In Defense Of Reason

BOSTON, MA - MAY 27: Steven Stamkos #91 of the Tampa Bay Lightning returns to the game after being hit in the face with a puck in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Bruins during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at TD Garden on May 27, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

We're about to enter into a very slow period for hockey, and a slower period yet for those of us who devote our media presence to the sport. 

So it goes without saying that lots of writers will reach way back and dig up some totally outlandish stories for the sake of creating discussions, staying relevant or simply to drive traffic. 

It's to be expected. It's okay. There's not a thing wrong with it. But we're not there yet. 

So while the onset of NHL free agency created some opportunities for those who weren't under contract, it was a little bit too premature for journalists to start flexing their rumor-mongering muscles. 

But that didn't stop some of them. 

Two well-established members of the Boston hockey media, in particular, posted a well-thought out piece explaining the logic behind why an opposing GM - namely Peter Chiarelli - should offer sheet one Steven Stamkos. None of the reasons were wrong, and none of them included trying to reveal chinks in Steve Yzerman's GM armor. They were, by all accounts, well-written pieces, even if their timing was off. 

Stamkos, to be fair, would be a fantastic addition to the Boston lineup. His 96 goals in the past two seasons are more than double what the Bruins' leading goal-scorer (Patrice Bergeron, 41) has done in that time. He's a transcendent offensive talent that could be a great tutor for Tyler Seguin, whom Boston hopes can begin to display Stamkos-like tendencies as he acclimates to the NHL. 

The logical arguments against Stamkos are three-fold: one, he's a finesse player and wouldn't mesh well with the Bruins' hard-hat-and-lunchpail style; two, simply acquiring his rights would cost the Bruins their next four first-round picks - not, as was noted, a terrible thing since those picks all project in the late, late first round, but still an issue since Peter Chiarelli has used his first-round picks to sweeten big trade deals of late - and, finally, paying Stamkos would put Chiarelli in a bind, especially with the salary cap expected to drop when the new collective-bargaining agreement is passed next year. 

But there are still more arguments. If Boston were to offer sheet Stamkos, Tampa would surely match it and it would create some ill will between the two teams. If the team were able to sign him, they'd be unable to improve the team by taking on salary at the trade deadline (by picking up, say, Keith Yandle). With Stamkos on the ice in Boston, he'd be expected to be the answer to the team's power play woes, which have been well-documented. 

It's also an environment that's a bit more harsh on its athletes than Tampa, both in terms of weather and the media scene. 

Thanks to Twitter, the Stamkos-to-Boston thing has gained some traction - at least among fans. And that's the real problem here. The Bruins were able to ignite a passion among New Englanders for hockey, in the same way that the late-80's and early-90's Boston teams did, much like those Cup-winning teams in the early 70's did. So while there are a lot more hockey fans now than there were in Boston three months ago, there isn't much more collective hockey knowledge to be had.

These fans, lacking the time to develop an understanding of the NHL's CBA or the salary cap situation of the Bruins, are left to assume that Stamkos is there for the having and that anything less than number 91 in Black and Gold come fall is an atrocity. When they (presumably) don't get it, they'll be turned off of the game just as quickly as they were turned on. 

It's not irresponsible of journalists to suggest that the fantastic could become reality - in many ways, that's part of their job. But it's always their responsibility to understand the nature of their readers, and publishing pieces in support of making such far-fetched possibilities a reality, while great traffic grabs in and of themselves, are ultimately depriving those fans of that reality which they really need. 

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