Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Quick Hits: What Jim Benning Said

The Canucks' Twitter account tweeted a thing earlier tonight. This was the thing they tweeted:
This prompted @BlueAidanGreen to ask me this question, seeing as I'm usually pretty volatile towards nonsense like this:
I was ready to fire back the usual #fakeoutrage, fire-and-brimstone, those-idiots-don't-know-what-they're-doing type of response, but then I stopped to think. I don't know why, I'm usually bad at not running my mouth on these types of things, but something struck me about the nature of the Canucks' tweet and the purpose of their Twitter account itself, and I think it's worth saying that we probably kinda need to take a step back here and not read too much into what Jim Benning said.

The Vancouver Canucks don't have a Twitter account just because they want to talk hockey with fans. To them, it's strictly a marketing tool. It's purpose is not to provide news or analysis, it is first and foremost a way to "engage the consumer base" and "grow the brand" with a strong "social media presence." Sports Twitter despises Darren Rovell for being a soulless husk of a human being who bows down in worship of The Brand, but he's not exactly an inaccurate representation of what a professional sports marketing department probably thinks and talks like. Their job is to turn fan interest into actual dollars spent, and that only happens when fans make an emotional investment on some level. Participating in the discussion and engaging them on the social media medium that they like to talk hockey on is an easy way to do this.

This brings me to the actual content of what the Canucks' account tweets. You can be assured that Derek Jory or whoever is taking their turn behind the keyboard is under strict guidelines from the marketing department about what they share with their five-hundred and twenty-three thousand followers. Everything that's tweeted or distributed is carefully planned and designed as a part of a larger, overarching strategy to create a solid and trustworthy brand image - to make sure that the guys in charge look like they know what they're doing. If fans trust the Canucks, fans are more likely to spend money on the Canucks.

So when Jim Benning says something that's quoted by Twitter, you can bet it's been pre-screened and approved first. And even before that, he's almost assuredly met with some of the marketing guys to prep him for interviews and the like. As such, I don't think we can put a lot of stock into Benning saying he's looking for "character" in prospects, especially since "character" is such a nebulous thing.

We also have to remember that the vast majority of the Canucks' paying customers still revere the gritty heart leadershippyness of the 1994 team. "Character" means something to them. The broader fanbase wants character players - seemingly good guys who they can get behind and buy jerseys and merchandise to support - because that's what the broader fanbase thinks wins Stanley Cups. We have to remember that we as an analytic-focused community are still very much a niche in their market. We may very well have it right, but it's not in Vancouver's best interest to tip their hand in our favour since that's not what their paying fans want to hear. If they want Trevor to save the day again, then god dammit they'll make it look like they're hunting for Trevor 2.0, even if they really aren't.

Furthermore, no matter who Vancouver drafts, it's easy to say "we like this kid's character." The beauty of publicly valuing intangibles is that they can't be falsified on a player-by-player basis. We can't know if a guy has good character because, as fans, we have no inside knowledge. Jim Benning may very well draft Michael Dal Colle 6th overall, and Michael Dal Colle may very well be a total asshole. Will we be told about that? Of course not. Benning will lie if he has to. Bad character is bad for the brand.

And there you have it. A whole bunch of words to basically say the same thing as what you were taught in gradeschool: don't believe everything you see on T.V. read on the internet.

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