Saturday, April 25, 2015

RIP Pittsburgh Penguins (or, "This Is Not an Eve Post")

I'll be traveling for the next couple days for business, so I've spent the past few getting ready and spending time with the family.  So, I apologize in advance for my lack of posting.

However, there is one event that I simply cannot let pass.  I am a rabid hockey fan.  More than that, I'm a rabid Pittsburgh Penguins fan.

Wait, don't stop reading yet.

I come to bury the Penguins, not to praise them.

Puck Daddy, a sports blog hosted on Yahoo, asks a fan of a rival team to eulogize each team as it leaves the playoffs.  The writers gleefully roast the target team, since they're fans of their rivals.  Typically, a Washington Capitals or Philadelphia Flyers fan eulogizes them.  But they're quite popular for the actual fans of the team being roasted.  It's cathartic, really, purging the frustration and leaving you ready to enjoy the next season.  But these eulogies never do justice to the frustration that a true fan feels.

It's been a particularly hard season as a Penguins fan.  The Penguins went from the top of the league to barely sliding into the playoffs, to falling in 5 games (only winning one of them) in the first round.  And this has been how it was for pretty much the past six seasons... embarrassing losses and complete collapses.  They haven't played anywhere near their potential.

So, please enjoy my eulogy, knowing that I love the Penguins dearly, and my words come from the broken dreams of unrealized potential.

Friends, tonight we speak about a beloved team that has left us far too soon.  A team filled with potential.  A team filled with noble hearts valiantly striving for the eternal glory of total victory.

Of course, I'm a little late eulogizing that team, the 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins.

Since then, we've had to suffer a group of players who stepped into the uniforms, locker rooms, and airplanes of the Penguins, and didn't even have the courtesy to change the names on the backs of the uniforms.  For obviously, we aren't speaking about the shining talents who graced that locker room any more, but a group of wannabes who obviously never learned basic lessons like, "Shoot the puck."

What explanation could there be but impersonation for the way they crumpled like lilting pansies in nearly every single playoff series since then?  Surely the entire team didn't develop cataracts, the only other possible explanation for their wild and unpredictable shots.

That is, of course, when these impostors pretending to be professional hockey players managed to actually shoot the puck instead of figure skating around the box on the power play, dancing gracefully around the other team in complete ineffectiveness.  Indeed, on the rare occasion they accidentally scored, no one seemed more surprised than they did.

That they even managed to make it into the playoffs was the result of perhaps one player, the goaltender, Marc-Andre Fleury.  And even he was the victim of body-snatching.  But in his case, the inconsistent, nervous goalie with a tendency to be distracted by pretty girls in the crowd was replaced by a battle-hardened, focused, driven maniac able to single-handedly pull his team out of a quagmire.  No longer did the first shot after a few minutes of inactivity slip through by default.  Now, he was lunging across the net after his team utterly collapsed in front of him, and like Horatius Colces at the bridge, he stood alone as his team ineffectively swatted at the arms of opposing players or stared in confusion at a scuff on the dasher boards.

Perhaps it is better to know that they're gone, so we can cease this desperate hope that, year after year as they add players who failed at cities across the continent, someday, a magical unicorn will bless these mediocre additions gained in desperation during free agency.  But should this surprise us?  After all, the man in charge of these acquisitions, GM Jim Rutherford, was himself brought in well after all his competent peers already accepted positions elsewhere.  He was so skilled at his job that the team had dress one less player for nearly a full month because of his incompetence at managing the salary cap.

Somehow, some way, we still believed that the success of 2009 was but the beginning of a dynasty.  After all, with Crosby, Malkin, Fleury, and Letang, how could we have anything but success?  In the end, the loss of four games by a score of 2-1 proved the truth.  This is not the offense we believed in.  This is not the team we believed in.

These are obviously not our Penguins.

So, I salute you, albeit too late.  May you rest in peace, wherever you are.  We can only assume you are gone, for if you were not, you would never condone the bumbling farce being perpetrated in your name.  You will be missed.

But it was sure nice of Mario Lemieux to give these replacement vagrants good jobs, even if they do embarrass themselves while doing it.

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