Monday, October 1, 2012

Bitterness, Revisted

The Cisco Kid and Pancho
I know it comes as no shock to Columbus Blue Jacket fans that the 2011-12 season was a huge disappointment.  Part of the problem were the great expectations, and I well remember wondering if Rick Nash and Jeff Carter would become one of the dominant pairings in the NHL.  Well, the old saying  'you only get one chance to make a first impression' sent us clear messages that the trade for Carter was doomed, with the inexorable certainty that you see in ancient Greek tragedies.  In spite of a hastily constructed diplomatic mission which did a certain amount of damage control, Jeff Carter never wanted to be here, and his subsequent performance supported the conclusions that the more astute pundits (i.e. not optimistic fans) drew in the first 48 hours.

The thing about the Carter trade is that it was the best trade in NHL history for about 24 hours, and I remember being ecstatic about it. But then Mike Richards was dealt to the L.A. Kings, and all of a sudden there was that sinking 'uh oh' moment, in which you knew we had been suckered.  Initially, it looked like Philly had decided they could only live with one of the big contracts, and decided that Carter was the one that was expendable.  When they moved both of them, it raised huge doubts.  At the end of the day, Jeff Carter was 'Pancho' to Mike Richards 'Cisco Kid', and Pancho didn't do so well on his own without 'the Kid' to set the tone.

Once they were reunited in L.A., they managed to do Philly in the eye by coming home with the Stanley Cup. Which, in the cold reality of a hockey free October, is kinda cool when viewed in the long stream of history of the Stanley Cup and the NHL.  The reality is that the CBJ and its miserable season will be no more than a foot note in the tale of how Holmgren dealt two of his best players, and they ended up re-uniting and winning a Cup.  I think that's gonna go in the Ugly chapter of the updated version of the 'Good, Bad and Ugly History of the Philadelphia Flyers' that I read this summer.

Which is where all of my bitterness comes in, and how it has faded lately.  Part of the catalyst of that was the healthy exposure I got to internet trolls this summer.  I know where to put that kind of fecal matter, but that doesn't mean it takes a little bit of processing to do so.  But it is the reason that I can view the Kings fans exultations in a very different light now.  Because, boy if it ever happens....

The most bitter pill back in the early summer was the fact that Carter went out an won a Cup.  But the thing is that I never thought that Jeff Carter did anything for L.A. that he didn't do for the CBJ.  A hugely talented, often disinterested player, Carter erupted a few times and won some games singlehandedly.  Against the backdrop of L.A.'s season, those were very important games.  Against the backdrop of the CBJ season, they were essentially meaningless.  But, nonetheless, I was bitter about how it all played out, and Jeff Carter's role in the whole thing.

Then Puck Daddy came calling over the summer and asked us to talk about the CBJ.  He wanted a brief description of some things that seemed evident to us about the CBJ.  So we gave him brief descriptions.  Others gave him elegant essays of their teams history.  Then the trolls started in, which is only to be expected, especially if your team finished 30th.  It's what it is.  You wear it because that is your lot in life when your team laid an egg like that.  But you mark it down.  And you remember it for the future.

The history of the NHL is a long and rich tapestry.  The funny thing is there are some people who remember it, and some who are too ignorant to remember.  The New York Rangers epic 54 year drought between Stanley Cups for this original 6 franchise doesn't get much play with the internet trolls.  But for a team with a mere 12 year history they know what it is about, forever.  'Worst team ever' (no, read your history, that's the Caps), 'just fold 'em now' (not gonna happen yet, thanks for that Mike Priest).  That type of ignorant drivel is what changed my feeling of bitterness about the L.A. Kings fans celebrations.  They have endured the same. The deserve the right to throw it back at the trolls, in spades.  I'm not big on guarantees, but if it ever happens here, I promise that same push back is going out hot and hard from this perch.

So I feel a lot better about the Kings fans celebrations.  That doesn't mean I seek them out, but I am no longer bitter about their hard earned right to do so.  It's not about Jeff Carter.  It never was.  We'll see how Pancho and the Kid handle things when/if hockey resumes.  It should be interesting to watch.

For ourselves, well, we got reshaped.  Now we are looking at a team without top end talent, but that with any kind of luck will be a team that plays with an edge, and is very hard to play against (you know, a Hitchcock team). I for one would prefer that, and look forward to seeing what the new cast of characters can do.  It should be entertaining.

And so the history of the NHL rolls on, with more labor disputes scarring the flow.  Like many an expansion team in the NHL's history, the CBJ gird themselves for the climb to that ultimate destination, the Cup.  And it is well to remember that the Cup can end up in unlikely places.  It takes luck, hard work, a team that comes together, and a little bit of hot goal tending.  The reality is that a reshaping can do no worse than a significant talent upgrade, no matter how the remnant of the season (if played) turns out in 2012-13.  The latter gave us a 30th place team.  The hope is that the former can do much better.



  1. You may have convinced me to let go of the Carter hate. Still annoying, but less bitter indeed.

  2. I would let go of the hate, if I didn't love to hate him so much.

  3. Actually, I like the current CBJ roster. Yeah, no top end talent. And, yes, goaltending is a question mark. However, there's a strong, yet flexible defense and there are 6 - 9 forwards capable of potting 20 or so goals a season. It may just turn out that trading Carter and Nash was the best thing that ever happened to the Jackets.