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Friday Funbag: A thought on the Babcock phone situation. Plus your questions on actual fun stuff.
The biggest NHL story of this week isn't really about phones, it's about power.
The Friday Funbag is supposed to be full of fun, but sometimes, when the situation arises we’ll have to be serious for a bit.
First, we need to talk about the Mike Babcock situation.
On Tuesday it was revealed on an episode of Spittin Chiclets that Babcock had asked to see pictures on player’s phones. According to the initial podcast report, and Paul Bissonnette, this was to see “what type of man,” a player was and Babcock was using AirPlay to put photos on the screen in his office.
Babcock and Blue Jackets captain Boone Jenner put out a team-issued response saying it was simply Babcock asking to see family photos, to better get to know his players and their families.
The NHLPA is investigating and according to a report on late Thursday, some younger players were uncomfortable with Babcock wanting to see their phones. This comes a couple days after some older players said everyone was fine with it.
Babcock was watching the Blue Jackets prospects play against the Toronto Maple Leafs prospects up in Traverse City on Thursday.
For starters, we need to be clear that Babcock should not be asking for a player’s phone. That’s an invasion of privacy, and even in a business where men make millions of dollars to play a game, there is a power dynamic he’s abusing by asking for their private, personal property.
There’s also another power dynamic we need to discuss: coaches and “insider” media coverage since Tuesday.
Becoming the go-to source for transactional news, trades, injuries, etc… comes with making some of your own trades along the way. To get the transactional insider stuff, to be the guy owning NHL trade deadline day, you often have to punt on the hard stuff.
By punting on the hard stuff, avoiding some of the uncomfortable topics, phone calls and texts get picked up quicker and your network as an insider grows. Now, not all sources are built this way, but it is a vital part of the job.
Babcock is a source again, an insider connection point. Let’s assume he’s going to keep his job in Columbus, and with that in mind, consider for many insiders it’s going to make more sense to keep him happy in the long run for a future scoop on which player was just traded out of Columbus or something like that.
Bissonette has been the other side of the media coin with this. He doesn’t really care about coaches or GMs, he knows many players listen to his podcast, his podcast success is built because of players.
Being more bombastic in his delivery of the Babcock news on the podcast, it allows him to say to his player constituency that he’s got their backs, that his podcast is different, and, ‘hey, forward me more of that dirt anytime you got it,’ to players.
I believe the situation with the phone was uncomfortable, and wrong, but I also think Bissonette did a disservice from the start in his phrasing, turning the conversation into Bissonette vs. Babcock, as opposed to the more nuanced conversation about power and respect from a coach. About how even, if allegedly, well-meaning according to Babcock, ‘show me family photos,’ can cross a line and both he and the Blue Jackets need to have a proper conversation about that.
Like many things, the situation has become about power dynamics. The original power play by Babcock, he’s a superior speaking to an employee, to the followup of Babcock apologists and Bissonette finding a way to best deliver what empowers his podcast brand.
I hope some of this makes sense. It truly is me getting some rambling thoughts on paper.
Ok, let’s get to the actual fun of the Funbag this week with your questions. This story is always unlocked, but only paid subscribers can submit questions each week.
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It's probably because it's just been too many months and I miss them desperately, but what would it take for the Stars to get Josh and Razor to do the preseason? Even if it's just streaming on the Stars' website I'd be so happy. (From Max Redd)
It would take the Stars rights holders wanting to actually exercise those rights and air preseason games.
Preseason hockey games, in general, are short-term financial losses for rights holders. Advertisers aren’t interested in preseason games, and therefore, the rights holders are often intent to just let those games go by without a broadcast. When this happens, the team doesn’t have the right to broadcast it themselves, so they would have to work out a deal to buy back their own product.
It’s an unfortunate reality, but aside from the typical single “dress rehearsal” game that the Stars rights holders are interested in for preseason, there won’t be much else.
