Sunday, January 20, 2013

First Game Recap of the 2013 Season

It's surreal, really, what happened last night in St. Louis. There was no reason to believe it could have ended in the catastrophe that happened last night. Shut out? Impossible! Zetterberg had donned the captain's C and was going to be on a line with his overseas partner in crime Damien Brunner. Filpulla had recovered from his injury, had been doing awesome in Europe and had just come off an excellent season. And we still had Pavel Datsyuk! Sure the defense was without Lidstrom and Stuart, but we still had Kronwall, and Ericsson isn't horrendous and we would get to see Brendan Smith in action. And there's always James Tiberius Howard in net. It can't possibly end in travesty. Right?

What the fuck is this shit!?
I'm not going to cover the game. There's almost no point. It was a stunning failure from the entire team. You can start talking about who is responsible for the thumping they received and who isn't, but you'd end up listing the entire team roster, the coaching staff, and upper management. I think the only guys who aren't responsible are the equipment managers. As far as I know, nobody's skates broke or put on the wrong jersey.

Instead I want to talk about what all of this means and the reactions of the fans. As I participated in the WIIM game thread and watched comments unfurl on Twitter, there were a myriad of different emotions being thrown around, and in the minds of some people they seemed to get crossed. Nobody was happy or pleased with what they saw. Some people were unhappy but timid. Some were unhappy and enraged. And some were ready to fire Mike Ilitch, Ken Holland, Mike Babcock, every Red Wings forward (except for Damien Brunner), every Red Wings defenseman (except Brendan Smith) and at least one goaltender. They were engaged in the hockey fan equivalent of Dooms Day Preppers.

People in Group 1 looked at the other two groups like nutters. Sarcastic comments about how the Wings would never win another game, and this one game is precisely indicative of the entire rest of the season. People in Group 2 looked Group 1 in confusion because they weren't being mad enough, and Group 3 with derision because there's no reason to be that downtrodden. And Group 3 looked at the other two on a CCTV system from inside their bunker.

The proper group to be in, which just so happens to be the group I belong to, is Group 2. And what some people need to understand is there is a monumental difference between anger, disappointment and frustration and the abandonment of hope.

Is there era of Red Wings excellence over? Are we seeing a return of the Era of the Dead Things? Should Red Wings fans abandon hope, cast the Winged Wheel into the fire and turn their hockey adoration to St. Louis, Chicago or, God help us, Colorado or Nashville?

It's one game. It was a travesty of a joke of a game, to be sure, and with the abbreviated season, each game really is worth twice as much as it would have been otherwise. There isn't that middle chunk of the season that will afford you the cushion of early season rust and snafus. But it's still only one game, and it's only one game after only one week of practicing together as a team*. You just simply cannot predict what the whole season will hold based on what happens in the first game. Remember last year the Wings won their first 5 games, and then dropped 6 straight. Year before that, they shut out Anaheim on the first game. Both of those seasons had frustrating, disappointing playoff exits. 

But here's the flip side of that: if you think that somehow the people's anger and fury last night was unnecessary you're just as wrong as the people who think the sky is falling. We just came out of a lockout that should have never happened. We're watching a season start in January that should have started in October. We should be talking about the emerging playoff picture because we're half way through the season, not because there's less than 50 games period. 

We're angry and we're frustrated. As Red Wings fans we no doubt have inflated expectations. We've been coddled by a team that has known immense success, but in our defense, that team, from its players to its coaches to its ownership has been promising and delivering success for two decades. So when our Red Wings didn't live up to even modest expectations of a hard fought loss, and that was our first taste of Red Wing hockey, you bet your ass we were mad. 

And we had every right to be. 

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