Time for an informal poll – who here loved seeing Vancouver collapse in the finals last season? You’re probably the same people who relished the annual unraveling – last year or the year before – of the Sharks. …and something tells me that if you’re the bilingual type…if you give a rats ass about the L’Eastern Conference…you took the same amount of joy from the Caps demise.
Why do we love seeing teams like this fail? It’s because these are the squads that are supposed to win it all. They’re the ones that are, according to the chattering class, destined to hoist the cup. They’re peaking at the right time, the kids are growing into men and the vets are primed for one last run.
We used to be that team. We used to be the squad that, if you had to put money down, allegiances aside, was the smart money. We came into the season stocked, and if we had to swap out a part here or there, we’d crack open the checkbook and make that happen.
Jason Gay, who writes a fantastic column called The Couch for the WSJ, penned a piece on Monday discussing the Philadelphia Eagles:
“Before the season began, Michael Vick and loaded Philadelphia were the consensus SexyTeam. There was rapturous praise and media worship and daffy claims of roster dreaminess. They were the ’72 Dolphins, the ’85 Bears, the ’67 Beatles, 1920s Paris. Was it possible the Eagles could win five Super Bowls in one year?”
His article goes on to talk about all the troubles the Eagles have had this year – a tale that’s well documented and one I was as delighted to read as I’m sure a number of you were. For one, I’ve got a family-rooted bent against Philadelphia, the genesis of which is far more complicated than I’ve got time to lay out in this space. More importantly though, I love seeing the Eagles fail…just like the Heat a few months back. Why? Because everyone was banking on them running the table. The critics started handing out bouquets before the first snap, the first free throw or forecheck.
From the Canucks last year…who everyone assumed would run away with the league…to the Heat, to the Eagles to the Phillies (remember them?)…an argument is coming together that we’re seeing the death of the superteam. Maybe this is a temporary glitch. Maybe it’s a decade-long trend. …but championships are won these days by the teams who come together at the right time, who find that chemistry, who seem to beat the odds instead of living up to inflated expectations. They are teams that, often, come together mid-season through some trail not in the off-season by acquisition.
As a 2011-2012 Wings fan, I’m ecstatic about this. Browse through the 2012 cup predictions. Listen to the chatter. What do they tell you? Are the Kings set for a run with the Richard’s acquisition? Does Havlat put SanJo over the top? Will Vancouver, through simple war of attrition, finally have the chops to get over the hump? What about Hamrlik’s newfound home in Washington…or Trendy, Leino-equipped Buffalo?
The response to all these across-the-board “hot teams” is …if the last year is any guide…a resounding no. The past 12 months tells us it’s the unexpected team…the one that has certainly ENOUGH talent to be a 3-6 seed but not enough glitz to be a preseason favorite…that skates off the winner this year. The Era of Ubersquads is done – at least for a year or two. The 2012 NHL, and maybe even the broader sports landscacpe, is about fit, chemistry and hustle.
It is, without question, far too early to be thinking about springtime hockey. There are 70+ games worth of posts, neutral zone turnovers and blown leads awaiting us that will reveal what we’ve really got in our shorts.
…but as you survey this league, as you gander at all the trendy picks and wonder why we’re not on that billboard this year, recent history suggests we ought to be content with our workmanlike, “earn it” posture.