ARMCHAIR GM XVI: BLOWING SMOKE

Robin Brownlee
April 18 2014 06:30PM

Craig MAcTavish5

Having known Craig MacTavish as a player, coach and manager in the NHL these past 25 years, many of them spent travelling around the NHL with the Edmonton Oilers until 2007, I have a lot of respect for him.

Of MacTavish's many virtues, gamesmanship – on and off the ice – sits high on my list of his attributes. It was no surprise, then, to hear him spin The World According to MacT the other day when he met with local media, specifically as it pertained to head coach Dallas Eakins and how he'll handle his coaching staff. Will Eakins retain Steve Smith and Kelly Buchberger? Will he add another coach?

MacTavish insisted the call on the coaching staff moving forward – as it was to keep Smith and Buchberger in the first place -- belongs to Eakins, but with the following caveat: "But my sense is we have the right people. We have the right coaches in place."

I characterized what MacTavish had to say about the coaching situation as "spin" and "blowing smoke" and "ass-covering" on the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 Wednesday. The more I think about it, I was likely selling MacT short. Yes, it was spin, but my take today is it was far more calculated than that. Gamesmanship at its finest.

In simple terms, over to you, Dallas.

BETWEEN THE LINES

Buchberger, Kelly Buchberger, Kelly

Added to the coaching staff in 2008-09 by MacTavish in his final season as head coach, Buchberger is now on his fifth coach – MacTavish, Pat Quinn, Tom Renney, Ralph Krueger and Eakins. It's unheard of that an assistant coach in the NHL survive that much changeover. Smith, by the way, is on his third head coach, having arrived in 2010-11.

My take on the situation is straightforward: Buchberger remains employed today because president of hockey operations Kevin Lowe is his friend and has his back. The same can be said on both counts for MacTavish. The ties that bind them are strong and go back many years. Loyalty, cronyism, the Old Boys Club – call it what you will.

Owner Daryl Katz, who grew up cheering for the Oilers, is happy to defer to Lowe and MacTavish. He damn sure isn’t going to fire Lowe, at or near the top of hockey ops as GM or POHO since 2000. He's not going to insist Lowe or MacTavish fire Buchberger or Smith. So, here were are, with the Oilers eight straight years out of the playoffs and fans demanding changes at every level of hockey ops. Rightfully so.

Dallas Eakins 13

Like others who've been moved along – coaches Quinn, Renney, Krueger, Bill Moores and Rob Daum and former GM Steve Tambellini – Eakins isn’t a former Oiler. Now, we're told Eakins will make the call on the coaching staff. He gets to be the heavy, if there is to be one.

Does Eakins value Buchberger as an assistant coach? Are they on the same page philosophically? Will he keep Bucky on? I don't know for sure. Might Eakins move Buchberger or Smith along despite MacTavish's suggestion the right people are in place? That would take some brass, no?

I think it's time for Buchberger to go. You think it's time for Buchberger to go. MacTavish is an intelligent and perceptive man. Is it a reach, given the discontent of the fan base, to wonder if the GM has reluctantly come to the same conclusion but that he doesn't want to be the person to pull the trigger, loyalty being what it is?

Over to you, Dallas.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#51 RexHolez
April 19 2014, 03:23AM
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Why would you change anything? This group is doing a fantastic job! Keep up the good work guys! Glad the oilers are so "accountable"

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#52 danoilerfanincalgary
April 19 2014, 06:04AM
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Unless you are in the room how would you know for sure. I could see Dallas adding another coach and moving Bucky upstairs.

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#53 pelhem grenville
April 19 2014, 07:51AM
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Ambassador humantorch wrote:

Counterpoint: didn't Eakins bring in Keith Acton as an assistant, which then led to Will Acton "anchoring" our 4th line for way too long this season?

...Keith Acton as a Marlies assistant coach begets his spawn Will, a former Marlboro, because the later couldn't have played in the NHL for one game without his Dad on staff...I have said this before but Smith and Buchberger need to be given the heave-hoski BY Eakins...leaving Kevin and MacT off the hook for giving their life long buddies the hook...the head coach should hire his own two more assistants and leave Acton at one end of the bench to open and close the gate...

EDIT ...and Bucky should stay outta the tanning beds

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#54 Dan 1919
April 19 2014, 08:34AM
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Common sense suggests they move on from the two coaches who have been engulfed in failure, but they won't.

MacT has this summer to put a contender together, otherwise even though Katz writes pretty letters, he will can the management group (maybe keeping MacT and letting the nee PHO decide his fait). Or the other option, they tank again and players will start wanting out. Eventually something will have to happen, whether Katz wants to make the tough calls or not.

Let's hope for the fans sake that they start winning next year and everything is fine. I don't see it though, MacT already appears brainwashed when he even suggests that they can, "go young," or says Buck and Steve are good at their jobs.

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#55 CMG30
April 19 2014, 08:44AM
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People have hopped on board the 'Klowe nepotism bus' hard here because one of the assistants has survived 5 head coaches...

Allow me to throw an alternate explanation out:

5 head coaches in 5 years. Those 5 years contained events like lockouts, shortened seasons, and rookie head coaches. Ask yourselves if it's reasonable for a brand new head coach to want to keep some key people around to help in the transition? Remember the coach can only tell so much from an interview and needs time to evaluate how well they actually do their jobs. Also, mid season is not really a great time to fire your assistants and conduct a replacement search.

In this case I think that there is an argument to be made that having these guys stick around for so long is actually another symptom of the head coaching circus in Edmonton.

*Note, I'm not defending the job the assistants have done and I'm firmly of the opinion that they need to move on. That time is now and if Eakins doesn't tackle this in the off season then that would be strong evidence to me that they are 'protected'.

I think Eakins has had some growing pains this season but the key word is growing. Still he needs to recognize his limitations and bring in assistants with experience and abilities in areas where he's lacking, such as running a PP.

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#56 Spoilers
April 19 2014, 08:57AM
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Fire the POHO, and hire one that has won as the head of the MGT, not as a player.

Give the new POHO the keys to the kingdom and let them fire whoever they sense is a crony rather than a true pro.

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#57 Red Headed Stranger
April 19 2014, 09:05AM
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There is no objective defense for the job the coaches did this year. I have supported MacT through a lot this year but that press conference left me depressed. To paraphrase "he is more impressed with Eakins than ever". I assume that means he was hoping for coaching room "chaos and dysfunction early in the year and systemic confusion the entire year. Eakins hit it out of the park on those metrics. MacT lost a lot of personal cred with those statements.

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#58 2004Z06
April 19 2014, 09:18AM
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Kr55 wrote:

People need to stop buying tickets if we ever want this to end. As long as the Oilers sell every ticket (doesn't matter what happens with the tickets after the sale), they will keep treating this organization like a boys club where no one in the special circle ever has to be accountable for being terrible at their job.

But why? Every time the Tier 1 fans begin to get a little restless, the top brass put on a dog and pony show at 100 bucks a plate and invite the Great One and Mess to come and reassure everyone that things are going according to plan.

The sheep in Edmonton are easily distracted.

Bahhhhhh Bahhhhhh

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#59 Oiler Al
April 19 2014, 09:23AM
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Red Headed Stranger wrote:

There is no objective defense for the job the coaches did this year. I have supported MacT through a lot this year but that press conference left me depressed. To paraphrase "he is more impressed with Eakins than ever". I assume that means he was hoping for coaching room "chaos and dysfunction early in the year and systemic confusion the entire year. Eakins hit it out of the park on those metrics. MacT lost a lot of personal cred with those statements.

I am begining to think that MacT is a bit of a Snake Oiler Salesman!. Theres more smoke here than fire, and he just keeps blowing that smoke you know where.

