Noted hot takist and veteran good-opinion-haver Mark Madden seems to have taken a dive into an ice bucket of cold takery today.
At least that’s what I thought at first.
In a seemingly ice cold take posted at TimesOnline.com, Madden criticized one of the most important characteristics a hockey player can have — GRIT.
Now, if you’re an avid reader of the Takery, you know that I hold things like grit, leadership, and compete level in the highest of regard. Hell, those are the kinds of things that win hockey games. So imagine my surprise when I saw that Madden had written these words in reference to the Penguins’ unwillingness to ditch the gritty Craig Adams:
It’s mostly because the importance of “good” grinding-style third- and fourth-line forwards is a myth, promulgated by the Canadian mentality that grit is as important as skill and put into play by the grotesque over-expansion of the NHL, which necessitates that at least one-third of its players aren’t very good.
That is a very kind estimate, by the way.
Let’s say the NHL contracted to 12 teams, the size it was after the 1967 expansion. Let’s say the league would have today’s scouting capabilities and global player availability. Each team could have three scoring lines, maybe four.
Would teams bypass skill for grit? Would better players be excluded for the sake of the “intangibles” today’s third- and fourth-liners allegedly have?
By some teams, maybe. Those teams would lose. Eventually, the myth would disappear. So would the less-talented players.
Now, this had me all hot and bothered. Madden seemed to have taken a turn to the darkside — a place where logic, intelligence, and rationality rule the day. That kind of shit has no place on the internet, especially from someone who is an expert on the subject of hockey.
And then it dawned on me: there’s just no fucking way that Madden actually thinks what he wrote. It must have just been a way for him to rationalize why the Penguins are dropping turds on the ice right now. Now, he could have criticized anything about the Penguins without the need to back it up (he is a takist after all), but this time the wheel of blame landed squarely on “too much grit.”
How do I know this? Well, you see, while Madden claims above that the value of grit is a “myth” based on a “Canadian mentality,” you’ll never believe who has gone to great lengths to perpetuate this “myth.”
Yeap, you guessed it: Mark Madden.
First, let’s take this steaming hot take from December 2014, in which Madden argues that veteran somewhat-hockey-player Bobby Farnham should be in the Penguins lineup. The reason?
He has zero pedigree. Undrafted. Didn’t even score much in college hockey, at Brown. That works against him.
But players like Farnham help good teams. ADRENALINE. Enthusiasm, heart and team-first are contagious.
Farnham and Steve Downie provides bookends of aggravation. Farnham should be rewarded for what he’s done so far. Dress Bobby Farnham.
“But Dr. HT,” you might be saying, “Mark Madden didn’t specifically reference grit.” While I could argue that things like ADRENALINE (all caps), heart, and aggravation pretty much convey the same sentiment as grit, you’re right. So what has Mark Madden specifically said about the value of grit in the past?
We only need to go back to March 2013 to see Madden write a staunch defense of grit. In an article titled — I shit you not — “Pens need to get their grit together,” Madden argued that what the Penguins needed to make a deep playoff run was not skilled Corsi-padders like Jerome Iginla, but rather a healthy dose of grit:
But what the Penguins need more than anything is third- and fourth-line size and grit. Especially grit. Grit breeds accountability. Grit prevents first periods like Thursday night’s. Grit tiptoes through rough patches without the scoreboard exploding.
More grit could bring the Penguins a Stanley Cup.
Just look at that whimsical as fuck description of grit leading to the denouement that more of it will win the Penguins a Stanley Cup. It’s just. So beautiful.
Bonus points: in the above article, Madden urged the Penguins to not “collect stars” and instead “build a team” by picking up extra grit. Who was it who — on this very day — said that teams that bypass skill for grit are teams that “would lose”? You might want to scroll up to find out the answer (it was Mark Madden).
But wait, it gets better. At the end of last season, everyone was scrambling to figure out what exactly went wrong with the Penguins. Well, Mark Madden, being an opinion-haver, gave up his scorching hot take. Let’s just peep what he thought was wrong with the Pens not twelve months ago:
In trying to set an example for how hockey should be, [Former Penguins General Manager Ray] Shero constructed a team that is infinitely removed from what’s needed to win.
The Penguins had zero grit. Most of their players are wimps by birth, never mind choice. Lack of grit means the opposition has no accountability.
Before every game, I guarantee the Rangers were in their locker room saying, “Go after Crosby. Go after Malkin. They won’t do anything about it.” The Rangers tortured those two, especially Crosby. The Penguins had no remedy.
Get it? Last season the Penguins didn’t win because they didn’t have enough grit. Now they might just miss the playoffs because of too much grit. Makes you think, huh?
And what about Craig Adams, the guy who inspired Madden to write his screed against grit. Well, it seems Mark wasn’t always counting Adams’ grit against him:
So there you have it. While today’s Madden piece may have you thinking that he’s one of those Corsi-heads hell bent on ruining the NHL, he has a long documented history of just saying whatever the hell he feels like without backing it up. And given the fact that he’s written loads on the merits of grit and only a tiny bit on why it’s bad, I think it’s safe so say that he still falls under the classification of smoking hot takist.
Oh, and if you think that maybe he just had a change of heart, I wouldn’t put much stock in that. See, when I noticed the inconsistency in Madden’s thought (or lack thereof) process, I politely notified him. He had the opportunity to explain that his thinking had evolved, but instead he resorted to telling me about how he makes money and I don’t.
Now that’s the reaction of a bona fide takist if I’ve ever seen it.