This week, we talked to Joe at Mile High Hockey to learn more about the overlord of the evil Avalanche empire. As I mentioned last week, this is a weekly series that I brought over from Behind the Jersey and a new BTB will be posted every Monday.
Q.1 - You started Mile High Hockey back in July of last year and you blogged at In the Cheap Seats before that. Why did you decide to start blogging about the Avs?
Actually, I didn't blog for In the Cheap Seats. My first hockey blog was called "Dear Lord Stanley" and it started in March 2007 as an Avs blog but shifted to a more general focus once Mile High Hockey got going in July of 2007. I started blogging about the Avs because I love the Avs and love to read myself type. It was a no-brainer really. And I'm deluded into thinking I represent the perspective of your average reasonably-informed Colorado hockey fan, and therefore other people would relate to me and read the blog.. So far so good, I guess.
WIM Editor regrets the error. I clearly wasn't thinking when I asked the question. My bad.
Q.2 - When and why did you become a Colorado Avalanche fan?
I became an Avalanche fan because they moved to Colorado and changed their name. When I was a little kid (around age 12), I started following hockey and picked the Quebec Nordiques as my favorite team. We didn't have pro hockey anywhere near where I grew up, so I just picked the team that I thought had the coolest uniforms. I stuck with them and when they moved to Colorado I became an Avs fan.
Q.3 – What are your season predictions for the Avs?
I hate predictions because everybody else makes them and makes a big deal about them. Personally, the Avs are so good in some respects and so bad in others that they really could finish anywhere between third and eleventh in the West. If they suffer any injuries like they did last season, they're sunk. If they stay healthy and other teams stumble a bit, they could do really well.
Q.4 - What do you hope to achieve with your blog over the next few years?
I'm not sure a person can achieve anything with a blog, but I know what you're asking. I don't have any journalistic ambitions (I'm in law school), and I don't really want to get hired by the team, either. Honestly, I just want the quality of the posts to remain high and the quality of the comments and member participation to keep getting better. The blog is a community, and I'd just like to see it keep growing and stay positive.
Q.5 – If you had to predict the two teams who would make it to the Stanley Cup Finals this year, who would they be?
I predict the Islanders and the Blue Jackets.
Q.6 - What do you think was the biggest move the Avs made over the summer?
The Avs didn't actually make any moves that could qualify as big, really. On the personnel front, it was mostly just a few bangers they picked up, and some prospects they re-signed. Probably the most significant change has been behind the bench, because Tony Granato's system of play and his coaching style are totally different than Joel Quenneville's. Granato likes the all-out offensive onslaught. Coach Q was a trapping coach. We're seeing the difference already in that the Avs are leading the league in goals scored but also barely winning because of too many goals allowed.
Q.7 - Joel Quenneville left as head coach and Tony Granato is now on board. What was your initial reaction to the new head coach and what do you think of the decision now?
I was very glad when the Avs declined to renew Quenneville's contract over the summer because I hated his coaching style and hated the effect it had on the players. He lost the locker room at some point and had absolutely no idea how to deal with injuries in the playoffs. That said, rehiring Granato as top dog wasn't my first choice by far. I think the Avs really screwed up by not interviewing former Red Wings assistant coach Todd McLellan, and San Jose scored a major coup by picking him up. Already we're seeing dominance from the Sharks. But Granato did okay in his first try as Avs coach, and so far I'm generally pleased with his work. I love the old-school offense he's got going, but I do think his defensive weaknesses are already evident. The Avs are getting scored on a lot, and it's not just because Peter Budaj is less-amazing than Patrick Roy. His defense has let him down a lot, and that's the coach's fault. Also, while the power play is better now than under Quenneville, the penalty kill is worse.
Q.8 - If you could change one thing about the NHL to increase its marketability in the US, what would you do and why?
No offense, but I hate this question. I hate it every time it comes up and every time people waste energy trying to answer it. For as dumb as they are, most Americans can't be suckered into watching something they really just don't care about. They didn't grow up playing hockey, and they have trouble following the action on the ice because they don't know what to look for or have any concept of the history of the game. You can put lipstick on a pig but it's still a pig, right? To most Americans, hockey is a pig no matter how you dress it up. Is that a bad thing? Personally, I don't think so. I've always enjoyed the cult status hockey has among its U.S. fans, and I enjoy the fringe feel to it. I think the league should stop wasting time trying to spread itself thinly all over the place and instead focus on building up the images of the teams in the cities in which they already reside. Get the seats full, and then worry about who in Oklahoma is watching a Coyotes game on Versus. Quit pandering to people who don't care, and pander to those who already do.
WIM Editor's Note: No offense taken and I enjoyed the unique response to that question.
Q.9 - Who is your favorite hockey player (current or retired)? Why?
This is the easiest question ever. Joe Sakic is my favorite hockey player of all time, now and forever. I know Wings fans will argue that Steve Yzerman was the greatest long-time captain of any team, but I think Sakic takes it hands-down. He's an amazingly talented class act, and his steady, quiet leadership is a model for others to follow. Also, he scored 100 points at age 37. How many points did Yzerman score at 37? Look it up, Wings fans.
WIM Editor's Note: I won't go there, but I do admire and respect Joe Sakic more than any other Avalanche player (and all of them combined). He is fantastic player and captain.
Q.10 - Is there any hockey blog or website that you look to for inspiration?
I have a few favorite hockey blogs, of course. I've always liked Greg Wyshynski's voice, and Puck Daddy has been a really great project for him. He's kind of a kindred spirit in sarcasm, and I try to emulate his excitement for and perspective on the game, if not his actual voice or personality. I also really look up to Dirk Hoag at the Forechecker, simply because he's a statistics wizard and I never was. I always admired the number-crunchers. I also admire Bill at Abel To Yzerman. Even though he loves the most horrible, despicable waste of a franchise in hockey history, he's the most passionate blogger on the web. The Red Wings aren't a hockey team, they're the blood in Bill's veins. He lives for that team and dies with that team, and his rage-filled obsession with them is really infectious. He does great work, even if it's misguided.
Overall I pretty much just try to keep things interesting and let my own personality peek through here and there---the reason people read particular blogs is because they can relate to the authors, and I think there's enough optimistically cynical people like myself out there that I can maintain a decent audience.