If it aint a banger or a fourth liner, MacT seems to be lost. [ Perron fell into his lap, as ST Louis were dumping salary. Didnèt see Oshie coming this way, but I give him credit for Perron deal.

Lets, all remember one thing, who is driving the Boys on the Bus, bus... its Mr, Katz.

When an owner has his paws on the hockey operations big time.... you have CHAOS!!!.

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#60 NJ
April 19 2014, 09:42AM
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Oiler Al wrote:

I am begining to think that MacT is a bit of a Snake Oiler Salesman!. Theres more smoke here than fire, and he just keeps blowing that smoke you know where.

If it aint a banger or a fourth liner, MacT seems to be lost. [ Perron fell into his lap, as ST Louis were dumping salary. Didnèt see Oshie coming this way, but I give him credit for Perron deal.

Lets, all remember one thing, who is driving the Boys on the Bus, bus... its Mr, Katz.

When an owner has his paws on the hockey operations big time.... you have CHAOS!!!.

Did Scrivens and Fasth fall in his lap as well. Hendricks? I suppose Dubnyk also "fell off his lap"? Horcoff gone? Gordon?

I understand MacT has made mistakes, and some moves haven't worked out... but the ones that matter, have been good. We await the summer.

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#61 oilers2k10
April 19 2014, 09:50AM
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Oilers management is doin a great job! They got their fans complaining more than the fans of the Leafs yet they still show up every night to watch them.

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#62 The Don
April 19 2014, 10:00AM
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My Take on the MacT presser: it's our way with the team we think we improved and we have the right people in place. We need a center for 2nd line and a high end defenceman. We the management see the progress that fans and media don't. We are past the half way mark of the rebuild and only 3 more years to go until a contender for the playoffs.

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#63 Spydyr
April 19 2014, 10:24AM
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Derian Hatcher wrote:

@Herbert

An interesting question for RB. Correct me if I'm wrong, and I have definitely not observed every presser, but other than John Mackinnon's hardball questioning when MacT was introduced as GM (when kLowe had his little tantrum) I cannot recall many tough questions of oiler personnel. Why doesn't MSM ask some tough questions? Maybe we need to bring in some of the journalists who cover the legislature.

The yard sale continues....sigh.

“Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations.”

― George Orwell

Lots of public relations people in Edmonton's MSM.

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#64 nunyour
April 19 2014, 10:32AM
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Katz has the power to do anything he wants to make this team successful,but he choses not too.How many nhl owners would put up with the oilers dismal record?

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#65 Bryzarro World
April 19 2014, 10:56AM
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NJ wrote:

Did Scrivens and Fasth fall in his lap as well. Hendricks? I suppose Dubnyk also "fell off his lap"? Horcoff gone? Gordon?

I understand MacT has made mistakes, and some moves haven't worked out... but the ones that matter, have been good. We await the summer.

Fact is that MacT, with all his moves, managed to put together a bigger loser than Tambo....

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#66 Bryzarro World
April 19 2014, 11:00AM
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nunyour wrote:

Katz has the power to do anything he wants to make this team successful,but he choses not too.How many nhl owners would put up with the oilers dismal record?

Does that make Katz the biggest idiot in hockey?

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#67 Rama Lama
April 19 2014, 11:21AM
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It's time for me to finally admit that coaching is not part of our problem. Coach Patrick Roy is an anomaly and so is Ted Nolan, and Paul Maurice.

Coaching has no relevance on the team ( I have been told this over and over again) so I think it's logical to look at the trainers.

I now believe it's all the trainers fault we suck so bad........I think Kevin Lowe should fire them all?

Props if you agree.

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#68 NJ
April 19 2014, 11:53AM
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Bryzarro World wrote:

Fact is that MacT, with all his moves, managed to put together a bigger loser than Tambo....

By record only. If Dubnyk had that save % through Tambo's reign as GM I would suggest that we'd have finished dead last every year. If you look at the D Tambo started and finished with you'll recognize Tambo's "brilliance".

