New scouting report as Tavares circus continues

I don't want this place to turn into The Daily Tavares -- really, I don't. But despite my Quixotic protests, it appears the media circus of ink around the young man will dominate from now until the Great Teenager Stalk Meet known as the NHL Entry Draft is over.

When it's not Brian Burke dropping blustery declarations of intent to get the hallucinating sector of Leafdom [see comments here] believeing he could be theirs, it's the least-common-denominator junkies in the Toronto media spouting effluvia to imply Canada's "best" junior player is their birthright who should start pulling a Lindros ('cause that worked out well). They also repeatedly traffic in innuendo about the Lindros question even when Tavares has said for the umpteenth time he won't commit that karmic suicide.

(Don't you love the idea that because the franchise you root for or cover is located in one of the league's largest, easy-revenue population centers, said club somehow deserves all the spoils of a league whose very existence depends on, you know, multiple teams? Talk about being born on third base thinking you hit a triple... In their view, other teams are but a nuisance and the Leafs should exist alone, apparently to feverishly beat themselves for the Cup each year.)

Remarkably, at least one Toronto media member was even upset at criticism from Chris Botta, just a "lowly" Islanders blogger (Who cares about the Islanders, anyway? Besides the thousands of fans and hyper-sensitive Toronto media members who are Botta's readers, I mean), for calling out some of his peers on their lethal Jonestown-level mix of kool-aid and sense of entitlement. Grow some thick skin already! You're bastions of the Hockey Black Hole Center of the Universe, right? A little jab from a connected Isles blogger ain't no thang ... is it?

Just as every fanbase has idiots and every arena has fools, every media corps has its tools: If you're not one of them, you should probably possess the self-awareness to know it, and chill accordingly.

And Now for Something Actually Relevant...

But that's all white noise -- background microwave radiation for a playoffless spring. Today something actually interesting and relevant was put forth about Tavares (who Garth Snow and Charles Wang will be watching tonight in person):

Newsday's Greg Logan has another read on the Tavares-Hedman-Duchene debate from Redline Report, a (ahem, paid) scouting service that has surely committed a crime by questioning the fallibility of Tavares.

In addition to favoring Hedman for our pet cornerstone two-way defenseman reasons, the report calls Duchene the more complete player and dismisses Tavares as "one-dimensional" and Brett Hull-like in effort and "even body [type]." (Wait, so JT is overweight?! Or he doesn't backcheck until threatened by Mike Keenan or locker room alpha dogs in Dallas and Detroit?) From Logan's excerpts, the report is rather hilariously detailed in its claimed knowledge of the kid (a bit extreme, if you ask me).

But interesting stuff nonetheless. I must note that I watched Hull's emergence and prime from my Midwestern perch and -- while I had a laundry list of criticisms for him -- I'd take "his kind" for the Islanders in a heartbeat. For all his eventually uncovered flaws, Hull was the perfect medicine to heal a Blues fanbase that had been through some very Islanders-like ownership messes.

The quickly developing meme about Tavares' playoff performance this season is also advanced in the Redline Report's um, report. I've watched as much OHL playoffs as I have Swedish elite league hockey, so I can't judge there. But if Tavares appears weaker than the hype of the last three years, I'll only offer this:

  • It's fair to wonder how being traded in the middle of the World Junior Championships has affected his integration with a new team.
  • It's fair to wonder how much three weeks should alter your impression of a player who has been followed and universally praised for the last 40 months.
  • It's fair to wonder about the scouting service's profit motive.

That's the crap-shoot of the draft (and the vultures who feed on it), of course. Projecting teenagers is like predicting the effects of puberty: You know something significant will happen; you don't know if you'll like the result. Either way, you're stuck with it, and God can be one sick prankster.

No matter how many people come along and say, "Come on you're crazy if you don't want Tavares" -- myself included -- ultimately we won't know what was right until 2016. So it's nice to hear another perspective on the kid's abilities -- and not more self-absorbed speculation about which market maximizes reporters' his earning potential.

Now if you'll excuse me, I hear there's a bearded lady to check out behind Ring 3. But I'm not sure about her heart.

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