The final missive from the file is a little more circumspect that we hoped, thats for sure. Watching playoff hockey and not having a game today, I thought it time to wrap this little series up in a little bow.
This one will be a little more humbling than I thought. I had visions of that final game being the one with a parade of the chalice around the ice that is the last thing for the fans and this team to experience. They will be contenders for it for the foreseeable future, but sadly, this was not the year for that. Unless of course you put stock in the "window" theory, which I don't, the future is pretty bright.
Who thought that we would be watching the Panthers try to finish the Devils and not be feeling that tingle of excitement. ( well, maybe a little, Samuelsson and Jovanovski, Weaver, a wee bit with Sturm, Canucks South is one of the teams I will follow with interest, for sure )
To start, indulge me a second. I feel some clarification and colour is in order. In the course of doing the recaps of the season, I grew to know intimately that opinions differ on these sort of things. We all view the game through our own experiences.
Mine, well, they are probably the same as most. Played as a young man up to 17, stayed around the game for a while, helping out in the officiating and coaching when a friend needed a hand. Up until a few years ago, one of the more underrated Dominick Hasek style floor hockey goaltenders that averaged a start a week...I am sure there are others with a much greater insight and more profound and storied experience with the national obsession, and just as many that never wobbled around the ice as a child at the start of their introduction to the game.
So, thats me. As such, doing those various things, personally, I have never felt there should be some kind of stigma attached to discussing the art of officiating the fastest and most difficult of all the pro sports that make up the viewing landscape. I also think that it might be time to put a fifth official up in the booth for a tightly proscribed list of ways of helping out the guys on the ice. But thats just me. Its worth noting that the longest suspension in NHL history just occurred on a play where there was no call whatsoever.
They make mistakes, and thats as much a part of a game as a finely timed hip check or a Wizardous Sedinerie play.
Nonetheless, I don't want to further that skewed image of the Canuck fan as some tinfoiled hatted buffoon who thinks the NHL has some mad conspiracy to deny us that one final thing that has become an obsession of the most profound and public kind. Like I said, I think that the occasional mention of the "third rail" of every game played helps add to the colour.
But thats seems to be something that brings Canuck fans ( and only Canuck fans somehow, even though you hear just as much wailing and gnashing of teeth on the subject from every big time US market, and lets not even get started on Leaf and Habs fans. Ask a Leaf fan about Kerry Fraser and they still look back with a chilling look of hate, as well as a finely tuned rant on the subject ) into disrepute, and I really don't have the time or the stomach to give the detractors the explanation or reasons thereof. Know that it is never coming from the place where such august personages as Tony Gallagher, who despite his amazing well of knowledge and insights about the game, has become little more than the Grand Poobah of the "out to get us" crowd now, and a pale imitation of his one time brilliance. He comes out with the goods occasionally now, but that one aspect of his opinions gets dissected and guffawed at than any other thing he has done. Shit, look at that whole thing with Thornton for instance!
Nor am I naive enough to not look at the fact that the Hurricanes and Blue Jackets were the two teams that somehow drew more calls than the other teams by far,( Tony told me that this year before any others! ) and not at least smirk and nod knowingly a bit. But I can see where it might be thought that way by those that are going to come in with a dislike for the team.
"It is what it is."
All of it. But remember Canuck fans, as Iain McIntyre ( who has rightly taken his spot as the writer in the Vancouver puck media that I read first. Well, right after here, PITB, and Botch' of course ) wrote here the other day, there is a great deal to be rightly proud about. This team has had more sustained excellence than just about any team in recent years, and is the first team since the implementation of the salary cap to go back to back as the best in the regular season. As we get down to some serious rosterbation, with everything from who is the coach, the #1 goaltender, and all the other attendant things that come with high expectations, one thing it wont be is dull.
Because it happened a lot sooner than we expected, and for all that promise and hope the team won one game instead of the planned on sixteen, this will be an interesting offseason for both fan and team alike. Our brethren in the other six Canadian cities will be sure to remind us of recent events. Take heart in the fact that this team is pretty damn close. At least I believe it is. Though some will inevitably move on, from the potential of the goaltending question to whatever else Mike Gillis has up his sleeve (see below for some frank insights on the farm, and tell me that there wont be some tweaks coming just from the fact that the young guys are moving up...for instance ), it should be a time when a Canuck fan can still hold his head up high this offseason.
I am as excited as I have been in a long while for this offseason, even if I am a bit surprised by the suddeness and finality of the most recent one. I have a great deal of confidence in the ability of the folks involved to get the team where we want. The man that pays the bills, Frank Aquilini, wants that Cup as much or more than all of us. So we know the will is there. No one said it would be easy. There are 30 teams all trying hard for the same thing, and this playoff 1st round has already shown us that the line between winning and losing is a fine one. There are five new teams already moving on to the second round. Tell me that you had all four of the West combatants in your pool for the second round. If so, you are a better prognosticator than me! But even with all of that, I like this team's chances next year and beyond.
So, with a somewhat chastised heart mitigated by an always hopeful outlook on the future, it is time for the offseason. I'll be around, for sure. The SBN family is a large and strange one, and even the idiot brother and that weird uncle no one wants to talk to anymore are worthy of understanding and patience., and this is definitely not a case of letting the detractors get to me. Plus, you should learn from all experiences in life, right? Try new things. I, for one, am going to try and break myself of noticing the mistakes made by those that are expected to be perfect every game while watching the playoffs this year. Its not a rational expectation for NHL officials. I hope they get help to better make the calls, but a more zen approach to it will at least be the goal. Like the great Bento philosopher Toddius Betuzzinksi said. The thing that is most certainly is what it has become. Or something like that.
But its also time for this recapper to find something that pays better than pounding the keys for love of the game and the fellowship.
Fellowship don't pay the piper. And unless you are as big time as a Harrison Mooney, blogging does not buy a lot of Top Ramen...
It may take a bit, but I am sure, once I am employed, I'll be able to waste my lunch hours discussing the ramifications of Niklas Jensen joining the lineup and becoming the odds on Calder favorite just like everyone else.
Until then. See ya in the rosterbation threads... ;-)