Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

The Production Line’s Michael Petrella examines Detroit’s hockey media atmosphere

The Production Line's Michael Petrella informed Winging it in Motown's JJ From Kansas, DetroitHockey.net's Clark Rasmussen and myself that TPL was working on an investigative article discussing Detroit's hockey media atmosphere.

In light of the Daniel Cleary signing, Petrella believed that perusing inside-the-market and outside-the-market sources might provide a better understanding of the peramaters under which the Wings' media corps operate.

We agreed to publish whatever Michael wrote as-is and to publish it as closely-timed as possible to reach as many of you as we can.

What follows is presented without comment, and what follows encourages you to reach your own conclusions. As they say in the TV business, the following article does not necessarily reflect those of this blogger or The Malik Report (regarding the first subject in particular, I've had the opposite experience, but, "It is what it is").

My name is Michael Petrella. I’m not a journalist by trade. As you may know, I had -- for several years -- a blog called The Production Line, with a pair of partners. We found ourselves being able to spend less and less time writing on the site, or running the podcast, so we’ve let the domain expire, but I’m very grateful that Clark Rasmussen from DetroitHockey.net has offered to host an archive, so that it lives on.

If you’re familiar with TPL’s work, you’ll know that MOST of it was silly. Perhaps you recall Operation Curly Fries - our efforts working with Fox Sports Detroit and Arby’s to re-ignite the curly fry giveaway when a Red Wing scores a hat trick. We created a phenomenon called the Shirtuzzi. And there were more Whitney Houston-themed posts that I care to count.

But not everything was ridiculous -- some of it was conscientious and thoughtful. Please don’t forget the several H2H gatherings, where we raised over $20,000 for Children’s Hospital of Michigan. Or my trip on Red Bird II, joining the team on a weekend home-and-home with the Nashville Predators. Or the series I did about playing collegiate hockey and the prevalence of painkillers and head injuries, and what it’s like to be a role-player compared to the responsibilities of top-end talent.

Once upon a time, I had a good relationship with the Detroit Red Wings. I had a two hour breakfast with Ken Holland, where he was very open and never once asked me NOT to print something. I had an open invitation to sit in the press box if ever I was around for a game (I no longer live in Michigan, and haven’t since I graduated high school). I was briefly credentialed by the NHL, and had the opportunity to interview Red Wings draft picks in Los Angeles at the 2010 Draft.  I was even approached by the Red Wings to publish some information about a move that didn’t get a lot of positive publicity, though I was asked not to say where the information came from.

But all of that stopped. I can’t explain why -- or what happened. But it was abrupt. I’m pretty sure that it’s based in The Production Line’s increasingly critical tone about Red Wings management and on-ice product. All I know is that one day e-mails stopped being responded to, the press releases stopped coming into my inbox, and things I’d discussed doing with the Red Wings were being done by other people.

***

This summer has been a bad one for Detroit Red Wings fans. It’s become obvious that it’s no longer a destination for free agents, and another July full of panic moves has been underway for a few weeks now. But this piece isn’t about that. At least not directly. It’s about the local media’s handling of the organization -- and vice versa.

When news breaks -- like the Dan Cleary signing, for example -- it’s announced practically verbatim by several writers. Every article is nearly identical, but not identical enough to just be the press release, and is published at precisely the same time. It’s the hockey equivalent of state-run media. It seems as though the only information that’s released by the allegedly-independent media is the information that the organization wants to be released. Is it that anyone that isn’t willing to toe that line -- bloggers, included -- are excluded from access to the team, its players, or members of the front office?

No one seems to have a problem with that. No one has the guts to question it. No one is willing to rock the boat or burn whatever bridges they perceive they may have.

So I figured… I’ve already been blackballed, what do I care? The mainstream media -- or diggers, as they’re passionately known by the Red Wings community -- doesn’t care, presumably because any deviation from the company line will cost them their access. So, instead of doing what they’ve committed to doing -- reporting, asking tough questions, and making good on their journalism degrees -- they do nothing. They refuse to criticize, and happily post the exact same thing that all of the other writers in the area do. Pretty groundbreaking stuff.

I reached out to quite a few people to talk about it. Former members of the Detroit Red Wings media departments, current and former Detroit Red Wings beat writers, as well as national hockey media. Will there be any effect? Probably not. This seems like it’s become accepted practice, but I couldn’t sit by any longer, only reading what the North Korea of NHL teams wants its citizens to believe. But it’s worth a shot -- and if I learned anything from my time running TPL, it was that no one answers if you don’t ask.

And, usually, the only question that needs to be be asked -- and no one ever seems to ask -- is “why?”

***

“[John] Hahn was a vindictive man who enforced codes of conduct through threats, intimidation, revoking of credentials, and out-and-out bullying. That’s not just personal dealings, that comes from hearing more than a few similarly-credentialed outlets vent aloud. Before he departed the organization, Hahn taught Todd Beam everything he knows, including simply ignoring those who the team doesn’t want to deal with, and Kyle Kujawa has been a quick study.”

That quote is from an anonymous source with access to the team.

John Hahn was -- for sixteen years -- the senior director of communications for the Red Wings. He left those responsibilities behind in September of last year, and handed the reigns to Todd Beam, the current director of communications. I found Mr. Beam to be a very kind and engaging man when I traveled with the team in 2011, but he didn’t yet hold that title.

One thing that’s clear is that bloggers still aren’t given access -- though that’s not the aim of this article. We’ll touch on that more in a few minutes. More evidence from our unnamed friend, and some more regarding Hahn:

Hahn established the protocol by which the diggers operate during his nearly 20 years with the team, and the concept of a hierarchy of access is always in evidence. Whether it’s seating assignments, who can speak to whom, whether people have to “check” certain stories or subjects with the team before publishing them, which topics are off-limits, and which diggers get more access based upon their preferred status thanks to “playing well with others,” it feels like you’re dealing with high school cliques, and their strata are all but set in stone.

When I dealt with the team, John Hahn had a league-wide reputation as a dictatorial jerk, and according to people I spoke with who were intimate with the team’s situation, they insisted that the Red Wings’ status as an incredible pain in the real to deal with was one of the reasons we kept reading the outside media so gleefully wish to see the Big Red Machine fail (when it was the Big Red Machine).

