My Dad was a great trap shooter when he was young. He won shoots, represented his club at invitationals, and was generally expected to run 25 birds any time his squad was on the line. By the time I started shooting trap he barely shot anymore. One day I asked him why, if he was so good, did he quit shooting.
“It stopped being fun,” was all he said.
When the Penguins were on a tear and look unstoppable, they also looked like they were having an absolute blast. They were relaxed; there was infectious passion in their game; they were clearly having fun together. Somewhere along the line, I’d say game two of the Islanders series, it stopped being fun. When people with a lot of talent stop having fun and that fire dies down, they either walk away, find a way to rekindle the passion for it, or start a slow descent. For a team of all stars who were expected to win the Cup, being threatened by an underdog as lowly as the Isles took away the fun and made them choose. They certainly couldn’t just walk away. Finding the fun again would have required our collection of superstars to play like a team instead of a collection of superstars, which didn’t happen. So all that’s left is the slow descent. That statement has a lot of layers to it — Bylsma didn’t coach it right… Our C disappeared in the finals… Too many distractions… on and on… — but this is blog post, not a dissertation. I’ll let someone else deconstruct the breakdown if they want that Ph.D.
A few months ago I got absolutely BLASTED on here because I openly admitted I didn’t want to add Iginla to our growing roster of big names. I totally disagree with the concept of building a team of superstars just because you can and expecting it will all work out because the team is stacked. There are too many uncontrollable variables that come with it, and it rarely ever works the first time around. Before you jump straight to the comments section to defend Shero or Iggy (again!), I’m not blaming anyone in particular. I blame an incredibly flawed idea that a collection of superstars is the best thing for a club. The New York Yankees, the Miami Heat, and now the Pittsburgh Penguins. All teams that fell for it, all teams that paid for it, and certainly company I never wanted to see a team I support share. The Heat won it all the next season, sure, but that team stayed together. I’ll be surprised if the Pens aren’t dismantled to make room for the next generation. The bottom line is that the Pens had an embarrassment of riches and squandered it because, in practice, the organization had no idea what do with it all. It’s the hockey equivalent of mo’ money, mo’ problems.
I hate to end my blogging season by saying I told you so. Oh wait, no I don’t. I do, however, hate that the team I love had to get humiliated for me to do so. But do you know the best thing about being a sports fan? No matter what happens at the end of one season, there will always be another. See you in October. Let’s Go Pens!