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The Fallacies of Vitali Kravtsov

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As we all know, on Friday Vitali Kravtsov exercised the out clause in his contract to return to the KHL for the foreseeable future.  After playing only five games in the AHL and a few extended benching’s, the young Russian and his team decided that his future would be better served back home for the time being.

Over the weekend, Dave outlined very clearly that while the clause allows Kravtsov to return to the KHL, the Rangers can recall him at any time and since the KHL season ends in February, he will likely be back in North America in a few months.

The 19-year-old first round pick was clearly frustrated by his initial demotion and subsequent lack of playing time in the AHL.  There have been a number of reactions to this move, with some factions defending the player and some defending the organization.

What I have noticed during this discourse is the types of arguments being employed and the evidence used to support those arguments.  Where I personally fall on the spectrum is largely irrelevant for this discussion, but for the sake of full disclosure, I believe the organization’s priorities on both a micro and macro level are still out of touch with the goals of the rebuild and the handling of the Kravtsov situation is largely emblematic of that imbalance.

Those defending the player tend to lean on a few core arguments that are fairly facially obvious:

  1. Kravtsov looked good in camp, and seemingly could be an offensive asset to the Rangers this season.
  2. The basic accepted scouting profile on the player indicated, at worst, near-NHL readiness.
  3. The players perceived to be above him in the pecking order, namely Brendan Smith and Michael Haley are objectively poor NHL players.
  4. The benefit of getting NHL experience and acclimation in a known rebuilding year with less pressure than playing for a contender.

Whether or not you agree with the merits of these arguments, it is unquestionable they are made in good faith with a goal of directing criticism at the organization for the handling of the situation.  There are undoubtedly factors that could contribute to the decision of the organization being defensible.  For example, if there concerns about his ability to read and react to the game at the speed of the NHL.  If his game off the puck was too much of a work in progress on smaller ice. If his communication skills needed improvement in a new country and culture.

These are all counterarguments or explanations that would lend credibility to the position the organization has taken. While I’m not advocating that the organization be completely transparent with the fanbase or the media with respect to a player’s weaknesses, it goes back to the notion I discussed last week about the organization not recognizing the optics of their decisions and being open about the fact that there is a process they are following and there are legitimate reasons for their course of action.  The whole point I’m trying to make here is that if you are defending Vitali Kravtsov at the moment, you have a leg to stand on.

Contrast that with the arguments I have been seeing defending the organization.  It’s like a greatest hits list of logical fallacies. For the uninitiated, a logical fallacy is a flawed or faulty construction for an argument, which can employ misdirection or creation of illusions of logic to attempt to prove a point that is impossible or difficult to make an objectively persuasive argument for.  (note: www.yourlogicalfallacyis.com is an invaluable resource for understanding these tactics. All fallacy definitions below are courtesy of this site.)

Let’s take a look at a few, shall we?

False Cause

The false cause fallacy is presuming that a real or perceived relationship between things means that one is the cause of the other.

For Kravtsov, the false cause is the relationship between his age, maturity level and ultimate demotion/discipline.  The fact that is 19 says nothing substantive about his maturity level or capability to acclimate to the professional environment, just because many 19-year olds’ are immature.  While this may be the case, we have no evidence whatsoever to support that it is true in this situation.

Appeal to Emotion

The appeal to emotion fallacy attempting to manipulate an emotional response in place of a valid or compelling argument.

The argument that derides Kravtsov’s perceived lack of character or willingness to put in the effort or do “what it takes” is emblematic of this reductive type of reasoning.  The goal is to anger the audience by attempting to establish this perceived bad behavior or character shortcoming of the subject.  We have no evidence to believe that Kravtsov responded poorly to his demotion or that he left because he was unwilling to engage in the process in North America.

This argument also assumes a binary proposition; either there is only one process by which you can be a successful pro (following directives from the organization) or you don’t have what it takes, and you are emotionally weak or lazy.  This proposition creates the intended emotional response for the fallacy.  Don’t fall for it.

Note: this aspect of the arguments could also be applied to the ad hominem fallacy

Appeal to Authority

The Gold Standard of logical fallacies. The appeal to authority fallacy is “because an authority thinks something, it must therefore be true.”

This is the most frequent and ardently defended logical fallacy I have seen, not only in this situation, but in hockey as a whole.  As the source for this fallacy astutely points out, this fallacy is not to be used as a bad faith attack on consensus belief from authorities or subject matter experts.

“However, it is entirely possible that the opinion of a person or institution of authority is wrong; therefore, the authority that such a person or institution holds does not have any intrinsic bearing upon whether their claims are true or not.”