Personally, I only encountered Mr. Hahn one time -- when I was credentialed by the League to cover the 2010 Draft in Los Angeles. I didn’t have to interact with him, since I wasn’t representing the team, nor did I need anything from the Red WIngs to do what I was there to do, but he absolutely was an intimidating man that everyone -- and I mean everyone -- steered well clear of.

More confirmation, however, that the team’s principals aren’t the responsible parties for the lack of information coming from the team to the people who care about it most:

Talking about getting straight answers, minus the occasional lies that GMs and coaches tell everyone, I have never had any trouble asking questions to Ken Holland, when he was with the team Jim Nill, nor Ryan Martin, Kris Draper, any of the Griffins coaches, or even Mike Babcock.

When they want to talk to you, they’re incredibly accommodating in terms of their time, energy, and honesty. I’ve never had any indication that they’re somehow bad human beings who want to screw over the media or make their jobs harder than they already are (or vice versa).

The coaches and management obviously have an agenda with their information, they have an agenda as to how they want the team to be perceived, but even Babcock, testosterone included, is the most honest coach I’ve met. He spars with you, but he doesn’t screw around with you for the sake of being a more gigantic jerk than he already can be.

Every experience I’ve had suggests that PR or ownership… were the ones who wanted to make dealing with the team something of a shake-down.

So, the team’s media and public relations are to blame? About that…

***

“It’s a third-world media town. Let’s just say that the organization won’t be winning the Dick Dillman Award anytime soon.”

I asked the above-quoted former DRW media department employee, and everyone else, if the Red Wings threaten -- explicitly or implicitly -- to revoke their access to the team, its players or staff if they refuse to push the party line… and he makes it sound like the writers are more to blame than the team for pushing narratives:

The verbatim articles are a product of the writers, not the team. They’re all chatty, friendly, with few rivalries amongst them. They are very much ‘Super Friends’ on the beat and are given limited crumbs in media availability, or on conference calls, etc. Unlike many [Original Six] markets, Detroit’s media doesn't feast off of rumors, off-ice antics, or running players out of town. It is very much old school… this is the story… these are the quotes… this is the narrative I’ve weaved around it.

You could look at markets like Montreal and Boston, where the media will literally carve up and eat the players alive (Tyler Seguin, Tim Thomas) and say that what happens in Detroit is a good thing (or a bad thing), that’s the way it is.

He even touches on some experiences with the team that I can absolutely confirm -- like the aforementioned Ken Holland conversation. That’s evident when he says that “Babs will say no to a lot of things… Kenny won’t turn down a reporter’s phone call… and it’s the only place where the ‘Super Friends’ do well.”

Perhaps things will change if the Wings fail to make the playoffs and are forced to re-brand a bit… and also, start accepting bloggers into the fraternity:

...Two organizations that do it right were once in the Red Wings position (long playoff streaks and a perceived organizational arrogance about opening the gates and fans flying through). But when the Bruins and Blackhawks became non-factors in their city (2006, 2007)... both had to go back to the PR drawing board. When the Red Wings miss the playoffs for two or three seasons and are playing at 50 percent capacity, the media relations strategy will change.

It is impossible to compare Detroit and the five people who cover the team on a regular basis to the other five Original Six markets. The Bruins have six or seven George Malik equivalents who work for online outlets, just churning out content. It is actually pathetic how high quality their work is compared to those on the Detroit beat… yet they’re doing it for $10 an hour, while [the beat writers are likely making] 60K a year. It makes me violently ill.

Of the Detroit media, only Helene [St. James] could survive in another Original Six market. She’s the alpha female. The Regina George. Everyone follows her lead.

I reached out to Ms. St. James, as well as many others listed below, but as of this writing, she had not returned my inquiries.

Continuing down the blogger path, he offers me a very kind compliment and discussing how allowing someone to break through the barrier might have made a difference to the team’s coverage as a whole -- even from the professional outlets.

If you were local, it would have been a game changer. So few of the Red Wings bloggers with some credentials [are not in] Michigan. To have someone who knew how to channel the emotion of the fans, to do so in an entertaining way… it would have been a blast to see how it would have played out IF they were ever credentialed.

As some of you grew a spine or two to ask the tough question after a game… and risked pissing off the ‘Super Friends’ in the process, it would have forced them to adapt.

An independent writer points to the team. A (former) team employee points to the writers. What does a mainstream media writer with access to the team think?

***

“I can only speak for myself. As a beat writer, I report the news and keep opinions to a minimum -- with the exception of reader Q and A. Opinion pieces are best left to columnists.”

Ansar Khan, the gentleman who covers the Red Wings for MLive, was kind enough to answer a few questions for me. Most importantly, I tried to find out if the Red Wings threaten -- whether explicitly or implicitly -- to revoke access to the team if the local writers don’t fall in line. He says, in no uncertain circumstances, that the team does NOT dictate what’s reported, and have never threatened to deny his access.

The reason his gives for the media’s -- or, at least, his -- reluctance to criticize the team stems from the organization’s relative success the past several decades. You can debate amongst yourselves if just making the playoffs earns the team freedom from criticism. And there are plenty of people out there that defend every move that the Red Wings make (I heard from a bunch of you when I mocked the Quincey signing). There’s no arguing with them -- the Red Wings are infallible because of past success (somehow). But sometimes it’s okay to question the team you love, even if you admire a majority of the things they’ve accomplished over history.

If you think the media is not critical enough of the organization, that’s your opinion. I don’t agree with some moves the team has made (Cleary), but I’m not going to destroy them for it. Four Cups since 1997 and 23 consecutive playoff appearances doesn’t earn them a free pass but with that kind of track record I would find it difficult to call for anybody’s head.

Again, to be clear: I’m not hoping to send waves through the front office based on Dan Cleary’s contract (though, that is questionable, particularly following the last three summers). My goal here is to find out if the local media’s unwilling or unable to offer the fans anything worthwhile -- or if it’s the team driving the narrative.

So far we’ve learned those with semi-access blame the team… the team blames the writers… the writers seem to blame the fans for expecting more and defend the team because they’ve done so well in the past. Let’s take a step back… what does the national media think of Detroit’s coverage?

***

“For all of them to publish ‘Hey, cool, Cleary is back’ at the same time with no real critical look at A) how bad he is, B) what it means for younger, better players, and C) whatever the *#$%@& Holland was talking about is borderline dereliction of duty as a journalist and supposed hockey analysis. It was a move that deserves to be criticized on at least a superficial level.”

The problem is obvious not only to local Red Wings fans, who are more knowledgeable about the game and their team that they’re given credit for by the media. The above quote, and the following section are from a national hockey writer, who has asked to remain anonymous.

He points to a trend -- that no one in the local, Detroit media questioned or criticized the move, but that nearly everyone else in the hockey media world did. There are plenty of articles that ask “why” and zero of them originate from Detroit.

It is either absurdly, embarrassingly lazy, or the team is swinging the hammer. Best case scenario is that all of them tried to get away with mulligans at the same time. It’s up to readers and whoever else to judge if that’s feasible. And if that is indeed what happened, it’s a pretty sad commentary on the state of things.

It honestly probably isn’t the team calling them up and saying 'if you rip the Cleary deal, you’re out.' It sounds to me more that they continue to buy into Holland’s justification for the deal, which is… not good. For whatever reason, they are not critical of that team.

The relationship between beat writers and teams is really complicated, and I’m glad I don’t have to deal with it. It’s incestuous and weird by necessity. You’re going to have different writers approach it in different ways. The fact that zero turning anything approaching a critical eye toward it is a problem, though. Maybe that is none of their jobs. For some people, that is actually the case. They’re just conduits without any responsibility to do next-level shit. Maybe it’s not their job, but it should be. Every beat writer should provide actual analysis, not just act as a conduit for the team’s decision-making process.

As noted, his interaction with the team differs from those with daily access, and from those who have to live nearby and rely upon the team for the entirety of their content. He admits that he has “next-to-no experience with them,” that he’s “never heard anything terrible about” about dealing with the Wings, and that the one time he was in the locker room, “everything went fine” but agrees that, as a consumer of information, something’s not quite right.

Near the end of our conversation, I sighed and lamented that Red Wings fans deserve better. He succinctly answered “I would say so.”

***

“Some of the best journalism advice I ever received was ‘don’t stand with everybody. People don’t want the same story, they want different perspectives.’”

If you’ve been a Red Wings fan for some time, you’ll remember Bruce MacLeod. Formerly of the Macomb Daily, he was the one beat writer we could always rely on to get a different angle and present something that was engaging and insightful and he wasn’t afraid to ask difficult questions. He was kind enough to answer a few questions of mine and explain what it’s like on the beat, and share his experiences, as well as a few clues as to why things are the way that they are.

The best writers, professionally, don’t want to miss anything. They don’t want to be one piece out of four. One way to make sure you don’t miss anything is to stand together. Not to mention, players don’t want to do five interviews -- they’d rather do it all at once.

Imagine life as a beat writer. You’re traveling with the team, interacting with them every day. That’s what they do. This is their office. You don’t want to piss off someone in your office.

But there’s a definite need for people who are skeptical and agitating to a degree. New media, digital journalism would open everything up.

For the third time, I hear that the hockey operations people aren’t to blame, and that the general manager and former assistant GM are wonderful and never back down from a conversation, even if it’s a difficult one to have. And while Mr. MacLeod tells me that John Hahn isn’t as intimidating as we all may have felt, the team obviously wants to put the best foot forward and try to maintain that face.

From a club perspective, Ken Holland and Jim Nill give you everything you want.

The Red Wings really don’t control the media, other than who they credential. They’re one of the few teams that’s still a little backwards on new media. They view print and broadcast as the only things that really matter and are way behind on the other.

Once the team gives you contact, you’re on your own. There are no threats, but the team does control the message in that way.

So that’s where we’re left. The team has a vested interest in the information that’s exiting the locker room (obviously), but that they don’t rule with an iron fist -- straight from the horse’s mouths. Could the team benefit from someone who questions and agitates and is skeptical of the things they’re doing? Of course. Will it be one of the beat writers we currently have? It doesn’t appear to be, nor does the team seem willing to allow someone different to have the kind of access that would require. 

***

Like I mentioned at the very top, I’m not a journalist. It is not my intention to become a journalist. My goal with this project was to shed some light on what is very obviously a problem for Red Wings -- and hockey -- fans.

For casual hockey fans, who only read one of the local papers, the coverage is “good enough.” They get the facts, they get a quote here and there, and they can keep up with what the current roster looks like. For the bulk of us, who are rabid hockey fans and consider ourselves to be relatively knowledgeable when it comes to things like this, it’s shabby. Whether it’s because the team’s media department is strict and intimidating, or the writers are lazy and unwilling to ask tough questions and be critical of anything the organization does, we all lose.

What we’re left with is people who would be willing rock the boat being frozen out, people with access unwilling to deliver anything of value to those who consume it, and a team that doesn’t seem to care to rectify that -- or change the way information is disseminated to the public based on some perceived sense of untouchability.

What it boils down to is a team that limits access to those that don’t care very much… and those that don’t care very much, don’t care very much. Everyone has a little bit of blame in this matter.

Whoever you feel is most to blame, one thing is clear: we deserve better.

***

Full Disclosure: I reached out to the Free Press’ Helene St. James, the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness, MLive’s Ansar Khan, and the Detroit News’ Ted Kulfan. Mr. Kulfan responded, saying that he was on vacation and that he’d get back to me but hasn’t yet. Mr. Khan is quoted above. The others have not responded to my requests.

I also reached out to multiple people who could speak about the environment within the media department at the Red Wings. Some respectfully declined to talk, and I won’t name them here.

A very special thank you to Bruce MacLeod, Ansar Khan, and a trio of people who requested anonymity. That will be honored. I would also like to thank George Malik, of the Malik Report, JJ from Kansas, of Winging it in Motown, and Clark Rasmussen, of DetroitHockey.net, for agreeing to post this piece sight unseen. You’re a nice gang of fellas.

You can follow me on Twitter @TPLhockey, or e-mail me at michael.petrella@gmail.com.

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Comments

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Red Winger's avatar

Sorry, but much of this comes off as sour grapes.

And this little juicy morsel of hyperbole, ” only reading what the North Korea of NHL teams wants its citizens to believe”, does little for your cause.

Posted by Red Winger from Sault Ste Marie on 07/15/14 at 02:07 PM ET

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Oh this is some heavy hitting deep throat shit right… oh wait no it isn’t.

Get over yourselves.

Posted by weswolverine on 07/15/14 at 02:15 PM ET

SK77's avatar

Yep, I started reading this and after a paragraph or two of teenage source grapes and “anonymous sources” I gave up. Couldn’t imagine having to read through all that BS, let alone believe in it. Sorry.

Posted by SK77 on 07/15/14 at 02:20 PM ET

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Posted by SK77 on 07/15/14 at 02:20 PM ET

I dont know what the hell teenage source grapes are but I absolutely love the term. I’m stealing that.

Posted by weswolverine on 07/15/14 at 02:26 PM ET

awould's avatar

It sounds pretty accurate to me, entirely plausible. Inertia isn’t a good way to move forward.

What’s not discussed, and for obvious reasons nobody could know anyways, is what would happen to a reporter who did rock the boat. Maybe someday we’ll find out.

Posted by awould on 07/15/14 at 02:33 PM ET

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Sorry, but much of this comes off as sour grapes.

Not only that, it serves as a towering and wholly self-defeating argument regarding why ‘new media’ access to pro sports teams should be extremely, extremely limited.

That guy, like George and like a lot of other posters, lost his mind over the Quincey and Cleary deals and has now gone on to try and throw feces at the organization over it.  George and the posters here molded their feces in the shape of accusations of incompetence while that guy molded his little poop darts into the shape of charges of intentional maleficence.

Part of the struggle with new media acceptance in sports with regards to bloggers is that, by and large, there’s little true consequence for a blogger being a moron.  They aren’t typically paid, or paid much, so blogging is to them less of a profession than it is a hobby.  So if they go off the rails and act irresponsibly with their words and accusations… enh.  Whadda dey gonna do, fire me?

The other part is that media (not just new media but all media) has lost the power struggle with teams and players.  Media has been disintermediaried.  Every team and every player can disseminate whatever info they want whenever they want through any of about a dozen different ways, so the Media as a necessary tool for the gathering and transmission of information is an idea that is about as dead as it gets.  The Wings (or the Lions or the Pistons or whoever) could literally stop issuing media credentials of any kind while they hire a staff writer to handle stories and the level of information coming out of the organizations in question would hardly change either in quality or degree… and bloggers think they could ever really matter?

There are, as always, exceptions.  The 1 in a 100 (thousand, million, billion) who bucks the trend.  The problem, again, is that even if a team has, finds and trusts that blogger… so what?  What, after all, are they in a position to do that the team itself isn’t?

Most broadly, however, this is just example #4,278,129 of someone running into the awful realization that, personally, pretty much nobody actually gives a crap about them and their presence or absence from whatever they are doing or wherever they are at makes a vastly smaller impact than they presumed.

Smacking full speed into a wall of replaceability can leave a mark.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 07/15/14 at 02:44 PM ET

mrfluffy's avatar

Apparently a lot of the new posters here have no clue who Michael Petrella is or how long TPL has been around. I may have a few disagreements with his piece but for the most part he’s right on.

Hell, I remember when Bertuzzi was signed in 2009…Petrella went ballistic.

Posted by mrfluffy from A wide spot on I-90 in Montana on 07/15/14 at 02:44 PM ET

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Honestly, I do think this is a legitimate problem. I follow a beat reporters for every NHL team, and continually find myself disappointed with the “mainstream” coverage presented. I don’t have a problem with any specific reporter, just that they’re so similar. It would be fine if they all presented similar content that was comprehensive, but they don’t.

For my money, Michael Russo who covers Minnesota has be one of the best beat reporters out there. He’s rarely critical of the team, and doesn’t do much with advanced stats; but his coverage is extensive and he isn’t afraid of asking hard questions, reporting on on-goings that come from his sources, or speculating about possible movies.

Posted by dmorley21 on 07/15/14 at 02:46 PM ET

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As someone who has talked with Mike for a long time, it’s a good write up. I think fans just wanted some sort of answers or explanations as to why the message being delivered by the media in terms of Red Wings news has little variation to it. I’m not really sure we learned anything that didn’t surprise us but its an insightful read nonetheless. I guess us die-hard fans wish there was some accountability sometimes in questioning Red Wings management in their decisions, which as explained above is a very, very fine line.

Posted by jpellek on 07/15/14 at 02:49 PM ET

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A lot of you seem to be misunderstanding this piece - or maybe I am. I don’t see the author, Michael Petrella, declaring any particular reason or accusation. He’s just saying that no one in the mainstream is ever critical of the Red Wings, and is asking why. He offers up different ideas from different sources and ends by saying he wishes there was some diversity among the articles written about the Wings. That doesn’t strike me a sour grapes.

I will say that the North Korea comment shouldn’t have been used.

Posted by dmorley21 on 07/15/14 at 02:52 PM ET

alwaysaurie's avatar

I’m not sure what to make of Red Winger from Sault Ste Marie’s, weswolverine’s, & SK77’s comments.

Umm… what sour grapes? I thought he said the he’s no longer involved because life got in the way but that when he was involved everything was peachy keen.

whew… teenage source grapes? Uh, he mentioned that years ago he left high school and then stopped doing TPL but again… says that his personal experience was all positive.

The guy thought it was weird that all of the folks who cover the DRW on a daily professional basis refrained from criticizing the Cleary signing and then tried to figure out why… but was a little stymied when the four didn’t offer any actual insights & then dug up some out-of-town info.

Nothing wrong with ridiculing the hyperbole(“North Korea” crap) but it’s a little baffling to call it sour grapes or pompous.

Posted by alwaysaurie on 07/15/14 at 03:04 PM ET

calquake's avatar

It seems all media has become opinion pieces instead of news.  Some like it, some don’t.  I prefer to be told the facts and allowed to form my own opinion.  I enjoy insight when it is called for.  The constant negativity that goes on in here is overwhelming at times.  State your case or opinion, like most do here, but for gosh sake’s quit beating that dead horse.  We know you hate KH or Babcock.  No need to keep flogging that dead horse.

Posted by calquake on 07/15/14 at 03:06 PM ET

MurrayChadwick's avatar

He’s just saying that no one in the mainstream is ever critical of the Red Wings, and is asking why.
Posted by dmorley21 on 07/15/14 at 02:52 PM ET

That’s how I read it and I agree.

Posted by MurrayChadwick on 07/15/14 at 03:07 PM ET

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I admit the coverage of the team leaves much to be desired at times but because the media doesn’t bitch about Cleary being signed, they are terrible. I know there is more to this post than that but come on. Also add in the fact that you used the line that all fans have been using that it’s “not a destination anymore” made me lose interest right there. Oh no, one summer a total of 3 guys signed elsewhere in a salary cap world. Say it ain’t so? Forget the fact that they got their top 2 targets last year but ya know that was more than 30 minutes ago so it doesn’t matter anymore. i’m sure you’ll then say Weiss only played 26 games or something but ya can’t help that on July 5th. Pavel and Hank missed 86 games I think maybe they were bad signings too. As was said, get over yourselves.

Posted by tmoore4075 on 07/15/14 at 03:07 PM ET

Laran's avatar

What a bitter piece of writing…

Posted by Laran on 07/15/14 at 03:10 PM ET

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That guy, like George and like a lot of other posters, lost his mind over the Quincey and Cleary deals

.

There are fans who defend every single move by KH, there are fans who criticize him for everything and there are few who are in the middle.
I was in the first category for many years, starting switching to the second/third last year.
And the reason for this is pretty simple, I look at the facts and events (signings, trades) of the last several years. I do not base it on KH not getting a free agent I wanted or not trading for a guy I wanted. Only on the data that actually happened.

Here are some hightlights in no particular order:

1) trading 1st round pick for Q
2) Extending Q in 2012
3) Resigning Q with a raise in 2014 and telling Gilbert to sign with Montreal when we needed a right handed offensive dman.
4) trading Jarnkrok (a center with the highest potential in the system) and a second for Legwand (a rental)
5) Resigning Howard long term for $5 mil per year
6) Signing Weiss (wrist surgery, groin injury prior to signing) long term at $5 mil per year
7) Signing Sammy for 2 years
8) Signing Bert for 2 years
9) Signing Eaves AND Miller (2 players who are absolutely interchangeable)
10) Signing Tootoo for 3 years
11) Signing Cleary in 2013 knowing it puts Nyquist in GR
12) Signing Cleary in 2014 knowing it puts Jurco in GR
13) Resigning Datsyuk and Ericsson
14) Signing Alfy and Gus (twice)
15) Went all in for Suter, missed on all other free agents in 2011
16) Missed on all free agents in 2014 despite offering them same or more

Maybe I am forgetting something, but this is pretty much the record after Lids retired. Yes, I know KH is considered one of the best GMs in the league, so all I am doing here is present facts of his work in the last 3-4 years and everybody can make his own conclusions. Let’s forget this is KH for a second, but rather a General Manager “X” whose job and salary actually depends on results, not reputation.

Posted by VPalmer on 07/15/14 at 03:16 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

I understand that some of you disagree with Petrella’s article, but you could be civil about it.

We’ve gotten to the point of the summer—again—where I’ve literally had people come up to me and tell me how much they love my blog but how much they dislike the comments section. Face-to-face, in-person.

I get the same reactions on Twitter and Facebook, from more than a few people who believe that the certain someones who try to turn every bloody *#$%@& entry into their own personal grandstand-and-or-argument theatre are dragging this blog down.

Over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to talk to Paul about how we can rectify the situation, because there are a whole bunch of people who are upset by this article, and there are many more people who are shaking their heads and not clicking on this blog because of the content of the comments below any entry that’s posted here.

This is supposed to be an open forum for discussion, not a piss-and-mark-your-territory contest, and over the past couple of months, it’s become the land of the long pissers. That’s not acceptable.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 07/15/14 at 03:21 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

As for Eric, a.k.a. HockeyinHD, Eric, we’ve had our disagreements, but if all you’re going to do is insult me and insult anyone who disagrees with you, you’re going to get a warning from the man in charge.

If you don’t ameliorate your criticism to civil levels, I’m going to get my wish, which involves ensuring that you have to find somewhere else to throw your shit.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 07/15/14 at 03:24 PM ET

CaptainDennisPolonich's avatar

I’m not sure it is sour grapes. But I agree with RW that the NKorea comment sabotaged the credibility of the piece. Perhaps MP should have had a few people read and offer critiques; It is very confusing to read. Here are some thought I had while trying to comprehend what MP was trying to communicate:

1. Three people agreed to talk off the record and supply anonymous quotes. However, it’s very confusing regarding which quotes come from which source. We the readers understand that anonymous sources are essential to telling stories that need to be told, but that does not mean we abdicate our roles in evaluating their veracity. Anonymity gives people the ability to tell the truth where doing so would cause them grave consequences, but that same anonymity can be abused by someone with an axe to grind. Attributing the quotes to Source #1, #2 & $3 would permit the reader to more critically assess the sources.

2. More confirmation, however, that the team’s principals aren’t the responsible parties…

A. This wasn’t more confirmation. it wasn’t even confirmation of the previous quotes and point, that John Hahn ran the Comm Dept. like a tyrant. Both of the previous quotes seem like they’re from the same source, so the next quote would be confirmation, not “more confirmation.” However, the next quote doesn’t confirm the assertions in the two previous quotes; it deals with availability of coaches and hockey ops to the media.

B. There are some relevant dots here that might be able to be connected, but MP does not do a good job of getting enough dots or connecting them. The conclusions he draws are not supported by the quotes he supplies. After the aforementioned quotes about Hahn the tyrant, MP concludes the team’s principals are not responsible. Why aren’t they? For that matter, who are the “team’s principals”? The Ilitches? Who does Senior Director of Communications report to? Christopher Ilitch? Tom Wilson? Craig Turnbull? Those three people appear to be above the Senior Dir. of Comm. position according to the organizational layout on the Wings’ website. It is really unclear who MP is accusing of the alleged misconduct of the Comm. Dept. and who he is absolving.

3. MP claims through a quote that the diggers write verbatim articles. Some examples would be appreciated to confirm the quote. IMO, Detroit media has been a mess since the JOA back in the early 80’s, but the content creators were supposed to be kept separate under the JOA. Here was a chance to show they are not, but MP didn’t take it.

