Thursday, 7 July 2011

The incurable optimism of NHL fans

Interesting take by Mr. Stu Hackel of the Montreal Gazette and Sports Illustrated. Follow the link to his thoughts on which teams in the NHL Eastern Conference improved with this off-season's free agency period ebbing as the major talent has been signed to contract by various teams.

While I don’t think Mr. Hackel’s analyses are off-base, this exercise reveals the futility of trying to determine with accuracy which teams improved and which didn’t.

By my count, Mr. Hackel has 7 teams in the East improving, but just 4 holding steady and 3 regressing. Mathematically at least, that doesn’t sound plausible. I understand that we could have half the conference make a modest increase in points at the expense of 4 weak sisters who will be repeatedly trounced while four hold steady, but the law of averages would indicate that maybe five will improve, five would tread water and five would fall back. That might be a better starting point.

When we prognosticate, we are too ready to hold the play of veterans as givens. We also assume that promising rookies will improve over their previous season. We then take for granted that this player’s horrible season was an aberration, and that this year will be much improved, as we Montreal fans did with Mr. Gomez last summer. Finally, all these injuries which befell some players, which were completely unpredictable, will surely not plague it this coming season.

So to that core of a team that will improve by sheer unstoppable momentum, we then plug in skillful Jean-Guy Beauxbeauslaque and bruising Brock Granett, savant additions by a shrewd GM, and conclude that the team will no doubt be much improved.

We always fail to take into account the young Pouliots or Latendresses who fail to deliver on their promise and appear stalled in their development. We gloss over the potential travails of veteran Halperns or Hamrliks who while willing to give everything they have unfortunately don’t have much left to give. We don’t take into account that one or two players will be juggling an affair and a divorce at the same time during the season, and may be preoccupied. We forget that the player who just signed the long-term deal may ease off the gas pedal during dryland training over the summer. We are oblivious to the spoiling of team chemistry, of which player may have sexted another player, when all he really meant to do was sext that other player’s wife. And we refuse to be brutally realistic in these modern-NHL-times we live in, and look at the lineup and strike one Top 6 forward, one Bottom 6 and one D with a season-ender knee or shoulder, and then flip a coin to determine if our goalie will tear his groin and be out forty games, and be ineffectual the rest of the season.

It speaks to the mind of the fan, how we invest so much hope in our teams and how we see better days ahead. I think we fans, and really people in general, are inclined to see the future as a better place where problems are solved and happiness is gained, damn the tsunamis and earthquakes and global recessions.

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