It’s that time of year again.
When I avoid sports news for weeks because it’s just too painful, lose a whole section (309) and row (L) of comrades until the fall, get my fix from a crummy little arena where my brother and cousins like to play, and– gasp– have to start paying attention to baseball.
For me, and the rest of these teams and their fans, hockey season is over.
So join me in lamenting and saying goodbye to four fine teams. Because there was nothing worse than seeing Henrik Lundqvist cry.
Come back, Jaromir!
San Jose Sharks
“The whole series was a coin flip.” — Jeremy Roenick
For the third year in a row, the Sharks went in as frontrunners but got knocked out in the semifinals. The went down 3-0 and then fought back to 3-2, even bringing game six into four overtimes, but alas; they were not meant to be the fourth team in the history of organized sports to come back from 3-0. It’s always fun as a fan to see even a little rally, yet methinks the general thing that will be said is, “They failed to improve!” but I’ve never found it fair to judge one playoff run against another. As long as a team makes it into the playoffs and competes, they got somewhere that season. I’ll never understand the logic behind, “They lost in game 7 of the semis last year, and game six of the semis this year! Obviously they are a worse team!” It’s a complete non sequitor. Players are older, teams are different, and it’s actually a good thing if a team can stay in the playoff hunt for so many consecutive years, even if they don’t win.
That said, whether or not San Jose met it’s fans’ expectations is another story. I’m not a San Jose fan, but staying in the series as long as they did probably salvage the team a little, even though going down 3-0 always sucks.
By all accounts, the Sharks have one major problem this off-season: Brian Campbell. I’d love to have a guy like Campbell, and he’s definitely someone San Jose should look to sign. The aging Jeremy Roenick is also a notable free agent. Other than that, they seem to be in pretty damn good shape.
You know you want him.
“There’s no team in any era that can lose that quality and that quantity of players and still at this stage, when you’re down to the best eight teams in the league, be able to compete at the level that you need to be able to beat them.” — GM Francois Giguere
The Avalanche got an awful spurt of injury-luck all season… and it, unfortunately, carried over. According to Yahoo!, Avanlanche players combined for an insane 325 missed games, with a big chunk of those coming from important players such as Joe Sakic, Ryan Smyth, and Marek Svatos. In the playoffs, Brett Clark, recently-signed Peter Forsberg, Scott Hannan, Smyth, Paul Statsnky, Svatos, and Woljek Wolski all missed between one and ten games. That’s absolutely crazy. Honestly, the Avs had no chance of beating the Red Wing anyway (they got absolutely murdered in the season series), but Lady Luck didn’t even give them a chance to be competitive. Had they come in healthy, it could have been a really fun series. Instead it was kind of like last year’s Rangers-Thrashers series… you kind of felt bad.
And for the record, no one should be surprised that Jose Theodore didn’t play well. People will say he “imploded” or the like, but all that happened was he came back down to Earth at the worst time. His numbers the past few years haven’t been too hot. That he played well as long as he did is crazy.
Thirteen Avs are free agents this summer, and there will undoubtedly be a Joe Sakic Waltz as he decides, probably, to play again. Defensemen John-Michael Liles had 36 points this season and is definitely somebody to keep an eye on, along with the now-frail Forsberg. The Avs will have to decide whether or not to re-sign Theodore as well.
This would be a fun picture to play “write a caption” with.
“Our team was full of pleasant surprises this year.” — Head Coach Guy Carbonneau
The Montreal-Philly series was interesting going in, especially from an outside perspective. For the first time in a long time, I watched the other teams in the East play pretty religiously (that is, I watched religiously. I don’t know whether they played religiously or not. Also, keep in mind that in the past, there hadn’t been much motivation on my part for watching the playoffs… my team had gone a decade without making it. Why be a masochist? ). The assumption was that the #1 seed would trounce the #6, but having watched Montreal play in the first round, it actually looked like a really fun matchup of two teams I hate. And it was. Even though the series was 4-1, the games were generally good and close, and a lot of young guys got to show off. Aside from my home series, this was the one I payed most attention to. Totally a good move.
The Habs have four unrestricted free agents. Mark Streit is the big name in Canada, a D-man who had a lovely 62 points. Hopefully they don’t re-sign him so we can take him. The Habs’ other goalie, Jaroslav Halak, is a restricted free agent. Carey Price seems to have really won the starting job, so I imagine Halak will be looking elsewhere.
New York Rangers
“It’s hard to swallow, it’s as simple as that. We wanted to keep playing and we thought we were starting to play our best hockey, at least in the playoffs.” –Head Coach Tom Renney
Over the past three years, a lot of crazy things have happened at MSG. But never before have I heard anyone chant Jagr’s name like they were at home game 2. Jagr in this series came out like he never has for us before. Finally, he had personality. He jawed with the refs, got into fights, and lept up in the penalty box when people scored. Seriously… who is this man? And can we keep him?
I’m still pretty depressed, and it’s been a week or so now. The Pittsburgh series was disappointing, but the fact of the matter was that what eliminated the Rangers was the OT goal Philly scored to oust the Caps. Pittsburgh is the best team in the East (who should trounce Philly), and unfortunately we faced them in the second round. Like I said above, I don’t buy the, “They got eliminated in the semis two years in a row, so they need to completely retool the franchise,” crap. If we were going to get knocked out, I’m glad it was to Pitt. It was a bit of bad matchup luck and some crappy play in the first two games, coupled with injuries. Obviously this series was less of a dynamic exit than last year’s with Buffalo, and more disappointing, as we were never really in it. But the fan in me is convinced that one round later, the Pens may still have won, but it would have been more of a series.
The good thing is that the Rangers have some great young guys, led by Drury and Gomez, and the wonderful farm system that gave us Dawes, Callahan, Girardi, Staal, Dubinsky, Komisarek, and eventually Sanguinetti and Cherepanov. For the first time in a long time, my guys look pretty damn good going into next season.
What I’d like to see them do is re-sign Jagr (no more than one or two years, though), but dump Straka, Malik, Hollweg, and possibly Rosival. Shanahan should retire, and they can chase down a big-name defenseman like Campbell. Prucha needs to be able to play, and I think Tyutin deserves one more year to prove himself. I hope Avery’s massive ego doesn’t drive him away, but he’s just not worth the money he’s asking, even though the Rangers are a better team with him.
“Dude… that can’t taste good.”
So, all of us collectively despair, waiting with baited breath for October and watching the playoffs end begrudgingly. I’ll probably avoid sports news for a few more days, and then slowly assimilate into baseball. Alas.
*Lou is the guy I sit next to at hockey games. And he is awesome. And I will not see him until October.