4. I suggest that MP find someone with a real journalistic background to help him re-vamp this piece. MP will likely need to do more digging to fill in the holes between the quotes and his conclusions. It could be a significant piece of investigative reporting, but it needs a lot of work.

Posted by CaptainDennisPolonich from The Land of Fake Boobs and Real Nuts on 07/15/14 at 03:25 PM ET

Avatar

Like I mentioned at the very top, I’m not a journalist. It is not my intention to become a journalist.

That is obvious.  Your trip to Nashville was fanboi-dom at its absolute worst.  You did not deserve to be on that trip.  Your writing quality was atrocious, bordering on PuckStopsHere.

Now you use unnamed sources to back up your thesis, when for all we know, you wrote the entire thing yourself.  This is not something a real journalist would do.

This is why the Red Wings and all other organizations are well within their rights to keep most, if not all, bloggers at bay.  You have an agenda.  If they let one bad seed in (fanboi, hypercritical or unsubstantiated rumor-monger), it ruins it for everyone. 

I don’t like that the writers seem to side with giving the team the benefit of the doubt either, but one hopes that will change as the seasons of mediocrity pile up.  As for beat writers, traditionally they haven’t been the analytical types.  That is the columnists’ job.

Posted by jkm2011 on 07/15/14 at 03:27 PM ET

Primis's avatar

This is a great write-up, by a respected blogger talking about things that haven’t ever been addressed , and it’s one that’s needed to be done for some time.

It also really does explain why there are plenty of media in 29 other markets wishing ill will on the org, which many of us have always thought was a bit much.  If they’ve been difficult for media in other markets for years then it’s earned.

To an extent the localized problem is probably self-inflicted.  As Macleod says, you don’t want to miss out.  So you play it safe.  And that begets more playing safe, and more softball questions, etc.  And I sure the DET org is in no hurry to dissuade writers of that notion.


Some of you guys bashing need to get your noses out of each others’ afts.  God forbid someone write something meaningful about the current state of things…

Posted by Primis on 07/15/14 at 03:28 PM ET

Avatar

As for Eric, a.k.a. HockeyinHD, Eric, we’ve had our disagreements, but if all you’re going to do is insult me and insult anyone who disagrees with you

Oh please.  Try not to drive yourself nuts racing to be insulted George.  Specific to you I pointed out you lost your mind and went after the organization over the Cleary and Quincey deals, which you did.

I went on from speaking about you, with a period a paragraph break and all, to talking about blogging in general.  If that was insulting to you, as a blogger, that I would make general observations about blogging, then you’re just trying to find something else to be pissed about.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 07/15/14 at 03:31 PM ET

alwaysaurie's avatar

13) Resigning Datsyuk and Ericsson

!!!

Re-signing Datsyuk was a mistake?

Posted by alwaysaurie on 07/15/14 at 03:35 PM ET

CaptainDennisPolonich's avatar

No need to keep flogging that dead horse.
Posted by calquake on 07/15/14 at 03:06 PM ET

Aww, why not Cal, it’s so much fun!  rolleyes

 photo dead-horse.gif

You’re right. The nattering nabobs of negativism spew their bile no matter what is the topic at hand. Hey, I’ve been plenty negative about KH, Babs, KFQ, Buckets et al, But I confine that negativity to threads dealing with those issues.

This thread has zero to do KH, Babs, KFQ or Buckets; it is about the Wings Communications Department attempts to (allegedly) control the media that covers the Wings.

Posted by CaptainDennisPolonich from The Land of Fake Boobs and Real Nuts on 07/15/14 at 03:36 PM ET

Laran's avatar

Primis…you can’t be serious…

“talking about things that haven’t ever been addressed , and it’s one that’s needed to be done for some time.”

Criticizing the media relations and how the diggers report is nothing new…

Definitely comes off as sour grapes and when the majority of your thesis is based upon anonymous sources….you lose credibility.

Posted by Laran on 07/15/14 at 03:36 PM ET

CaptainDennisPolonich's avatar

Now you use unnamed sources to back up your thesis, when for all we know, you wrote the entire thing yourself.  This is not something a real journalist would do.

Posted by jkm2011 on 07/15/14 at 03:27 PM ET

Really? Real Journalists don’t use anonymous sources? Ever hear of Woodward and Bernstein?

Posted by CaptainDennisPolonich from The Land of Fake Boobs and Real Nuts on 07/15/14 at 03:43 PM ET

awould's avatar

Definitely comes off as sour grapes and when the majority of your thesis is based upon anonymous sources….you lose credibility.

Posted by Laran on 07/15/14 at 03:36 PM ET

The story is anecdotal at best. Nobody will go on the record for something so low level, it’d be all risk no reward. I found it interesting if not more than mildly informative. The credibility, to me, is in just believing the guy isn’t making shit up. Given there is no real groundbreaking controversial claims, I don’t see what it is he would be fabricating, or to what end.

His conclusion is basically that the Wings Organization tries to put out a positive spin to everything - which of course they do and they should - and that the beat writers just seem to try to avoid stirring the pot too much and also give the Team a lot of latitude based on past success, and that the die hard fans maybe should temper their expectations some to conform to reality. Overall, the conclusion seems to be that their could/should be some tougher questions asked and I’m not sure how anyone could disagree with that, given the complete lack of any sort of critique of the Cleary deal.

Posted by awould on 07/15/14 at 03:43 PM ET

Avatar

Re-signing Datsyuk was a mistake?

The list I provided is KH’s body of work in the last 3-4 years, not the list of just moves I disagree with. I just felt it’s only fair to mention good ones and bad ones.

Posted by VPalmer on 07/15/14 at 03:46 PM ET

Avatar

Yes, I know KH is considered one of the best GMs in the league, so all I am doing here is present facts of his work in the last 3-4 years and everybody can make his own conclusions. Let’s forget this is KH for a second, but rather a General Manager “X” whose job and salary actually depends on results, not reputation.

The general problem I have with your opinion here is that it seems to take small things and equate them with large things.  The general problem I have with the flavor and content of general critique here is that it places nearly random amounts of outrage on various activities without regard for the actual import.

For instance, you point out trading a #1 for Q and appear to imply that was a bad thing to do.  Would you, today, trade Jakub Kindl for Q?  Would you trade Tom McCollum for Q?  Landon Ferraro?  The point I’m making here, obviously, is that while saying “#1 for Q sucks” seems right on it’s face, when you talk about the general quality of players around where Detroit drafts, giving up one of those picks for a legit NHL roster dman (albeit a mediocre one) when that was a position of fairly imminent need at the time makes the move appear less fraught or open to criticism.

I mean, I’m not going to fisk your list in detail, but that’s the general direction of my thoughts with the vast majority of your observations therein.  The mistakes (and of course there are mistakes) Holland has made for the most part aren’t terribly large ones, and the potentially large ones he has made (Weiss and Howard) are wildly overshadowed in terms of raw attention by the Cleary and Quincey deals which have vastly less capacity for harm.

 

Posted by HockeyinHD on 07/15/14 at 03:48 PM ET

CaptainDennisPolonich's avatar

when the majority of your thesis is based upon anonymous sources….you lose credibility.
Posted by Laran on 07/15/14 at 03:36 PM ET

So if you knew your employer was illegally polluting a local river and a reporter asked you about it, then you would tell the reporter everything you know and let him use your name, right? You wouldn’t be worried about losing your job, paying your rent/mortgage, feeding your family, etc. because your employer is not going to fire you, right?

 

Posted by CaptainDennisPolonich from The Land of Fake Boobs and Real Nuts on 07/15/14 at 03:49 PM ET

Avatar

This thread has zero to do KH, Babs, KFQ or Buckets; it is about the Wings Communications Department attempts to (allegedly) control the media that covers the Wings.

I thought the idea is to make KH more accountable and actually be judged by his actions, not reputation. If the media starts asking tough questions (and there are plenty to ask), the hope is it will make KH a better GM and it will help the team we love. If everybody in the media just tells KH how great he is, KH might not even know that some of his moves are questionable at best.

Posted by VPalmer on 07/15/14 at 03:57 PM ET

Avatar

Malik asks him to be civil, but replied with expletives while using HiHD’s first name unprompted in previous blogs.  even now he’s still using the guy’s first name.

not to mention that george has previously had other members permabanned from KK for simply criticizing wings players in this blog.

well done, george.  well done.

Posted by incompetent GM on 07/15/14 at 03:58 PM ET

Red Winger's avatar

Over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to talk to Paul about how we can rectify the situation, because there are a whole bunch of people who are upset by this article, and there are many more people who are shaking their heads and not clicking on this blog because of the content of the comments below any entry that’s posted here.

Wha…really??

Maybe I missed something, but what comments were totally off base here?

Posted by Red Winger from Sault Ste Marie on 07/15/14 at 04:01 PM ET

Avatar

I guess us die-hard fans wish there was some accountability sometimes in questioning Red Wings management in their decisions,

But why in the whole world would they ever actually want to answer them, even if there was some kind of third party forced environment where they were presented them at regular intervals?  What’s the upside there?

Let’s say Holland or Babcock actually did something that not only you guys thought was stupid, but that after a day or a weeks reflection they realize was really stupid too.

What, precisely, is the point to interrogating them with questions designed to drill down and force them to admit they screwed up?  Even if Holland said “Yeah, totally my bad.  Big mistake to bring Quincey and Cleary back.  Really stupid thing to do.  Sorry.”  Does that end anything?  Does it assuage the commentariat’s desire for blood?  I hardly think so.  All it would likely do as serve as digital fuel for the next fusillade to be launched the very next time someone disagreed with a Holland or Babcock decision.  ‘I was right when I criticized them about Q and Cleary and I’m right now!  Holland’s a dimwit!’

To me, when a fan says something about demanding accountability from someone what I’m hearing is ‘I want to subject that guy to public shaming, force him to admit that he was wrong, and oh yeah by the way that I was totally right.’

I don’t think I’ve ever heard either Holland or Babcock stray too far away from always accepting full responsibility for what happens with the Wings on the ice, in so far as their roles allow.  That’s what accountability is, to me anyway.  Defending your ability in total, not having to wage internecine verbal warfare over every nuance in your day to day ops decisions.

That’s why teams limit access to less-than-wholly-trustworthy subjects: to insulate themselves from as much of this extraneous finger-pointing and blame-placing as possible.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 07/15/14 at 04:04 PM ET

Avatar

Guys, this is a pretty clear view of the Detroit sports media as a whole, with few exceptions. In New York, you have guys like Larry Brooks (love him or hate him) but he challenges the team. There are a number of of sports writers across the US covering any major sports that are willing to ask tough questions and be critical of the teams they cover.

In Detroit, these types of writers are nearly non-existent, unfortunately.

Here’s a perfect microcosm of how Olympia Entertainment likes their teams presented: In two separate occasions this year, Detroit Tigers’ pitchers’ ERAs were not posted on the scoreboard because the pitchers were struggling. On the scoreboard, the team posts standard information about the pitcher currently pitching and ERA is ALWAYS included. So earlier in the year, while closer Joe Nathan was struggling mightily, an astute fan noted that instead of the ERA stat on the scoreboard, the team posted an olde-English D. The same thing happened one or two weeks ago while Justin Verlander was pitching.

Last year, Jhonny Peralta was going to be suspended for using performance-enhancing drugs. The Tigers’ TV crew literally refused to mention the pending suspension, nor did they discuss it during his suspension. It was as if he simply didn’t exist. Another blatant example is the Doug Fister trade that was panned not only by national media, but by numerous other baseball general managers. Several team beat writers and other media continue to refer to the trade as a good one, even though the main prospect received in return hasn’t done anything to show he’s better than anyone expected when the trade was made - a middle-of-the-road pitcher with a limited ceiling - someone not in the top 100 prospects in the game.

That’s how hypersensitive the team is about any form of bad news. The Red Wings operate in a similar manner. They really want the image of sunny skies - that the broadcast and print media “focus on and accentuate the positive.” What that results in is fans being treated like sheltered kids whose parents don’t want them to know the real world isn’t all candy canes and lollipops.

A core question posed by this writer is how can national media basically unanimously pan this offseason - and particularly the Cleary deal - and yet not a single local beat writer has been critical? How can the perceptions be that clearly opposite? And then when you peel that back and see whether or not the beat writers are critical of the team on other issues, you realize they NEVER are. It calls into question the credibility and the relationships and the veracity of the information we’re presented with.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 07/15/14 at 02:44 PM ET

The problem I have with your argument is that just because the guy might have been upset about Cleary and Quincey doesn’t take away from the credibility of what he presented. So what if he was mad about those moves and then disappointed to find none of the beat writers being remotely critical of either move? If a drug addict tells you not to do drugs because they’re destructive, does it invalidate the point that drugs are horrible and destructive because the person saying that is an addict? Or maybe, let’s say a man loses his brother to a drug overdose and tells people not to do drugs because they’re horrible and destructive, is that invalidated because the man obviously has a personal reason to hate drugs?

At the end of the day, this guy is basically saying what the Detroit Sports Rag has been saying for a long time: that this city’s media serves more as PR for the team than as journalists delivering interesting content and asking the tough questions fans want answered.

Disclaimer: I’m only commenting on the DSR from the perspective that I agree with their premise that the professional sports media in this city often fail to provide objective and critical-when-necessary stories and news. I only bring up the DSR because this post covers the basic theme behind that entire website and this is something that was identified a long time ago.

Posted by VitoLambruski on 07/15/14 at 04:04 PM ET

CaptainDennisPolonich's avatar

This thread has zero to do KH, Babs, KFQ or Buckets; it is about the Wings Communications Department attempts to (allegedly) control the media that covers the Wings.
I thought the idea is to make KH more accountable and actually be judged by his actions, not reputation. If the media starts asking tough questions (and there are plenty to ask), the hope is it will make KH a better GM and it will help the team we love. If everybody in the media just tells KH how great he is, KH might not even know that some of his moves are questionable at best.
Posted by VPalmer on 07/15/14 at 03:57 PM ET

I think what you said is perhaps an intended consequence of the article, but the quote and topics discussed in the article itself are about the Wings’ comm. dept. and media relations. I did not see anything critical of KH’s player personnel decisions, but then I had a hard time comprehending what MP’s point was exactly.

Posted by CaptainDennisPolonich from The Land of Fake Boobs and Real Nuts on 07/15/14 at 04:05 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

To be clear, as I did not intend to turn this topic on its ear:

1. My responsibility as a writer involves having to deal with both the constructive criticism and the “George you suck” chatter. I grumble and grouse but my skin is in fact quite thick, and if you can’t deal with people telling you that you’re an idiot, you shouldn’t be in the writing business.

2. The overwhelming outside-the-comments-section and some inside-the-comments-section reactions regarding the state of the TMR “community” (which does in fact exist elsewhere) is that the blog is at least decent, but that there are more than a few intelligent, smart and tough-enough-to-hack-disparate-opinions folks who simply don’t want to post here or shudder when they read what they have suggested to me involves a small group repeating the same themes and generally running the roost.

In theory, this is supposed to be at least a quasi-welcoming place. It ain’t.

3. There are several ways to address the issues. We can discuss the ups and downs of leaving things as they are, we can make up, wipe the slates clean and say, “Okay, from date X, let’s try to move forward” (this is always my preferred method), or there may have to be some changes, whether that’s codes-of-conduct related or otherwise.

Based upon the overwhelming response to those who’ve stated that it’s gotten to be less than fun to comment here, it appears that we’ve got some issues.

Whether we work them out as a community or whether they are worked out administratively is going to depend on your response, because I actually value each and every one of your opinions and respect each and every one of you (SHH DON’T TELL).

Let me know what you think. I’m gonna stay out of here and let you discuss…I’ll probably post something overnight about the community commentary and hope that we can work things out together. That is always preferable to the heavy-handed approach, even if I wouldn’t mind swinging a hammer right back at ya every once in a while.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 07/15/14 at 04:05 PM ET

Hootinani's avatar

Enjoyed the article, even though its not very eye opening, with its only conclusion being that the Red Wings, while stingy with their press credentials, don’t really rule the media with an iron fist.

Lucky for me, and I think its holds true for most of the commentors on the site, I don’t base my opnions on MSM reporting, or on bloggers for that matter.  I appreciate the information, and enjoy it for what it is, entertainment.

And as for commentors here (or anywhere), some people like to be hurtful when they know they are also going to be anonymous.  For the most part,  I think we are pretty lucky to have only a limited number of those here, with most people able to discuss opposing opinions without getting personal.  Having read other forums, and not just hockey forums, they seem to get pretty nasty, and fast.

Posted by Hootinani on 07/15/14 at 04:10 PM ET

CaptainDennisPolonich's avatar

Here’s a perfect microcosm of how Olympia Entertainment likes their teams presented: In two separate occasions this year, Detroit Tigers’ pitchers’ ERAs were not posted on the scoreboard because the pitchers were struggling. On the scoreboard, the team posts standard information about the pitcher currently pitching and ERA is ALWAYS included. So earlier in the year, while closer Joe Nathan was struggling mightily, an astute fan noted that instead of the ERA stat on the scoreboard, the team posted an olde-English D. The same thing happened one or two weeks ago while Justin Verlander was pitching.
Last year, Jhonny Peralta was going to be suspended for using performance-enhancing drugs. The Tigers’ TV crew literally refused to mention the pending suspension, nor did they discuss it during his suspension. It was as if he simply didn’t exist.

Posted by VitoLambruski on 07/15/14 at 04:04 PM ET

So MP’s assertion that the “team’s principals” (assuming MP meant the Ilitches) are not responsible might not stand up to scrutiny. MP has great start on what could be a significant investigative report (at least significant to Detroit sports), we just need a real digger like McLeod to pick it up and run with it.

Posted by CaptainDennisPolonich from The Land of Fake Boobs and Real Nuts on 07/15/14 at 04:12 PM ET

SK77's avatar

George, I feel like a lot of your writing is very personal.

You can get very emotional sometimes, you constantly talk about private matters in your life, and some of your pieces are much more “opinion” than “news.”

That’s your style, and it lends a different voice to the Red Wings community, and that’s just how you do. No problem there.

But I feel like your writing style also opens itself up to very emotional and scattered commentary from the fray. If you’re going to interject your own feelings into what you write, then a lot of commentators are going to follow suit.

And from there it ratchets up to a whole ‘nother level when you start dropping f-bombs, calling people out by name, and other shenanigans.

Do people get fired up and unprofessional around these parts? Sure, but isn’t there some culpability here?

Posted by SK77 on 07/15/14 at 04:17 PM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.