's overrated because he's always been surrounded by other great players. That may not be an unrealistic observation but, to me, the guy just breeds winning. He makes other players around him better and, for a sport as individualistic as baseball, that's no easy task.

If ever there was cause for a co-MVP award this may have been the year. I certainly would agree with voters if they had ended up split down the middle on who was more worthy of the award. Both guys deserve the honor for very different reasons.

Morneau's season was phenomenal. Especially when you hold it up to his performance from the year prior. Without him in the middle of their lineup the Twins do not make the playoffs. That to me is MVP worthy.

Jeter's season was also phenomenal. While he didn't have the power numbers that seem to dominate the evaluation of whether someone is truly MVP worthy, he came as close to being a five-tool threat as you could get this year. High average, gets on base a ton, steals bases, scores a ton of runs. hits the occasional home run, comes up with clutch hits, and drives in nearly 100 runs hitting at the top of the order. On top of that he plays the most difficult position on the field and does it better than most other shortstops in either league.

Jeter also plays under a much heavier spotlight and you can't rule out the difficulties of having to focus on just playing baseball when you have so much pressure riding on you each and every day. He carried that Yankees team throughout all the turmoil surrounding A-Rod.

Morneau was able to live in relative obscurity with relatively no pressure to have anything more than an average season. If Morneau went through an 0-30 slump generally no one would notice. If Jeter went through an 0-30 slump you can bet everyone would be taking notice. Two completely different worlds to live in that have to be taken into account when evaluating the total MVP package.

Anyways, I won't say the voters got it right but I won't say they got it wrong either. I think they could've gone either direction and it would have been a fine decision. I will say though that had they gone with Jeter it would have created much less debate so perhaps that in itself says who really should have won it. Or maybe it just says that New York sportswriters tend to have big mouths.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Some random thoughts on a snowy Monday . . .

That's right, I said "snowy" Monday. It's snowing here in SK today.

Anyways, I just finished reading a story on about Canucks GM Dave Nonis' recent criticism's of the NHL. In particular the chubby-faced one was bashing the NHL's current schedule as well as the new set-up of the CBA that allows for players to become free-agents after seven years in the league.

I have to say I agree with the general sentiment that the NHL's current scheduling system is severly flawed. As a Red Wings fan I know it gives us a significant advantage to have to play the likes of Columbus, Chicago and St.Louis eight teams each throughout the season. That's as close to a guaranteed 48 points as you can get from 24 games. That means the wings only have to amass MAYBE 40-50 more points in their other 58 games in the season in order to make the playoffs. That's a lot of night's off if you ask me. Anyways, I think it's best for the fans in the west to get to see the likes of Crosby, Ovechkin and Jagr a couple times a year just like it's best for the fans out east to get to see the Thornton's, Iginla's and Hemsky's on a more frequent basis.

The NHL talks about wanting to use their marquee players to bring more exposure to the game well they'd be better off by exposing those marquee players to a broader range of people groups throughout the regular season would they not?

Anyways, the point I want to focus on was part two of Nonis' rant, and that's the issue of when players can become free agents. Nonis particularly mentioned the fact that Sidney Crosby will be an unrestricted FA when he's 25, just when he's coming into his so-called prime. Nonis' complaint was that the Penguins organization will have spent seven years of development funds on Crosby and could stand to lose him just when he's supposed to be at his best. How is that fair to the Penguins he asks? The other part of his rant was that this new system would lead to constant player movement and provide teams with the opportunity to turn the ship around quicker than they could have in the old system.

To those complaints I say "Ya, and that's a bad thing because?" I really don't see what the problem with either of those things is.

In the case of players becoming free agents at a younger age I say that's a good thing. It puts the honus on the organizations to make sure that they're constantly looking to build a winner and not just simply taking advantage of having marquee players to fill seats without actually looking to provide that marquee player with an opportunity to compete for the Cup year after year. If Pittsburgh can compete on a yearly basis and show's Crosby they are committed to doing so then why wouldn't he want to stick around and win as many cups as he can with that team?

To me Nonis sounds like he's already starting to lay the groundwork for making excuses when he starts losing his marquee players in the next few years. It's not his fault, it's the leagues fault for introducing a system that allows younger players the opportunity to move to a better situation. Sorry Dave, shop your crazy somewhere else.

It's instant accountability to GM's and owners throughout the league to ensure that each franchise is run in such a way that you'd be crazy if you ever wanted to leave that organization. If you have a league where you have 30 teams pulling out all the stops to recruit and retain players then you're going to have a league that will succeed.

As a fan of the game I love the fact that there's tons of player movement both during the season and during the off-season. Sure there's a part of me that loves to see guys like Steve Yzerman who play for one team their entire career but if every player did that then it wouldn't be all that special. One Steve Yzerman for every 100 Anson Carter's is alright by me.

I want to know that when my Wings lose Yzerman to retirement and Shanahan to free agency that it won't be 5 or 6 years before they're respectable again. Isn't that great news for the poor and suffering fans in Leaf's nation who've waited 157 years for their team to return to respectability?

When it all comes down to it the last thing the NHL needs is fledgling GM's with very little (if any) notariety speaking out publicly about their distaste for the NHL's guiding principles and practices. Let's face it, Dave Nonis is no Brian Burke or Lou Lamoriello. He's not even a JFJ at this point.

You have beefs, fine, feel free to air them behind closed doors. But for the foreseeable future all members of the NHL- players, management, league officials, etc.- should be exhibiting a united front in the face of the public if they want to avoid falling further into obscurity and spending the rest of their lives doing a real job.

If there's one thing I'm positive about, it's that the negativity has got to stop.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Before I leave for the weekend . . .

A few updates to pass along . . .

First off, our littlest man had his first real giggle yesterday. Unfortunately I wasn't there to witness it but Karlene certainly go to experience it in all it's toothless-grin glory. I did get to hear him giggle later on last night and I have to say I don't know if there's a better sound in the world than hearing your child laugh for the first time. I look forward to many more belly laughs with my little man in the years to come.

Tiigers/Cardinals in the World Series. First of all, huh? Tigers/Cardinals? If anyone predicted that they should be crowned as "Genius of the World". I was really hoping to see the Mets make it through but you've certainly got to give the Red Birds credit. They were the worst team going into the playoffs by far but have turned it around in a big way.

Who are the people loving this World Series the most? All free-agent-to-be pitchers in the baseball. Specifically, I would think, Barry Zito. The Tiger's and the Cards have proven once again that pitching wins in the post-season. The Yanks and Mets had two of the best offensive lineups in baseball but mediocre (at best) pitching and that is why they're cleaning out their lockers and missing out on the chance to play on the worlds greatest stage.

BTW, if you didn't see the catch by Mets leftfielder Endy Chavez in the sixth inning of last night's game go to and check it out. It's not quite as good as Gary Matthews Jr.'s from the regular season but, as far as big time catches at big time moments, it's probably one of the best in the history of the great game.