Monday, May 12, 2014

Open Letter to Pens Fans and Rebuttal to Dejan Kovacevic's 05/12 column

(My first entry in more than a year, spurred by the hometown negativity surrounding the Pens.) 

Since the start of the 2014 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs, entirely too many Penguins’ fans and local media folks have lost perspective on what an incredible achievement it is to win the Stanley Cup, especially in a salary-cap era.

If there was no salary cap, Pens in all likelihood wouldn't have lost, among others: Gonchar, Kennedy, Malone, Scuderi (in his prime), Talbot... (and most likely Jokinen and Niskanen after this season)  

Moreover, look at the Cup winners since the salary-cap era began:
2006: Carolina (2014: missed playoffs)
2007: Anaheim (2014: Rd II: 2-2 vs LA)
2008: Detroit (2014: Rd 1 elimination from playoffs)
2009: Pens (2014: Rd II: 3-3 vs NYR)
2010: Chi (2014: Rd II: 3-2 vs Minn)
2011: Bos (2014: Rd II: 3-2 vs Montreal)
2012: LA (2014: Rd II:  2-2 vs Anaheim)  
2013: Chi (2014: Rd II: 3-2 vs Minn)

Taking all of that into account, including the 2014 playoffs results to date, only Chicago has had more success than the Pens in the salary-cap era; and remember 87 & 71 missed the 2011 playoffs entirely; 87 had just returned for the 2012 playoffs and admitted he wasn't in top shape; and 87 played with a broken jaw in the 2013 playoffs.

I’m not making excuses, just pointing out reality. The negative Pens fans and media need to get over these feelings of championship entitlement. (Remember, too, in the pre-salary-cap era Le Magnifique only won 2 Cups; Bobby Orr, who won eight consecutive Norris Trophies, also only won 2 Cups; and Gretzky "The Great One" won 0 Cups after he was traded at age 27 from the Oilers, which was packed with Hall of Famers).

For this past regular season, look at Washington, with the Great 8 & Backstrom; or Carolina, with the Staal brothers; or Vancouver, with the Sedin twins… there are no guarantees of even making the playoffs.

Unlike the many folks bellowing for major roster changes with the Pens should they lose on Tuesday, there is no reason to blow up this team. I'll take my chances with a nucleus of 87, 71, 58, and 29. Every! Single! Season!

Yes, it's true the Pens haven't played well in Games 5 & 6 against the Rangers, especially at the start. But keep in mind, too, the Rangers aren't a Mystery Alaska beer league team. They just beat the Flyers in the previous series and have a world class goalie. Critics seem blinded by the fact that there are two teams playing in every game, and were it not for Lundqvist in this series, the Pens might already be moving on. (How many breakaways and pointblank shots has he stopped in the past two games alone?!)

I do think the Pens will win Game 7, and here’s why: The Tribune Review’s JoshYohe tweeted the following after Game 6: “When I left the Penguins locker room, two people remained: 87 & 66.”

It was reminiscent of Game 4 against Columbus in Round I, when 66 paid 29 a visit in the locker room afterwards. Fleury, who gave up two fluky goals to lose Game 4, was unbeatable the next two games. Has there ever been a better team owner in all of sports?!

So, I’m optimistic about Tuesday's Game 7; but I must acknowledge that one lucky bounce (i.e., the hockey gods) can determine who wins, too. It will be dramatic, either way, which is why we’re fans in the first place.

Win or lose, I'm proud to be a Pens' fan. Keep the faith Pens' Nation!

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