I'm assuming you're suggesting then that the team hasn't improved since MacT began his tenure here?

Do I seriously have to defend MacT vs Tambo? I would humbly suggest we wait until the mid point of next season before we throw Mac under the bus.

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#69 Oiler Al
April 19 2014, 12:21PM
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NJ wrote:

Did Scrivens and Fasth fall in his lap as well. Hendricks? I suppose Dubnyk also "fell off his lap"? Horcoff gone? Gordon?

I understand MacT has made mistakes, and some moves haven't worked out... but the ones that matter, have been good. We await the summer.

I understand the situation with Sal.Caps, NTC, wanting to play at beach city etc.. but MacT made a huge mistake by selling the .. Bold Moves .. slogan. All he was doing was pumping the Tier one ticket buyers... this is the year, folks.

Scrivens and Fasth, hopefully will workout, but lets be honest they were on the shelf as backup goalies. Its not like he brought in Price or Miller.

Hendricks good addition, again this is a fourth line player on other teams.You know what hes worth the money.

Gordon doing a good job, but he paid $3. million bucks for basically taking face offs.PK is a help, but other can do it at one third the cost. Arcobello could play third line ctr. for $1.million.

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#70 Oiler Al
April 19 2014, 12:22PM
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nunyour wrote:

Katz has the power to do anything he wants to make this team successful,but he choses not too.How many nhl owners would put up with the oilers dismal record?

Answer: Two. Katz and Wong.

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#71 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
April 19 2014, 01:56PM
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Confirming these bozos only confirms Connor McDavid is the goal next season.

MacTavish is free to do business with 13 other NHL teams right now. Obviously he must still be in that "assessing" mode. Lowe has replaced 2 GM's, 5 coaches and well over 60 players in his time here. Perhaps it's time to look in the mirror.

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#72 pelhem grenville
April 19 2014, 03:22PM
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nunyour wrote:

Katz has the power to do anything he wants to make this team successful,but he choses not too.How many nhl owners would put up with the oilers dismal record?

...I would think that Charles Wang who owns the Islanders is right up there with owners with their heads in their a$$es ... he's got Garth Snow as GM ...

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#73 Casey
April 19 2014, 05:45PM
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"3 years and you are telling me you are impatient?" Hell yeah!!! Colorado drafts first, makes the playoffs,Columbus drafts second in 2012, makes playoffs. Tampa drafts 3rd overall, considered a contender, Aneheim, and Montreal draft top 5, both powerhouse teams in their conferences, Edmonton drafts 1st 3 years In a row and 7th pick, 3rd overall pick. Let that sink in

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#74 spliff
April 19 2014, 10:24PM
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How many playoffs appearance for the Oilers since 2000? 3 times I think. F*cking pathetic.

Now, the Avalanche are giving their fans a great dose of playoff hockey, led by their recent top 5 draft picks. How about our Oilers?

The comparison to the Avs situation is very relevant to the Oilers, and shows that the Oilers management (KLowe, MacT, Howson) dropped the ball big time on this rebuild. I used to semi-respect MacT but after his BS press conference I realized he is just another crony - a part of the problem not the solution. Next year will disappoint, and the following year etc. etc. This management group are amateurs, who have had some past success, which makes them stubborn and arrogant.

When the mediocrity ends is anyone's guess. We are the Kansas City Royals of the NHL.

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#75 NJ
April 19 2014, 10:37PM
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Oiler Al wrote:

I understand the situation with Sal.Caps, NTC, wanting to play at beach city etc.. but MacT made a huge mistake by selling the .. Bold Moves .. slogan. All he was doing was pumping the Tier one ticket buyers... this is the year, folks.

Scrivens and Fasth, hopefully will workout, but lets be honest they were on the shelf as backup goalies. Its not like he brought in Price or Miller.

