Welcome to the All-Star break, Penguins fans. Or should I say, Penguins haters?
Your team sits at 23-21-4, 4th place in the 5-team Atlantic Division and 1 point out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The team that played for the Stanley Cup last season has 34 games to change their fate.
What I don't get is the horde of supposed Penguins fans who are constantly shitting on the team to this point. Don't get me wrong, this team has underperformed on a massive scale, but the recent good fortunes on Pittsburgh ice has seemingly created a ton of pretentious douchebag "fans." Since the team assembled their young core and created a positive outlook with a new arena on the way, the sentiment around the fan base seems to be, "win now or get booed." To which I say, "eat me."
It was only 3 years ago that the team put up the second of back-to-back 58 point seasons. 23 wins (which we currently have) was the better of the two years (23 wins, followed the next year by just 22). Sure, the current 9th place standing in the East doesn't accurately reflect the team that won the conference last year, but that doesn't mean the season is over.
I was talking to some blogging friends yesterday about the Steelers, the Super Bowl and how excited we are that our team is in the championship. I made a point that this year, we don't have the same pressures that the team faced just 3 seasons ago in Super Bowl XL. There's no Bettis' last year drama, the quest for the 5th ring noise or Bill Cowher-trying-to-justify-his-career nonsense. There's a decent percentage of the team that played in that Super Bowl, so this current group can actually enjoy being on football's biggest stage. And the fans can, too.
Now look back at last year's Cup run for the Pens and the drama that preceded the season. Crosby had a contract negotiation coming up, the team leaving-town rumors were still fresh in our minds, Geno, Staal and MAF were all looking at near-expiring contracts and the team hadn't won anything of significance in 15 years or so. Now, the team has all four guys I just mentioned locked up, a new arena on the way, and the motivation of losing in the Cup finals.
So why the hate when the team struggles?
I've been a Penguins fan for as long as I can remember, and I've never seen a perfect season. Hell, in the beginning of this decade, the seasons were as far from perfect as you could get. But now, there's hope...there's a legit future. The "fans" that have come on board in the last 2-3 years are starting to outnumber those of us that realize that a deep Cup run won't come every year. Despite our stacked lineup, the possibility of making it back to the finals in successive years was still very slim. Other teams got better, too...not just the Pens.
This year, I've heard fans boo at home losses. I've heard bullshit questions about Sid being past his prime. All because the team hasn't lived up to expectations this year. So what? If you automatically penciled the Pens into the Cup finals this year based on last year's performance, go die in a fire. Most of the largest questions concerning this team have been answered. The core has new contracts, the relocation is a thing of the past and the team has proven that it can do damage in the playoffs. So enjoy the ups AND DOWNS of a normal freaking NHL season. We're 1 point out of a playoff slot with half a season to go and still without annual Norris Trophy finalist Sergei Gonchar.
So to the current haters out there...learn to relax. Success isn't guaranteed in any sport, much less in one as physical and draining as hockey. If you think a team with the top two scorers in the league can't do damage as an 8 seed, you should go jump on someone else's bandwagon. There's 34 games left, and only a slight improvement in performance will see this team in the playoffs. Take pride in the positives, and quit overreacting to the negatives, fellow Penguins "fans."