Thursday, January 15, 2009

Questions Of Tanking

How Naive Is Howard Berger?

In searching for something, anything to write about the Preds, I came across this piece by Howard Berger instead.

In the piece, Berger (whom Leafs fans "revere") argues that:
...the concept of “tanking” has no merit. It’s an illusion; a cop-out for those who either don’t understand – or cannot deal with – the reality of professional sport.

Perhaps he is so adamant, because for all their years of futility, the Leafs have been as inept at tanking a season as they have been at winning a season. Their never quite good enough, never quite bad enough see-saw ride has seen them miss out on top draft picks and top awards for decades.

But don't tell the Colorado Avalanche that tanking never happens. Don't tell the Pittsburgh Penguins. Both franchises in their history have used tanking to great effect – to languish behind the Leafs and average teams for a while and then completely vault over them into contention without making stops in the middle ground.

Other than organizational tanking, how else can you explain this team (Quebec) losing to this team (Hartford)?

This team (Pittsburgh) tanked its way to 16 victories over 80 games! They squeaked by fellow tankers NJ to nab Mario Lemieux in the 1984 draft. Someone has to lose the season, but by trading their best defenceman when it looked to be getting too tight, Pittsburgh made sure they lost.

I realise that these examples show how managers and coaches can conspire to lose a season by playing a ton of rookies and trading good players for picks; however, the players can play a part too. After all, once the pressure is off from management (as it surely would be in a regime primed for losing), then some players stop trying as hard as they would have if they were pushed. Perhaps it's unconscious, but it happens.

Still don't believe in tanking. Ask Sweden how they got the plum semi-final at the Olympics. Ask Pittsburgh how they avoided the Bruins and got the Sens in the first round of the playoffs last year.

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