Sunday Morning Coffee: Schultz, Carrick and the Media
Follow College Hockey Prospective on Twitter @CHProspective
By Bob Miller CHP Publisher/Managing Editor July 1, 2012
On the morning of Canada Day, appropriately enough, I sit here anxiously awaiting the media frenzy over the NHL’s most bizarre bazaar, the noontime commencement of the annual unrestricted free agent signing spree.
Reflections on the massive coverage of the event lead me to ponder how the explosion of media coverage directs events. I say that well aware of how College Hockey Prospective is part of that explosion.
The names Justin Schultz and Connor Carrick have been at the forefront of a lot of the hockey talk this week.
Schultz, a top-notch defenseman who made Madison his home base during his tenure on the blueline for the Badgers, has received criticism for using a loophole in the current CBA between NHL players and owners to opt for free agency rather than sign with the Anaheim Ducks, who drafted him in the NHL entry draft.
His loyalty factor questioned, Schultz elected to initiate a deliberate process of identifying suitors and methodically listening to presentations by the interested teams regarding what they had to offer a young, promising defenseman. The process culminated yesterday in a nearly blow-by-blow Twitter rundown of his telephone calls to the losing parties and finally his notification of his chosen destination, the Edmonton Oilers.
Schultz never staged a LeBron-like publicity stunt announcement, never overly curried the media attention that he wound up with. He responsibly weighed his offers and then duly notified all interested candidates of his decision. Of course, he was fortunate to fall into the situation of which he took advantage, but never unduly exploited the situation for attention. Actually, it was information-starved fans who created most of the buzz around the decision-making process. Fans have every right to clamor for info that we, in the media, desire to present to them. What fans don’t have a right to do is complain about the very process that they create by their interest.
Carrick, another defenseman like Schultz, committed to the University of Michigan over two years ago to be a part of their incoming class of freshman in 2012, this fall. A member of USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program, Carrick seemed to be on-track to move cross-town to Yost Arena in Ann Arbor to continue his development.
Last weekend, Carrick was drafted in the fifth round by the Washington Capitals, hardly a lofty position, but one in which he received a load of media coverage at the draft in Pittsburgh. Mid-week, rumors started to surface that the OHL’s Plymouth Whalers’ decision to trade for his playing rights would result in him reneging on his commitment to Michigan and joining Mike Vellucci and the Whalers to advance his development.
Analyzing the NCAA vs. CHL decision-making is such a complex issue. College hockey advocates are equally as sure of the educational and level of play advantages of their option as the CHL advocates are of the “superiority” of their product and the advantages of the denser schedule of games that they play.
All issues of honoring commitments aside (and I’m not saying that they should be ignored), a kid has one chance to advance his own career and I am simply not about to question any one players’ ability to analyze what he needs to succeed.
I will insist that if a “student/athlete” wants to really be just that, the college (NCAA) option is far preferable. Yes, CHL offers educational assistance, but anyone close to the situation knows that the educational success stories of CHL athletes are few and far between. Sadly, the accusations of $$$ incentives offered “under the table” or in “golden handshakes” persist. Another such alleged case came across my desk just this morning.
Yes, the CHL is a business and operates as such including such disadvantageous player options as freedom to trade players. But, go ahead and try to convince me that college coaches don’t face pressures that make their positions a must-perform business as well. There are honest and concerned CHL team operators and there are honest and concerned NCAA coaching staffs. Likewise, both options include less than honest and concerned leaders. Choose wisely, players of promise!
My concern in a case like Carrick’s, as a potential media-created situation, is the undue publicity given a fifth round draft choice, inflating unduly the players hopes and dreams. Like the rest of life, it’s buyer beware, I guess.
I enjoy the CHL product, even though I spend time as a member of the college hockey media. Rather than pretend to know what’s best for any one player, I will let all the combatants pick their team of choice without being judgemental, and then happily watch them all try to further their development, no matter what that choice is.
The current explosion of media attention and social media access has changed the landscape in which we cover and follow the players and teams we have the opportunity to enjoy. Both players and media members are still learning how to traverse that landscape, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse.