So, Ondrej Pavelec, Dustin Byfuglien and Ron Hainsey surface in River City. One is hounded about a drunk driving conviction. Another is hounded about his heft. The third is pestered about his work on behalf of players during the National Hockey League's 113-day lockdown.
And I'm thinking: Is this fair?
That is, should news scavengers have been pecking at Pavelec about his DUI conviction last summer in the Czech Republic? Should they have focused on Big Buff's weight/conditioning? Should they have grilled Hainsey about the NHL-NHLPA spat?
I mean, didn't these people have better things to write/talk about?
No. They didn't.
Let's start with Pavelec. The Jets well-compensated goaltender did not merely face a DUI charge. He was convicted. He has a criminal record. He represents the Winnipeg Jets, whether he's in River City or back home in the Czech Republic. So he had some explaining to do, to the hockey club and to its fan base. They wanted to know why Pavelec got behind the wheel of his BMW and plowed into another vehicle after swilling enough hooch to put his blood alcohol reading at 0.2.
Some people would just as soon sweep this sort of thing under the rug. After all, it has no bearing on Pavelec's ability to stop pucks. And that's true. I've long held that if a player's off-ice behaviour doesn't impact on his performance, then it's nobody's business. Except in matters of unlawful behaviour. When you drive drunk, it's everybody's business.
So, yes, news scavengers had every right to prod Pavelec.
What about Big Buff, though? Should his girth and conditioning be an issue? Again, the answer is yes.
The upcoming 48-game schedule will be a sprint and, in case you hadn't noticed, Byfuglien doesn't have a sprinter's chassis. And because he chews up so much ice time on the Jets blueline (and wherever else he chooses to wander), his conditioning is of great concern and significance. It's critical that Big Buff is up to the challenge, so no one wants him looking like Minnesota Fats.
"That is the thing you worry about is lack of conditioning, not necessarily that they can't run the mile and do all that sort of thing, but game condition," says Quinn, who was general manager of the Vancouver Canucks the last time the NHL played an abbreviated schedule. "You know, your head, getting in the right spots and being ready to take checks and not be surprised out there because you are behind in your own preparation.
"When you go every second night and sometimes play four games a week, that's tough.
"There is no game as demanding on conditioning as the sport of hockey. That becomes so important. And that's what will be pretty obvious as we get going here again, because lesser ability teams with decent conditioning could get a jump and in that short schedule all of a sudden you are losing games you'd expect to win, you are losing to teams you'd expect to beat and then comes that mental aside of the game, that pressure that some people don't respond well to."
When you're Big Buff's shape, conditioning will always be an issue when he arrives at training camp, whether he likes it or not.
As for Hainsey, he was a major player in the NHL-NHLPA spat. Indeed, he sat across the bargaining table from the very man who signs his paycheques, Mark Chipman, and that in itself is reason to query him about the process.
My guess is that Hainsey will receive a rather rude welcome from fans because the Jets defenceman was so visible and vocal during the lockdown. But I don't get that. It's not like he was driving drunk. He stood up for player rights. He had the courage of his convictions, and if that meant butting heads with his boss, so be it.
Hainsey fought the good fight, and I salute him for it.
So, in summation, news scavengers were only doing their jobs in addressing these matters, and now they can move on to more pressing issues. Like, where on earth is Evander Kane?