Hey Sean. How do you see the Stars crease evolving after Wedgie hits UFA? He certainly seems like a quality backup, but once his contract is up do you really see Matt Murray or Remi Poirer stepping in to that role or are the Stars back to looking at the market/attempting to bring Wedgie back? It seems pretty evident that Otter was worn down at the tail end of last season due to Wedgies injury so is it fair to expect the team to target maybe 50 starts for Otter during the regular season? Do you think Ben Bishop brings the potential for a significant improvement? (From Andrew)
The Stars need to bring down Jake Oettinger’s workload this season. I believe that goalies start to hit a wall around 75 games played, and then ever harder walls above that.
To make a deep playoff run, you need to budget for around 25 playoffs starts for you No. 1 goalie, which means that in the regular season the goalie shouldn’t be playing much more than 55 games.
As for next season, after Wedgewood’s contract is up, it’s still up in the air on whether Matt Murry or Remi Poirer can be the backup. I’m not super high on Murray as much more than a No. 3 in an organization, but I think Poirer could be a legitimate 1B/backup if given the proper time.
Gut decision and trying to predict the future? I think the Stars, at best, are still two seasons away from Poirer being the full-time NHL backup. So they’ll likely have to look into other options if they don’t re-sign Wedgewood.
Any thoughts on the physical game of the stars heading into the season after seeing them depend almost solely on Jamie Benn in the playoffs last season? Tab Ledbetter
I think the Stars are physical enough to win the Stanley Cup. I also don’t think Jamie Benn is the only physical piece on the team, and that’s a bit of an undersell on the impacts of Radek Faksa and Mason Marchment — who admittedly, are making too much money compared to their offensive output.
The Stars physicality issues come on the defensive end, where other teams feel more emboldened to dial up an aggressive forecheck against a slighter group. The Stars players that are more physical, Jani Hakanpaa and potentially Esa Lindell, don’t skate well enough to make their size matter as a detriment to forecheckers. That’s one of the reasons it wouldn’t be stunning if the Stars were shopping for a defender at the trade deadline.
What's the best option in streaming for this upcoming season out of network? And to get the most games/buck? (From Kendall Hicks)
I’m assuming you are talking about NHL games (if you’re not, let me know in the comments), but if you are out-of-market for your favorite NHL team, ESPN+ will have you covered for roughly 75 of the 82 regular season games. That won’t include games on TNT or NHL Network (which is it’s own problem) but it’s the simplest solution without doing something nefarious or a VPN.
What is your outlook for Nils Lundkvist this season? Is he a lock to be a part of the group of 6 on a nightly basis or is he competing for a spot in camp? Personally, I’d love to see him paired with Miro and given a big chance from opening night. (From Nathan Graham)
I love the idea of Lundkvist playing with Heiskanen on opening night and seeing how it plays out. I don’t think the Stars will do it, but I love the idea.
I do believe he’ll be a lock to start the season in the Stars top-six defenders, and will get a longer leash this season before potentially being bumped out of that spot by Joel Hanley.
The Stars, and Jim Nill, bet big on Lundkvist and are feeling some pressure to make good on that first-round pick trade this season. He’ll get some chances, then he’ll have to prove he deserves more chances from coaching staff to avoid what happened at the end of last season.
How much (if anything) is it worth reading into prospects such as Bourque and Stankoven having new (low) jersey numbers rather than the higher numbers rookies seem to typically get at camp? (From Hannah)
It’s an indication they are part of Jim Nill’s actual NHL plan, but it doesn’t mean they are promised anything for this season. Bichsel, for example, has been given No. 6 already. That’s a sign he’s part of Nill’s long-term plan, but doesn’t mean he’ll be the first call-up or anything like that this season.
Assuming no injuries, who gets scratched most in the Stars first 10ish games - Steele or Dellandrea? (From Chad Barber)
Neither, because I think they’ll be in a scratch rotation with Craig Smith and all three will have an equal number of healthy scratches.