The NHL offseason has nearly come and gone. The draft has taken place, and most UFAs and RFAs have either re-signed, found a new place to play or are scheduled for an arbitration hearing. That doesn’t leave much to write about and also means it’s time for journalists to start compiling baseless and unorthodox rankings to either confirm bias or stir the pot. Instead, I’d like them to get back to the art of storytelling and away from imposing their opinion on hockey fans. How about a little less Skip Bayless and a little more Ken Dryden?
5. NHLPA Already Has a Players Poll
The players already make these lists for us. You know, the guys who lace ‘em up and actually face each other. I don’t care how many years you’ve watched hockey, if you aren’t on the ice, you probably don’t know the extent of a player’s ability or potential.
The players have spoken and the #NHLPAPlayerPoll is back! Often imitated but never duplicated, we surveyed 500+ NHL players on 20+ hockey-related questions covering skills, arenas, teams and a few other fun topics in between.— NHLPA (@NHLPA) March 20, 2019
The poll is LIVE ➡ https://t.co/NM2KqFuMr2 pic.twitter.com/GERt7CVGly
4. These Lists Aren’t Useful or Entertaining
What’s entertaining about reading someone else’s rankings based on things they can’t control or possibly predict? I’m supposed to care how Joe Blow ranks a league of 18- to 36-year-old hockey players? Most of which have more talent in their non-dominant hand than journalists have in their whole body. No thanks.
If these top whatever lists were accurate and useful, GMs would pay attention to them. I assure you they don’t. The only thing they are useful for is bringing traffic to a website that otherwise wouldn’t be getting it.
3. These Lists Are Misleading
Take Corey Pronman of The Athletic’s “Top 155 NHL players under 23” for instance. He has players who haven’t even suited up for an NHL game ranked higher than the likes of Quinn Hughes and Cale Makar.
I don’t have to explain how ridiculous it is to rank Quinton Byfield ahead of the 2019-20 Calder Trophy winner and runner up.
2. We Deserve to Learn More About Players and Less About Writers
There are so many little things that make a player who they are. Within each of those little things there is a story. There are instances that lead to characteristics. I don’t want to know how many goals a player scored in the OHL, I want to know what the player has gone through; what their family is like. I want to learn something I can’t learn from CapFriendly.com or a prospect site.
These little things and stories are what make people fall in love with the game and its players—not just in the NHL, but in amateur leagues as well. We can’t lose sight of that.
1. Clickbait Killed the Storyteller
There are still some fantastic storytellers in the industry. However, they are becoming more and more rare. All folks need now is a headline to retweet and refute, completely leaving behind the story itself. Some don’t even read the article before having an opinion.
On top of that, clickbait and disingenuous contrarianism have completely tarnished the sanctity of a headline. These days when we see a headline, we click the link to see if it’s an accurate statement or some sort of fabrication. I prefer headlines derived from genuinely exciting facts. I don’t think coaxing people into reading regardless of or despite the truth is a good basis for coming up with a headline.
I get being misleading in a headline for the sake of humor, but it’s time for journalists to pick a lane. You are either opinionated or a journalist. There’s no in between.
I recall what Ryan Clark of The Athletic told me over the phone back in April amidst the NHL’s shutdown and awakening to social justice reform. I asked him if it was challenging to write about hockey with more pressing issues at hand. His response?
”At the end of the day, it’s not about you as a reporter or what your opinions might be. You don’t have opinions. Here’s a story, here are different sides of the story, try to present all the information possible and let whoever’s reading make their determination.”
I get that Mile High Hockey makes its own lists, and I know that a top 5 list about how silly top 5 lists are is as contrarian as it gets. However, I wouldn’t call myself a journalist. Not yet. I’m still just an extremely passionate fan with the creative capacity and free time to articulate my bias in a fun and appropriate way—a fan that wants more from hockey journalism than worthless rankings.
Fans don’t have insider access. Most journalists do. They get to watch games in the press box among NHL GMs, coaches and scouts. They get face-to-face interaction with all the characters hockey has to offer. Because of this, it’s on journalists to bring us that insight and character rather than their opinion.