For fear of becoming one of the many nay-sayers and ridiculously negative bloggers that plague the hockey world, I took a bit of a hiatus while the team struggled to get a win. I took some solace when the team struggled around Garon only a night or two after the majority of the Columbus fanbase strung the noose around Mason's efforts, watching the same style of goals (also four) get scored on him. It is never a nice thing to enjoy a team loss, but it certainly verified my assumptions that the lack of success in the current team state can be attributed to a number of things, not just the goaltending.
It gave me the opportunity to really gage the variables in which a successful team thrives on. I spent a number of hours watching successful teams like Detroit, Boston, Los Angeles, and Vancouver play this weekend, and the trends were fairly common. Positive fan support, strong team play, depth throughout the roster, reliable defense, reliable goaltending, and probably what I would deem to be one of the more obvious traits in these teams, was confidence.
It has been a couple of very rocky months for Columbus, and I think confidence plays a big role. When actively challenging their opponents, they rarely found a game they could not play at the same level of their opposition, nor have they truly ever been outclassed. Sure, teams can offer a more substantial defense, a more physical game, a better possession game, or tote one of the league's best goaltenders, but rarely did I find an occasion during Columbus' strong early season or mid-season play where they found themselves outmatched by a 'clearly' better team.
I do not think the blinders were present. It would take a fool to say that Columbus is home to one of the best anything in the league, but the character in the room could be classified as one of the best in the league. Players like Lepisto and Upshall are not obligated or paid to update Twitter, yet both seemed to make a point of complimenting the overall attitude and welcomeness of the Columbus dressing room. What escapes me is why that does not translate onto the ice. What blows me away, is how this team does not show up to every game with a general need to represent their teammates, the City of Columbus, and the fans of Columbus to their fullest extent.
I also cannot for the life of me understand why people have not had more of an issue with the lack of killer instinct on the ice. Certain games, like the St Louis roll over and die or the Calgary domination only to lose make me numb to their plight. I watched them severely outplay Nashville, Vancouver, Edmonton, and Calgary in every area of the ice except for in front of their own net, and in front of the opposition's net. The two areas of the ice where the games are won got little to no support, and shots were easily turned aside by the teams they played, with little concern for rebound competition. Good teams win because they are better, and great teams simply find ways to win regardless of the on ice production every game.
I apologize for the rant-ish feel of this post, but it might be a personal stepping stone for me while I continue to blog out the year amid team frustrations. I put a lot of stock in the team that I thought they could be, and I even saw it a couple times this year, but when push comes to shove (and I am fairly confident that shove may be more and more likely the longer this mediocrity continues), this team needs to find a way to win, and if not win, find a way to show up every game.
I will be at the Boston and Detroit games this week. Two very tall tasks, but tasks which I expect strong efforts out of the home club. I will still carry the flag, but the level of beer that will make it tolerable to end this year may increase ever more.