It is certainly possible that the organization knows exactly what they are doing with Kravtsov and all of the dissenters are wrong.  However, that’s not the argument.  The argument is that because they are the organization, they know what they are doing, and all the dissenters are wrong.  Which is insane.  If that was the case, the Oilers would be coming off back-to-back-to-back Stanley Cup championships given their draft positions the past few years.

Look, being perceived as an authority or expert provides a certain benefit of the doubt, generally.  However, if something objectively seems illogical or rooted in biased decision making, the notion that you can never question the competence or wisdom of that authority is bordering on Orwellian.

Bonus!

Cognitive Bias: Belief Bias

Belief bias is “if a conclusion supports your existing beliefs, you’ll rationalize anything that supports it.”

Many traditional fans have preconceived beliefs about what it “means” to be a hockey player or professional athlete.  The type of accountability you demonstrate, the way you speak to the media or your body language or temperament on the ice.  These are all active cognitive biases.  It’s your opinion, and you are entitled to it.  It just doesn’t make it a persuasive argument against a possible deviation of that rubric in any given situation.

So, there you have it.  If you are using these tactics to defend the organization from an optically poor decision-making process, do better.  There are plenty of ways to voice support for your dissent of that criticism without resorting to this nonsense.  Hold power to account and persuade those who disagree with you.  Don’t devolve into purity tests and archaic belief structures with no substantive value.  We will all be better off abandoning those crutches.

One final note, if your first response to this article is to accuse me of committing a logical fallacy, you may be suffering from “tu quoque”.

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  • Number 3 The players perceived to be above him in the pecking order, namely Brendan Smith and Michael Haley are objectively poor NHL players.
    NO No No! The Pecking order begins with Tanner Fast, then Smith then Haley.
    The coaches twisted thinking is because he hates talent. The coach shows this by putting talented players on the 4th line without the talent to show them they are nothing. This past week he stated his beliefs about talent or scorers.
    Wake up DQ supporters!

  • In my opinion the kid needed to bulk up, some work on his skating and some time to become familiar with playing hockey on the smaller ice surface. I was not privy to the conversations between him, his agent and the organization so I do not know whether they handled it properly or not, but I did not think that sending him to Hartford for some work on his game was unreasonable.

  • At least 90% of the media, stat boy steven, adam herman all say hes not nhl ready based on what hes shown so far. So I stopped paying attention here after your first bullet.

    • The famed Eeli Tolvanen, drafted 1 year before Krav, who tore up the KHL the year before Vitaly, is still in the AHL….1 goal on the season. So sometimes skill takes time to translate.
      I respect both of those guys coverage of prospects you mentioned(I follow alex nunn too) but….not every player/person is the same. Krav has high end skill, and is such a silky smooth skater and puck handler who just needs to mature physically in my opinion. If he was playing regularly in nhl now he would have gotten there faster than Buchnevich, Tarasenko, Malkin, Panarin(outlier)…he’s still got a great chance at being the player we hope

  • Might have stopped this article before the lines about “traditional fans”. I’m in complete agreement with you (those taking the side of the player) about Krav’s handling, and your four points are spot on in my opinion. Call me a “traditional fan”, but the rest of your article does not seem appropriate for a blog about the New York Rangers, or hockey in general. Honestly, it’s a drag. There’s enough divisive b.s. in the world and the news every day. Im not looking for a lecture when I read this blog. Maybe I should stop. Im not trying to be insulting. Rather Im offering some hopefully constructive feedback from a fan.

  • Tu quoque brute fili mi …

    I still believe they mishandled Kravs, he earned his spot out of camp even more so than Kakko — and I never saw the benefit of sending him immediately down to Hartford — that isn’t to say he couldn’t use time in Hartford, but I believe it would have made more sense to keep him up and practicing in the NHL for those first 2 weeks (especially from a psychological perspective), give him a taste before just summarily banishing him to Hartford based on his perceived unreadiness.

    • Kakko has been on the ice for one even strength goal in ten games. So, purely on merit, keeping Kakko was a huge error. There are other reasons to keep Kakko, but please note that better than Kakko is a pretty low bar.

      Also, as I point out in another comment, you don’t know what happened in camp. You are not aware that after the games, when the coaches wanted to discuss how he could have played better, he simply wouldn’t listen. Now I don’t know that is true, but also you don’t know that it is false. What we do know is that the people who know whether it is true or false sent him down to Hartford and put him on a short leash there.

    • I dunno,

      Buch had a little chip on his shoulder, he also needed some strength (remember the hit that hurt his back), Cry-Kravi took a hit and crumbled a little in pre-season too. Look at what Buch has become under this leadership, he is a different player now. I hope Kravi comes back a little changed, sort of like we saw (small portion) in #72 last night.

      stronger one the puck, away form the puck play, more fight in his game too.

      I think the coaches have seen what they saw in Kravi before many times…

      IMO

      LGR!!!

          • I see it differently, I recall DQ wanting him to play more aggressively, he stayed out the outside of dots wanting to be fed early on, plus it’s very obvious the weight program of this org has developed his strength, remember when Buch got lit up and his back wasn’t strong enough for the NHL?

            to me, this kid showed the same 2 factors, but its only my IMO

            I hope we’re all right and he gets back to the NHL and rocks!

            LGR!!!

  • Sorry Justin, because of the cognitive bias issue, where you fall on the spectrum very much matters. And it affects almost every point. First of all, the idea that the pro-Kravtsov people are arguing in good faith is questionable. This is not rhetorical: Is someone who won’t consider their cognitive bias truly arguing in good faith?

    Now the four arguments:
    1.”Kravtsov looked good in camp, ” This is a generalization of the perception that he looked good in preseason games. We know pretty much nothing about the rest of camp. Did he practice well? Did he respond to suggestions well? Was he trying to learn the system? I’m not saying he failed here, just pointing out that these things are important and we have no information.
    2. Delete the phrase “at worst”. My expectation, which I would adjudge as a mean for the information available, is a December or January call-up.
    3. Brendan Smith made the team as second LH defenseman on the PK. Michael Haley made the team as the spare forward. They have no bearing on the conversation whatsoever.
    4. This is a valid argument of sorts. There is an alternative argument that he can learn more at the AHL on a winning team. I don’t know which of these two arguments is the right one and I think it depends on the player — but those who support the first argument are choosing the option which allows them to see the players develop. They may be right, but still they are choosing the more convenient approach.

    *************

    Why should management play it close to the vest? Is it so wrong to not want to disparage your players?

    I don’t agree that management always gets it right. I do believe however that they are following a rational process and one should start from the position. Here is what we know. Vitali Kravtsov is a highly touted and valued prospect. He was sent to the AHL. The new coach benched him in the first game and sat him the second. His stats were garbage and he did get to play with skilled linemates. Why did he get treated this way? I find it hard to believe that the reason was anything other than poor effort or lack of responsiveness or both. The notion that Kravtsov supporters have that management was trying to make him into Tanner Glass is absurd.

    I find it implausible that what we have here is a petulant kid not quite ready for the NHL. He is hopefully immature and there are character issues. Please remember hat he is used to playing for a bad team and so has not developed in a good environment.

    That said, dealing with petulant kids should not always be a insurmountable problem. How do you reach a kid who won’t listen? I don’t know, but the best organizations succeed more often than the worst ones.

    Incidentally, would I trade kravtsov for a #15 pick in the upcoming draft? Yes. For a second rounder? No.

  • Just follow the money.He would have cost about $900,000 more to the Rangers if he was in the NHL.Very shortsighted,especially when they are paying NHL salaries to a couple of non NHL players.

  • Kravs is not the first prospect to be sent to the minors and he certainly will not be the last. Talent wise he may be more skilled then the current Ranger 4th liners but that doesn’t mean he should be put in that role. Playing limited minutes and getting pounded every night by the other teams heavy 4th line players does little for his development. Playing big minutes in Hartford including time on the PP and getting accustomed to the smaller rink and North American style of hockey is the appropriate step in his development. We don’t know the real reason why he bolted back to Russia. He could of been a simple case of financial need. I would not be surprised to see him back in North American.

    • I agree Bloomer. I think we will see him back. I think he is talented, but he needs to mature more physically. He may need some emotional maturity and/or support too. He is pretty young so it is not that surprising if he reacted negatively to his AHL assignment. Hopefully he will get over it.

  • I’m always amazed at the lengths bloggers will go to make a point regardless if what they are saying is a bunch of mumbo jumbo. If that article isn’t the most pointless bunch of bull feces I don’t know what is! Keep reciting those bullet points to yourself to make yourself feel like your reasoning is sound and why you know more than any organization doe all the while you’re on the outside looking in to what you perceive they should be doing to suit you and your fallacies.

  • At the risk of repeating myself, I think that there was contributory negligence on both sides.

    The Rangers: Poor history of developing young player; the irritating preference to play vets over young players, even though the vets make more mistakes than the young players; the somewhat continuing trend of an “old school” hockey mentality that every Ranger on the ice needs to have the ability to put an opposing player through the wall, or at least be amenable to it; the great chance that cultural differences were not addressed and that a misunderstanding occurred.

