While I pour over headlines of the hockey blog universe on a daily basis, I’ve been noticing something missing in the summer of 2017 that usually runs as an ongoing series in the hockey blogosphere: question-and-answer sessions that don’t just run the course of talking about other teams, but illustrate networking in blogdom.
Today I’m (hopefully) starting a series of Q & A interviews with some of the hockey blogosphere’s top members. The questions aren’t locked-on-the-franchise talk but touches on blogging as well as the wider NHL with some points that often play out in regular discussions that have been prominent this summer among idle fans.
This introduction interview is with Jon “J.P” Press, founder of Washington Capitals blog Japers RInk. Jon has been at his game as a hockey blogger since the 2004-05 NHL lockout. That idle time was pretty tough for fans to live through, and yet it gave birth to known members of the blogging universe as well as the mainstream media.
What drew you to hockey blogging?
Relatively equal parts boredom (I started blogging while ostensibly studying for the Maryland state bar exam), narcissism and the desire to have an ongoing conversation about the Caps (despite the fact that I started writing during the 2004-05 lockout).
What would you say is your grandest accomplishment so far in blogging?
Hmm. I don’t know how something like that is judged, but the thing I’m most proud of is simply building a robust community in which to discuss the Caps that offers something for all types of fans. It’s never been about me or us being part of the story, but rather informing, entertaining and guiding attempts at trying to understand what’s going on and why, and I feel we’ve done a pretty good job of that… which is a grand accomplishment in my book.
How about your favorite article that you’ve written up to this point? What’s the aspect / detail that makes you proudest of it?
Having been at it for a dozen years, there are obviously a bunch of favorites that have run on the site, but my personal favorite that I wrote was one looking back on the end of Bruce Boudreau’s tenure behind the Caps’ bench and questioning whether things had to play out the way they did. What I really like about it is that it utilized some “advanced” statistical concepts and analysis (or what was considered as much at the time – stuff like PDO) but conveyed the information in an accessible narrative to explain how, in my opinion, a lack of understanding of certain pretty basic, normal fluctuations led to an over-reaction and an organization that was suddenly lost at sea. It wasn’t “They shouldn’t have fired him!” but rather an explanation of the changes that made the move inevitable. I also liked that it was written a year-and-a-half after the firing, which gave plenty of perspective and removed a lot of the knee-jerk, emotional aspects that a post like that might otherwise allow to seep in. It’s really the type of post that’s emblematic of our site, generally, so it checks all of my “pride” boxes.
The hockey blogosphere is a much larger world than just your site. Name another blog that impresses you and a specific blog author.
I’m not in a great spot to answer this one these days, so I’ll go with an easy (but no less honest) answer: Puck Daddy. The breadth of Greg’s coverage is astounding (though it’s hard not to wonder what the future holds, given the tough staff cuts they’ve made), and he has a remarkable ability to get the tone right on difficult issues the first time through. His writing is insightful, informed and entertaining every. single. time.
And even though I just gave you a blog and a writer, here’s another writer that impresses me: Mike Vogel of Dump ‘n Chase on the Capitals’ website. Mike is a terrific writer, blends stats and quotes with narrative brilliantly, and he’s been fairly and reasonably critical of the team where appropriate, which has to be tough when that’s who’s signing his paycheck. You’ve seen higher-profile writers brought in-house to write for teams, but Mike’s been doing it for a while and doing it exceptionally well. He also has great hair.
Any tips that /you would give to up-and-coming bloggers or writers? Something that they should keep in mind with sports coverage or habits?
Oh boy. There’s an ongoing discussion, not just in hockey/sports blogging and not just in wake of the Deadspin article, regarding whether writers starting out should focus on getting seen or getting paid or both or neither or what have you, and my only advice there would be to focus on what you want to get out of blogging when it’s all said and done. I don’t think the same approach is likely to suit a 23-year-old with a journalism degree and a 35-year-old attorney who scribbles in his spare time for some sort of creative/intellectual outlet. That said, I do think that what you get out of it will be directly tied to what you put in. If you treat it like a job, that may well be an end result (what with places like The Athletic and such hiring talented, hard-workers with something to offer); if you treat it like a hobby and write what you want, when you want, you’re likely going to be able to scratch that itch. Also, don’t be a dick.
Are you content with the leadership of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman? Why or why not?
Sure – the world has bigger, shittier fish to fry. There are things I’d like to see handled differently, but he’s done his job and most of the problems we’d like to associate with him can be traced directly back to his bosses, the owners.
Do you, as a fan, take issue with the NHL not allowing player participation in the 2018 Winter Olympics?
Not really. It’s a fun best-on-best tourney when they’re there, but I’m much more interested in NHL hockey than international tournaments. I’d rather not lose three weeks of NHL hockey just to watch Canada win again.
The NHL will expand once again by a single team to even the franchise total to 32. Name a market where the league should take interest with expansion besides Quebec City, Quebec or Seattle, Washington.
Give Toronto a second team. That’d be entertaining.
We’re a ways before training camp ever begins, but with the state of your team’s roster as it stands and with how things went in the 2016-17 season, what do you think is the biggest issue facing your club going into 2017-18?
It’s been a rough summer for the Caps. It was always going to be a rough summer for the Caps, but it’s been a little rougher than it needed to be. As a result, there’s less depth (up front and on the blueline), more spots up for competition and likely going to be a heavier reliance on the team’s top-end talent to carry it. Add to that the fact that there’s very little that the two-time defending Presidents’ Trophy winners can prove during the regular season anyway, and I think the biggest issue is focusing and winning over the course of a long regular season. It’ll be a challenge from the top on down, and it’ll be interesting to see how they respond.
At the before-it-begins point where we stand now, who do you believe will be a top contender in the season ahead?
It’s tough to discount the Pens and I really like the Bolts, so I’ll go with them in the East and the Predators out west.
A very profound thanks to Jon for giving his two-cents. Make sure to stop by Japers Rink for Caps coverage and ollow the site on Twitter. Keep an eye out for more of these interviews in the near future.