Does Flavor Kill Ratings?

Eric at OffWing made a great point about the dearly departed color guy John Davidson, now president of the St. Louis Blues:


While Steve has nothing but praise for Davidson, I found most of his postseason work on NBC/OLN to be rather labored. More often than not, it seemed like he was just trying to fill the air, repeating anecodtes he’d used earlier in the playoffs (How many times did we have to hear about nobody but Carolina wanting to sign Cory Stillman?). Simply put, he was off his game this postseason. Maybe his mind was someplace else?

He’s totally correct on this. Davidson’s OLN/NBC work was noticably weaker than his work on Ranger games for the MSG network (the Rangers’ local outlet). And I really think this is by design. I think OLN is trying to pander to viewers, giving them as bland an experience as they can, figuring that if there’s any kind of personality or shape to the telecasts, they could potenitally alienate the already small viewership. If something has a strong flavor, there’s always the chance someone will dislike the flavor. But if there’s no flavor, you don’t upset anyone.
So my theory is that OLN and NBC asked for very non-descript telecasts, light on hockey, strategy, and insight, and long on “Wow! What a check!” and “Wow! Erik Cole’s neck sure was broken.”
As a fan, it’s pretty awful. I don’t enjoy feeling like I know a hell of a lot more than the guys working the game. But I’m not sure it’s an entirely wrong direction for the games. I watched a few games with my brother-in-law and father-in-law, neither of whom are hockey fans. But they were both able to get into the Finals pretty quickly. And part of that was because they didn’t feel like the announcers were talking over their head. The OLN/NBC games are dull as hell when you take the players out of the equation, but they are accessible, and that does count for something.
So yeah. Davidson (and his partner Mike Emrick) were disappointing in their national work, but I’m not sure it’s the wrong choice if OLN and NBC really want to get more viewers. It probably won’t help, but it certainly won’t hurt. And hockey sure doesn’t need to be hurt any more.
And speaking of Davidson and the Blues, how about that reunion of Bill Guerin, Keith Tkachuk, and Doug Weight? I know Davidson saw Team USA play in Torino. I heard him call those games. So I’m not quite sure why he’s letting Larry Pleau get the old, ineffective gang back together. Are they going to try and pull Brett Hull out of retirement, too?