I'm back...did you miss me?
We are almost a quarter of the way through this season and the frustration level has already hit a fever pitch around here. What makes it even more frustrating is that every time we seem poised to leap from the roof, the Caps pull off a great win. So we smile, brush ourselves off and climb back inside to wait patiently for the big winning streak to turn around the season.
It hasn't come yet.
In fact, the only winning streak we've had to date is the three-game streak we had to kick off the season. Remember that one? We were already ordering playoff tickets and planning the parade route for the Cup. Since then, we've had three wins. Three. Perfectly timed, evenly spread out wins, but only three nonetheless.
And yet Caps fans are not alone in their frustrations. There is something very strange about this year; it's as though every team, not just the Caps, is having trouble doing the simplest things. The number of poorly played games I've seen this year far outweighs the number of great games I've seen.
There have been good moments, sure - the Caps beating Ottawa just last week; Modano's record-breaking goal; Jonathan Toew's beautiful shootout strike; Ovechkin and Crosby continuing to elevate their games. But everything else? It's been a study in mediocrity, with a sprinkling of shoddy officiating and a dusting of horrible hockey.
Right now the top three teams in the league are Ottawa, Detroit and Carolina. They're good teams, sure. But are their records due to an overload of talent and skill? They might be more a result of playing teams like the Sabres, the Oilers, the Caps and the Thrashers over and over again.
Even the decidedly mediocre teams - throw Pittsburgh, Vancouver, Tampa and even Anaheim in there as well, none of them are good right now. And all of those teams are but one loss away from the bottom of the conference. The division and conference standings could change in a heartbeat - and not in a good way.
Last year's playoffs were fairly humdrum across the board, but the regular season was exciting from beginning to end. There were no sure bets but it was exciting and unnerving, keeping fans on their toes right up until the very last game of the season. The differences a year can make are staggering:
- Sixteen of the thirty teams are currently at or below .500. A year ago today only twelve were in that category, with eight of them coming from the West.
- Nine teams have hit the twenty point mark, with no one cracking thirty. Last year on this date thirteen teams had 20+ points, and two, Buffalo and Anaheim, had 30+.
- Last year the difference between 15th and 8th in the East was eleven points; in the West it was nine. This year? Five and four, respectively.
- The Southeast Division was dominant last season, with three of the top eight teams coming from below the Mason-Dixon and one sitting just outside in ninth. This year all but one are out of the playoff picture and in fact hold three of the four bottom slots.
The differences continue - just look at the standings a year ago today:
And look at where we are today:
The product has grown stagnant, and while there are enough sparkling moments to keep the devoted fans hooked, you have to wonder how a league with so much obvious mediocrity, for whatever reason, is planning to attract casual fans.
Maybe we should just take the advice of my friends over at Interchangeable Parts and do a coaching lottery...at least it would bring us one night of entertainment.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
I'm back...did you miss me?