Saturday, July 2, 2011

Sticking with the Program

Today's sports fan is afforded a mind-boggling array of information and tools to get news, stats, and deliver their opinion (like this blog!). With broadband internet and specialized channels, like NHL Network, hockey die-hards can devote more attention to the game we love. Its great most of the time, but this instant access also brings expectations of rapid gratification. Fans always want the player, coach, or prospect that may push them to the next level (whether it be just being respectable to competing/winning a tittle annually). Right now, the Pens are in the latter category. We feel (rightfully so) that we should win it all or be in the mix annually. Every year, free agency comes along and all have our eyes on the player(s) that will push us over into another level.

Just like about 99% of Pens fans, I would consider losing out on Jagr the way we did to be upsetting, disguising, etc. If you were to go back to last evening and lets hypothetically say you met some time traveling person (?) that said to you "I went a day into the future and Jagr fucked the Pens and signed with PHILLY! Knowing this information, would you still want him on the Pens team this season?" My response, without hesitation, is yes. Although he is slowing down, Jagr is still a first-ballot hall-of-fame legend. Yes, he is a petulant mercenary prick. Yes, he would be a pain in the ass. But the facts are (1) its all about winning, and (2) do you really think a cup-champion locker room is going to be intimated by a fading legend? I say no. But this talk is all mental masturbation anyhow. Hes gone, along with any hope of repairing his hockey legacy in Pittsburgh. I know I'll still tell tales of Jagr's sub-human feats to newer generations of Pens fans (the torn groin epic Game 6 vs NJ, the game I saw him score a natural hat trick in the first 8 minutes of the game) along with the other side (which we got a good slice of today). He's not "dead to me"...he's just a bad human being that is an excellent hockey player.

So what is the expectation now that we lost out on Jagr? That Ray Shero goes out and makes some type of big splash and gets a big name in free agency. Similar to how the jolted lover goes and gets laid to "rebound". But what I am learning is that this is not the Penguins style...from ownership down to the players. There is no panic, there is no compromising the plan. Now, I realize this sounds hokey..."the plan". All teams have a plan, right? Yes. However, actually carrying on and seeing that plan through is harder said than done. Stop and think for a bit. Think about the franchises that are a success every single year (save for a bad season or two here and there). The Steelers, The Red Wings, The Packers (off the top of my head). These teams generally operate their entire organization, top to bottom, in a way that simply breeds success. They carry on the plan. Its why the Steelers always seem to pull star LB's out of nowhere, its why the Wings find project players and develop them into the Henrik Zetterberg's of the NHL. They are smart enough to know who the cornerstones are and realize those players make those around them better. How many average defenseman has Lidstrom helped mold into good ones?

This is what the Penguins seem to be after. So we lost out on Jagr? What does the organization do? Goes out and signs Steve Sullivan to a fair deal. The Pens didn't go up against the cap overpaying for potentially good players that would probably underachieve. They went out and got a player that fits our system. Is he an injury risk? Big time. Can he still score goals? We'll see...I think he has a better chance to do that with Sid or Geno than David Legwand, don't you? They went out and got a winner in every sense of the word. You have to be a winner to be 5'9 and be a good NHL player. You have to be a winner to overcome major back issues and win the Masterson Trophy for perseverance and commitment to the sport. Winners WIN CUPS. Sullivan doesn't have his yet. Don't you think he'd skate through a brick wall to get it this spring, if his body allows it? In short, we got a Penguin. A guy that fits.

Also, Shero left the Pens with wiggle room to bring someone on board during the season or at the trade deadline should we have a rash of injuries, or the worst case scenario, Sid is not okay. Its inevitable that some team that needed its instant gratification for its fans and its owners will not do well. This team will then look to shed that error to a contender....enter Ray Shero.

I'm proud the Pens are following the plan. If you aren't...perhaps consider when Eddie O. was basically letting the team play shinny and Craig Patrick was doing nothing about it. That organization would have offered some of those ridiculous contracts you saw today. Stick. With. The. Plan.