Hendricks good addition, again this is a fourth line player on other teams.You know what hes worth the money.

Gordon doing a good job, but he paid $3. million bucks for basically taking face offs.PK is a help, but other can do it at one third the cost. Arcobello could play third line ctr. for $1.million.

I agree MacT made a mistake with the "Bold Moves" slogan. He oversold and under delivered, a classic rookie mistake. I'm simply not even close to giving up on him yet... heck... in a few months he got rid of Dubnyk, something Tambo never did. And he got a roster player for him. Doesn't matter if Hendricks is a 3rd or 4th liner, he's an NHL player. Arcobello could also play 2nd line centre for the job Gagner is doing.

All things being equal, we can agree to disagree about the job MacT is doing. I may eat my words, but I have my doubts. :)

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#76 10-99-17
April 19 2014, 10:49PM
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Without a clear objective analysis of what the assistant coaches' job and role are, and how well they objectively performed to meet those requirements, this article is no more than a gossip column.

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#77 Robin Brownlee
April 20 2014, 09:18AM
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10-99-17 wrote:

Without a clear objective analysis of what the assistant coaches' job and role are, and how well they objectively performed to meet those requirements, this article is no more than a gossip column.

Without a real name attached to this comment, it's nothing more than anonymous internet noise spewed by somebody with zero conviction to what they're saying.

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#78 bob
April 20 2014, 10:14AM
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Kr55 wrote:

People need to stop buying tickets if we ever want this to end. As long as the Oilers sell every ticket (doesn't matter what happens with the tickets after the sale), they will keep treating this organization like a boys club where no one in the special circle ever has to be accountable for being terrible at their job.

you don't need to take that drastic of a step. Just don't go to your seat until after the National Anthem. An empty building before the game starts is message enough.

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#79 Fred
April 20 2014, 10:54AM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

Without a real name attached to this comment, it's nothing more than anonymous internet noise spewed by somebody with zero conviction to what they're saying.

That is Dan Tencer again taking a shot at you. LOL

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#80 BillHK
April 20 2014, 11:51AM
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Fire Katz?

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#81 hagargt
April 20 2014, 07:17PM
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Oiler Al wrote:

I am begining to think that MacT is a bit of a Snake Oiler Salesman!. Theres more smoke here than fire, and he just keeps blowing that smoke you know where.

If it aint a banger or a fourth liner, MacT seems to be lost. [ Perron fell into his lap, as ST Louis were dumping salary. Didnèt see Oshie coming this way, but I give him credit for Perron deal.

Lets, all remember one thing, who is driving the Boys on the Bus, bus... its Mr, Katz.

When an owner has his paws on the hockey operations big time.... you have CHAOS!!!.

Good thing I read all the posts before making my own. You pretty much summed up what I was thinking. The oilers management has so little to hide behind after YEARS of excuses, that they are now resorting to speculation of change to make it sound like they are doing something.

These guys probably spend more time playing spin doctor than they do trying to build the team.

Kevin lowe: " alright guys, we need to call a meeting" MacT "awesome! I have some good info from the scouts" Kevin Lowe "who cares.. we need to do another presser deflecting blame, and showing our development first.. any ideas" Katz: "let's put it in another coaches lap? Seems to have worked for the last 8 years, and we are still selling out right?" Lowe: "awesome idea Darryl!! BTW, I can for sure make your kids birthday party next week, should I make my world famous potato salad?" Katz: "hell ya buddy!!"

Meeting over.

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#82 Herbert
April 20 2014, 10:52PM
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@RobinBrownlee

"Without a real name attached to this comment, it's nothing more than anonymous internet noise spewed by somebody with zero conviction to what they're saying."

Robin. Why spew hate at a fellow fan like that? You're writing for a blog. Nobody on here uses their full name. If you want to open your opinion on the web like this, be prepared to take some criticism of your opinion. Your post didn't have any new hard hitting facts. C'mon now.

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