Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I Guess It's Cool To Hate On The Penguins When They Struggle

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Welcome to the All-Star break, Penguins fans. Or should I say, Penguins haters?

Your team sits at 23-21-4, 4th place in the 5-team Atlantic Division and 1 point out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The team that played for the Stanley Cup last season has 34 games to change their fate.

What I don't get is the horde of supposed Penguins fans who are constantly shitting on the team to this point. Don't get me wrong, this team has underperformed on a massive scale, but the recent good fortunes on Pittsburgh ice has seemingly created a ton of pretentious douchebag "fans." Since the team assembled their young core and created a positive outlook with a new arena on the way, the sentiment around the fan base seems to be, "win now or get booed." To which I say, "eat me."

It was only 3 years ago that the team put up the second of back-to-back 58 point seasons. 23 wins (which we currently have) was the better of the two years (23 wins, followed the next year by just 22). Sure, the current 9th place standing in the East doesn't accurately reflect the team that won the conference last year, but that doesn't mean the season is over.

I was talking to some blogging friends yesterday about the Steelers, the Super Bowl and how excited we are that our team is in the championship. I made a point that this year, we don't have the same pressures that the team faced just 3 seasons ago in Super Bowl XL. There's no Bettis' last year drama, the quest for the 5th ring noise or Bill Cowher-trying-to-justify-his-career nonsense. There's a decent percentage of the team that played in that Super Bowl, so this current group can actually enjoy being on football's biggest stage. And the fans can, too.

Now look back at last year's Cup run for the Pens and the drama that preceded the season. Crosby had a contract negotiation coming up, the team leaving-town rumors were still fresh in our minds, Geno, Staal and MAF were all looking at near-expiring contracts and the team hadn't won anything of significance in 15 years or so. Now, the team has all four guys I just mentioned locked up, a new arena on the way, and the motivation of losing in the Cup finals.

So why the hate when the team struggles?

I've been a Penguins fan for as long as I can remember, and I've never seen a perfect season. Hell, in the beginning of this decade, the seasons were as far from perfect as you could get. But now, there's hope...there's a legit future. The "fans" that have come on board in the last 2-3 years are starting to outnumber those of us that realize that a deep Cup run won't come every year. Despite our stacked lineup, the possibility of making it back to the finals in successive years was still very slim. Other teams got better, too...not just the Pens.

This year, I've heard fans boo at home losses. I've heard bullshit questions about Sid being past his prime. All because the team hasn't lived up to expectations this year. So what? If you automatically penciled the Pens into the Cup finals this year based on last year's performance, go die in a fire. Most of the largest questions concerning this team have been answered. The core has new contracts, the relocation is a thing of the past and the team has proven that it can do damage in the playoffs. So enjoy the ups AND DOWNS of a normal freaking NHL season. We're 1 point out of a playoff slot with half a season to go and still without annual Norris Trophy finalist Sergei Gonchar.

So to the current haters out there...learn to relax. Success isn't guaranteed in any sport, much less in one as physical and draining as hockey. If you think a team with the top two scorers in the league can't do damage as an 8 seed, you should go jump on someone else's bandwagon. There's 34 games left, and only a slight improvement in performance will see this team in the playoffs. Take pride in the positives, and quit overreacting to the negatives, fellow Penguins "fans."

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8 comments:

Vern said...

You tell them.

I still think this team is going back to the promised land.

Staal Tactics said...

Right on the money, who the hell would actually write to Molinari asking if Crosby is past his prime? Ridiculous, hopefully some of these people fall off the bandwagon.

Judge Rufus Peckham said...

Amen.

Louis Lipps is my homeboy said...

Sid.... past his prime?


The guy's like 12!!!!! Who the hell would think he's past his prime?!?!?!?

Hept-Rossi said...

All very valid points.

I would just like to add that just because some fans 'boo' doesn't automatically mean they are "Penguin haters". Are some of them just bandwagoners? Probably. But I'm sure there are others who have been going to games for years and can recognize wasted potential when they see it. I was at games when Ramzi Abid's face popped up on the JumboTron for being in the starting lineup so I have seen some shitty hockey in my day. Booing is born out of frustration of how the team has been performing recently.

Let's be honest. The expectations for this team are sky high because what they accomplished last year, which I still think happened a year too soon. Now, everyone thinks they will automatically go back to the Stanley Cup Finals because they still have the majority of their team intact. I also think that all the talk about how the '80s Oilers lost to the Islanders before they won their 4 Cups gave some people the false impression that success was guaranteed.

If I would have been at the Carolina game from the other night, I know I would have been booing the power play at the end. I've been booing the power play all year actually. It boggles my mind that we have the two best players in the league yet are tied for 21st in PP. All of the divisional bottom dwellers (NY Islanders, Ottawa, Atlanta, St. Louis, Colorado, Los Angeles) have a better PP than the Pens. While it could be argued that PP success doesn't automatically translate to wins, I still can't understand that teams with far less talent than us can be that much better on the PP.

I totally agree that if the Pens simply get into the playoffs they will be very dangerous. Edmonton made it to the '05-'06 Finals as an 8 seed. I just wished this team would kick it into gear so we wouldn't have to worry about them barely making the playoffs.

tecmo said...

Hept - Oh no doubt. Fans are allowed to boo, as I said in the post, since the team has "underperformed on a massive scale."

But the length at which the booing, questions about Sid, and questions about Therrien are coming at a much faster pace than normal. This has to do with the success we've had the past 2 years, and the sentiment that the new fans want a Cup right now.

The PP sucks, but I fully expected it to struggle with Gonchar out. Without him, we have the top two scorers in the league taking turns out at the blue line on PPs, because Therrien is trying anything to reproduce the points Gonchar would've had in those situations.

All I'm saying is, there needs to be a certain level of rationality about the struggles of a team throughout the course of an 82 game season. The early 2000s have gotten me to a point where I fully expect the Pens to struggle every game...and the wins and positive aspects keep my mind right. I've seen too much losing in this organization to get that worked up about a barely subpar opening half of the season with our top blueliner out. Its a long season, let's see if Malk and Sid's stamina keeps the team afloat while other teams take their turns at struggling.

Hept-Rossi said...

I think the rapid fire of the questions is due to the internet where any yahoo, myself most of all, can spout off their opinions. For better or worse, that is just how it is nowadays.

The questions about Therrien are inevitable because people have been trained over the years that if a team underperforms it's the coach's fault. The first action taken by management is to fire the coach whether it is justified or not. In Therrien's case, I do not believe he should be fired because I think he is a good coach. Mike Yeo on the other hand...

The questions about Crosby are just idiots trying to stir some shit. I'm sure if there was blogging back in the day there would be some asshole calling out Lemieux for not playing because his back hurt. I'm actually glad there wasn't blogging back in the 90s because I probably would have hunted those people down. While it is hard to argue that Sid is having a down year (2nd in the league in scoring at the All-Star break) I will say that the blind passes have to go. They never work and usually bite us in the ass.

Here's to a much better second half of the season!

EIm Model said...

I agree. Fairweather fans when it comes to nhl. C'mon PGH, lets take care of the talent we got here. a little love?