Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Rental Fan - Hockey Season 2013 / 2014

When the Pens dropped out of the playoffs in 2012 drowning against the ugly Flyers I thought I reached my lowest point. Losing in the first round is freaking awful and losing against the Flyers is THE WORST! 

Following this theory losing the conference finals against the Bruins should have been still dissapointing and upsetting (sweep!) but less devasting than the drama the year before. At least we made it significantly deeper into the race for the Cup, didn't we?
It is just ... not like that. In fact what happened at the end of the shortened 2012/2013 season hurt even more than the two years before, because we really had it in our hands. This was a team put together to do great. I have no doubt they wanted it and especially during the Sens series were finally in the right spirit to make it happen - and then it all fell apart

Usually sometimes over the long, warm days of the summer I stop fretting about what happened and start to get excited for the new season. And do not get me wrong - I am excited for the next season, I miss my boys terribly and my heart beats for the Pittsburgh Penguins like always, but there is still a bitter taste in my mouth. 

In my eyes one of the biggest failures was how we treated our three famous trade deadline acquisitions Brenden Morrow, Douglas Murray and Jarome Iginla. All three of them are very special - strong characters and experienced players and - here it comes: all three have a very clearly defined skill set. It was on the Pens management, coaching staff and team to integrate them and use them the right way on the road to the Cup.

But what did we do? We forced one of the best right wings of the NHL to play LEFT, apparently asked one of the most legendary hitters of the league to well ... hit less and expected from a gritty fighter to skate like Letang and score like Crosby. And when it did not work out (SURPRISE, SURPRISE), we dropped them like hot potatoes

Do not get me wrong. I know hockey is business. I know you can neither promise a Cup nor a follow up contract (especially not in that cap situation) and all three players knew that. I also do not say that they peformed at their best (But who did except Paul Martin and Tomas Vokoun?), but still ....  We acquired those players at critical points late in their careers. Two of them did not only leave their families behind for the time but also positions as beloved captains of their teams. 
There is a responsibility coming with that and for once - and I am really not used to it - the Pens did not live up to that responsibility and so these great guys ended up as rentals and free agents in bad market situation. 

As a result Jarome Iginla is now with the Bruins in a very odd (lots of bonus, low fix salary) one year contract and god damn .... they will know how to use him. I would not be surprised if he will be a pain for us to play against for the whole season.
Douglas Murray is now with the Habs on a 1.5 Million $ / 1 year contract, which is NOT what he wanted - neither in $ nor contract duration, but in that cap strangled market and after being dropped by the Pens it is what it is.

Brenden Morrow finally - and that makes me really sad - is still a free agent. That is something he clearly does not deserve. He should have 1 or 2 more years with a club that appreciates his skills and allows him to retire then in all deserved glory. But also for him it is everything but easy after being let down by the Pens to find a new home.

I might take these things too serious and too personal especially in the case of Douglas Murray, who became - as special as he is (or better ... because) - in no time my favorite player, but I cannot change it. That is how I am and after all what happened, I decided to not let down the three of them. 

Iggy is a Bruin and I cannot like the Bruins. I just cannot, but I will continue to adore the person and player who is Jarome Iginla and when he plays big against the Pens it will be what we deserve. I just hope our defense will stay tight ... without Murray

Douglas Murray is at least for the next year with the Habs and there is a good chance they will sign his friend Brenden Morrow as well. Morrow is for a long time already in negotiations with the Montreal Canadiens. It would be the destination of his choice due to his family bonds - his wife Anne-Marie is the daughter of former Habs captain Guy Carbonneau. The latest rumor is that he got an invitation to the Canadiens training camp and is with that one important step closer to a new contract. 

Based on that this is the decision I made: if the Pens can treat players like rentals then they need to live with the fact that the Montreal Canadiens with those moves just made me to their rental fan for the 2013/2014 season

My first team of course will be still the Penguins and the very few times Habs and the Pens will play against each other I will root for the Pens. I will likely not watch because my heart would break over Douglas Murray hitting - for example - James Neal and there is a very fair chance that this will happen.
But other than that - as long as both teams are following their different schedules in their own divisions - it will be not only LET'S GO PENS but also GO HABS GO!

Yes, that feels weird. Very weird. I know lots of Pens fans really hate the Habs, but gladly I never did. I could not do this for Flyers, Isles, Caps or Bruins, but I can clearly show some respect and love for one of the oldest clubs in the league. For this year I will have two teams and I am excited to see how it works.
Right here in the beginning I cannot complain. The first two radio interviews of the Canadiens' media with Douglas Murray were great - well prepared and informative. My first talks with some Habs fans were very nice and none of them had a problem with a Pens fan checking out their team as long as that happens with the given respect.
My premier night when I will choose the Habs broadcast over the Pens for the first time will be October 5. The Canadiens will play the Flyers and I want to watch how Douglas Murray and George Parros smash orange dressed people as "Les Gentilshommes Violents"  (Violent Gentelmen is Parros' clothing line just in case you did not know). And hey ... AGAINST the Flyers always means FOR the Pens, doesn't it?


Additional notes about the Pens roster moves: 

Malkin extension: Awesome! Yes, it is a lot of money but it is not overpaying in my opinion. Geno could have gotten more elsewhere, but he loves to be a Penguin and I love him for doing so.

Dupuis extension: Thank god. He deserves it. 

Kunitz extension: Sid gets what Sid wants and there is nothing wrong about it.

Scuderi signing: I think the salary is right for the next two years and too high for the final two, but in sum it is the right thing to do. Obviously the team never overcame losing him. I count on him for taking care of Flower and being an important part of giving Fleury the confidence back he needs so desperatly. He might be also the right guy to show Kris Letang which blue line he should focus on. Pro tip: It is the one closer to Flower / Vokoun

Letang extension: I think we severly overpay him, but I really hope he will proof me as wrong as a person can be. 

Adams extension: The right thing to do. We lost Murray, Morrow, Cooke .. we need Adams to not suffer even more on PK.

Cooke departure: My eyes are still red from cyring. I cannot believe that we employ a person like Harry Zolnierczyk, who is not only a Flyer and pretty dirty player but also distributed a video of a friend having sex with his girlfriend, who was only 17 years old at that time, but have no money for Cookie. We also still overpay Tanner Glass and still have no money for Cookie. This is wrong and the fanbase is still suffering. As much as I disliked that guy when his action on ice were all messed up, I loved him the last two years for turning it around. He is a Penguin. He will always be. 

Keeping Flower: We do not have much alternative and I have not given up on him yet. I love him and I think he will get his head right, find a way to overcome his problems and play up to his talent and skills. This is the year. 

Keeping Jokinen: I am a bit surprised but pleased with the fact we keep Jokinen (one year left on the contract). I think he is a solid player and his faceoff and penalty shot scoring skill will be welcome. 

Trading Niskanen: The surprise is that he is still on the team and the Pens still over cap. Time for a move, huh? 

Simon Despres: That his actually no roster move, but I want to make the plea: LET THE KID PLAY!!!!!

Hiring Jacques Martin: A lot of what I am complaining about here goes back to flaws in coaching and team management. I like Dan Bylsma but his playoff performance is horrible and he was unable to integrate the fantastic players he was give late in last season.  So I really appreciate this addition to the coaching staff. Martin is well known especially for working successfully with the defense and since Bylsma has obviously no idea how to use a stay at home dman right, I am happy for Scuderi that he won't have to rely exclusively on a coaching team that prefers misplaced wingers as defensemen. 

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