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Screen Shots: Hockey Media Brouhaha and Anaheim's Struggles

It’s late in the workweek, and that means it’s time for a Screen Shots column from Adam Proteau. This week, Adam looks at the week it was in Edmonton and what's happening with the Anaheim Ducks.
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It’s late in the workweek, and that means it’s time for a Screen Shots column, wherein we take a brief look at a few newsworthy topics. Let’s get right to it.

– The hockey world was abuzz earlier this week after veteran Edmonton journalist Jim Matheson and Oilers superstar Leon Draisaitl got into a heated back-and-forth during a media availability. While it’s tempting/easy to take the “both sides are equally to blame” angle, the truth is that NHL players don’t need journalists to do their jobs well, and all things considered, reporters do need some sort of input to do their jobs well.

Don’t get me wrong - I don’t think journalists should depend on players to effectively cover the game. As I’ve said to young writers all the time, you should be at the rink prepared to write a story that doesn’t require a cliche to be complete. Media need not be beholden to players. Journalistic independence applies here, and just as we expect players not to roll their eyes at lame-o questions, we also should expect journalists not to sneer at lame-o answers.

As others have noted, the long wait between games for the Oilers was a mitigating factor in the tension between Draisaitl and Matheson. That said, under longtime media-player rules, when cameras didn’t zero in on every breath and conversation between NHLers and reporters, some hostile situations never saw the light of day. It was kept between the two arguing parties, and nobody else was ever the wiser.

But just because you didn’t see run-ins happen, that doesn’t mean they didn’t take place. I’m reminded of that when I think of one of my first years covering the Toronto Maple Leafs on a game-in, game-out basis. At the start of the season, star goalie Ed Belfour was in the midst of dealing with Leafs media at his dressing room stall for one of his first interviews in a Toronto uniform; but unbeknownst to Belfour, a print reporter and a TV journalist wound up physically jostling with one another as they tried to get in close to him. Finally - while Belfour was still answering questions - the muscling-in on each other boiled over, with the print reporter asking the TV journalist whether he wanted to “go”.

As this was happening, Belfour’s mouth fell open. When the cameras and microphones clicked off, Befour asked, incredulously, “is it always like this here?” We all know media scrums are where decorum goes to die, and Belfour had played in big markets before Toronto, but the press is almost always a different animal when it comes to Canadian franchises. Hopefully, after the COVID-19 pandemic ends, we can all go back to covering players and teams the way we’ve always covered them, and diffuse arguments like this one before they mushroom into something bigger and nastier. If not, there will probably be more of these types of frigid relations.

– After surprising many people with a strong start to the season, the Anaheim Ducks have regressed to the mean, winning just two times in their past 11 games (2-7-2) and falling to third place in the current Pacific Division standings. However, the discrepancy in games-played between the Ducks and the fifth-place Calgary Flames – a discrepancy that has Calgary holding a whopping seven games in hand on Anaheim, while trailing the Ducks by only five standings points – means that Anaheim has to start turning things around, lest they switch spots with the Flames and wind up missing out on the playoffs.

Part of their recent slump is connected to the COVID-19 virus taking a bite out of starting goalie John Gibson, but in their current four-game losing skid, they’ve been outscored 16–4. It isn’t all about defense; this has to do with the highs and lows that come with having a young core of developing talent. Anaheim has seen some of the highs this year with the evolution of young forwards Trevor Zegras and Troy Terry; now they are understanding how difficult it is to maintain a strong pace as a group. I still am not sure about them making the playoffs this year, and this recent slump as a unit gives me evidence for concern.

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