    Krav: Evidence of immaturity? This I heard from other people, that he took down all “Ranger-related” posts from his social media account. If that’s not immaturity, then I do not know what is. Krav SHOULD have taken his “demotion” as an opportunity to hone his skills on a smaller North-American ice surface, and just work his way back to the Rangers in a couple of months, if not less. I will bet a lot of money that his parents got “insulted” and picked up their puck and went home.

    So, to me, there is “no side.” There’s “sides.” Contributory negligence on both sides. Hopefully, it does not lead to a waste of a 9th overall pick. I do not think that it will come to that, I hope, lol.

  • Not too long down the road, this experience will be seen as water under the bridge, and a lesson hopefully learned.
    The kid, whom I like, needs to bulk up some, maybe 20 pounds of muscle mass on that twig of a body. He may need some TLC, like some others in the past. His ego may have been hurt, playing behind the names mentioned. He may have had a misunderstanding with the coach in the “A”, and felt insulted? It could also be financial, we agreed to let him go and play in Russia? We don’t know, and that is the problem.

    Bottom line, as Peter stated, the kid will be back, probably after the KHL season ends, and he’ll get another shot. At least that’s what I’m hoping for!!!!!!!!

  • Did you just take a beginning philosophy course or something? This isn’t the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, it’s a hockey game. You don’t understand fallacies well enough to lecture about them.

  • One other thing. He complained about Brendan Smith on the third line. Kravtsov was already just going through the motions long before Smith played on the third line. That was a justification for his behavior that he got from his supporters; it wasn’t the other way around.

  • In my option the decision of Kravtsov, shows the immaturity of a nineteen year old kid that hasn’t proved anything so far about being a legitimist potential star in the NHL. He committed to coming to America to play a different style hockey in a different country and culture. He should have let his playing good hockey and work ethic do the talking and bring his promotion. By going back to Russia, how is that to help him acclimate to north American hockey? I know it is early, but this to me is a red flag in regards to his character. Instead of blaming the Ranger organization how unfair and bad they treated him, maybe the problem is his bad attitude and immature character. I would hope this young man can grown up and develop into a real star in the NHL, and become a team player willing to do what it takes to win. If this guy doesn’t pan out, remember we passed up Oliver Joakim Wahlstrom for Kravtsov and the Islanders got him instead.

  • In my option the decision of Kravtsov, shows the immaturity of a nineteen year old kid that hasn’t proved anything so far about being a legitimist potential star in the NHL. He committed to coming to America to play a different style hockey in a different country and culture. He should have let his playing good hockey and work ethic do the talking and bring his promotion. By going back to Russia, how is that to help him acclimate to north American hockey? I know it is early, but this to me is a red flag in regards to his character. Instead of blaming the Ranger organization how unfair and bad they treated him, maybe the problem is his bad attitude and immature character. I would hope this young man can grown up and develop into a real star in the NHL, and become a team player willing to do what it takes to win. If this guy doesn’t pan out, remember we passed up Oliver Joakim Wahlstrom for Kravtsov and the Islanders got him instead.

  • I hope this pastes:
    * [ Kravtsov looked good in camp, and seemingly could be an offensive asset to the Rangers this season.]

    Except he didn’t beyond a Highlight reel. Would have been hard pressed to be a top 9 asset this year. This can be an appeal to authority because of how long I watched hockey or that I watched him up close at Traverse or that I watched the preseason games or that management apparently agreed with the assessment, but that’s discounting your potential observational bias or sunken cost fallacy.

    * [The basic accepted scouting profile on the player indicated, at worst, near-NHL readiness.]

    The “accepted scouting profile” is usually poorly informed who don’t know what stats to watch or what to look at in live viewings. Note how management drew up differing escape clauses for Kravtsov & Rykov.

    * [The players perceived to be above him in the pecking order, namely Brendan Smith and Michael Haley are objectively poor NHL players.]

    If Kravtsov isn’t top 9, he wouldn’t play 4th line. Smitty getting bumped up a line was more about others playing down along with a game night matchup. Kravtsov’s bigger problem was how he poorly handled getting a 3rd line role in Hartford.

    * [The benefit of getting NHL experience and acclimation in a known rebuilding year with less pressure than playing for a contender]

    Getting caved when you’re physically outmatched isn’t a great idea for development. Your idea that he needed NHL minutes above anything else is a product of sunken cost fallacy.

    See y’all in March.

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