When Elvis Merzlikins was thrust into the starting goaltender position after the injury to Joonas Korpisalo, it was announced that he would not be speaking with the media so he could instead focus exclusively on preparing for the games. John Tortorella later admitted that he was the one who suggested this move, but when it first happened ESPN writer Greg Wysynski made the following tweet:
Prediction: Elvis goes 0-5-1 and still blames the media. https://t.co/uwfdl8fovE— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) December 30, 2019
Needless to say, with each Elvis victory - there have been five in his seven starts so far - Columbus Blue Jackets fans on Twitter bring this up, and pile on. Even the official team account joined the fun following Elvis’s shutout victory in Vegas:
The Cannon founder and manager emeritus Mike MacLean joined the conversation:
Take the high road and admit this one is in the L column man. Don't try to change things, you shot your shot and it missed, focus your powers on good and not evil.— Mike MacLean (@mejmaclean) January 12, 2020
Wyshynski was wrong and he should own up to it. But I also think that CBJ fans need to accept that and leave him alone. He was wrong, but we’re missing his point. Let’s break each part down:
The record. Obviously, predicting that Elvis would go 0-5-1 was waaaaaaay off. I would say he should have had more faith in Elvis, except that I myself thought it more likely that he’d go 0-5-1 in his six starts after the tweet than 4-2-0. He has been a significantly better goalie since he’s had to be:
First 9 appearances (so, not including the Chicago shootout): 0-4-3, .889 SV%, 3.41 GAA
Last 7 appearances: 5-2-0, .943 SV%, 1.88 GAA
Blaming the media. The media blackout wasn’t because of some beef with the media. At no point was it suggested that media scrutiny was responsible for Elvis’s struggles. That was a kneejerk reaction from Wyshynski to assume that.
It’s fair for the media to take issue with players going silent. Here’s where Wysh has a point, and we should accept it. I had initially thought the local reporters were being whiny when they tweeted about this issue, but I thought Alison Lukan made a good point on our podcast last week in response to a question from elpalito (at the 37:45 mark). She points out that it is the media’s job to tell the full story for those who can’t be there. Part of that is talking to the players and getting their immediate reactions to the game, whether good or bad. She noted that with how excited Elvis appeared on the ice after the New Year’s Eve win, wouldn’t we want to see and hear him talking, and not just get the written statement from him through the team’s PR department? She also pointed out that in her interactions with him, he has given thoughtful answers rather than the usual canned cliches.
I think that Wyshynski was standing up for his fellow members of the media, who are expected to report on players’ reactions, and were prevented by this decision from doing their job to the fullest extent. The players are professionals and speaking to reporters is part of their job, no matter whether they’re struggling, or if they’re facing the biggest game of their career.
Fortunately, Elvis is talking to the media again and is still playing well, so this thing can blow over. Therefore, let’s cut Wyshynski some slack. I’ve generally found him to be one of the more fair national media figures when it comes to covering the Jackets. I also highly recommend his book Take Your Eye Off the Puck, which is a great hockey primer for those who are relatively new to following the sport.
The week that was
A second loss to San Jose in less than a week is baffling but I’m not going to complain about a 3-1-0 record on a trip out West. With those two Sharks games as the only regulation losses, the Jackets have earned points in 15 of their last 17 games (11-2-4) going back to December 9.
As Will said, we should have learned to never count out this team.
Do listen to that aforementioned Cannon Cast episode with Alison Lukan. I’ve been a fan of hers for several years now so it was a real thrill to get to chat with her for a bit. We discussed hockey analytics and the upcoming conference the Jackets are hosting.
Rachel shared some more of her ice level pictures. There are some real gems in there, like this one:
MrSwift13 makes the case that the red-hot Zach Werenski should have been the Blue Jackets rep in the upcoming All Star Game.
After a long layoff, the Cleveland Monsters played three games in three nights in three different cities. It, uh, did not go so well. First, they lost to the Binghamton Devils, then on Saturday to the Hershey Bears, and finally yesterday to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
Hopefully they’ll get some much-needed reinforcements once the injured Jackets start to come back. Four of the next five Jackets games are in Columbus, so they don’t need to carry extra players like they did on the road trip.
Around the League
Pekka Rinne scored the rare GOALIE GOAL! On the Forecheck compiled a history of this feat.
Former captain and “Mr. Game 7” Justin Williams has returned to the Carolina Hurricanes for the remainder of the season. I wonder if this is a trend we’ll see more often in sports. Mike Fisher did the same thing with the Predators recently, as did NFL running back Marshawn Lynch for the Seahawks this season. Do these old bodies need to play a full training camp and season? Why not show up fresh in the second half?
After trading their best player and firing their coach, the New Jersey Devils have finished the drill by parting ways with GM Ray Shero.
Ohio Sports Update
The Basketbucks remain winless in 2020 thanks to a Saturday loss to Indiana. Shades of last January?
The Browns have a new head coach! For all I know, Kevin Stefanski may be the right choice, but this ownership has lost my trust to make good decisions, or to stay loyal to a hire long enough for it to work out.
Play me out
I don’t care if this is too obvious. Everyone else made the references on Saturday so I will too: