Monday, June 9, 2008

Fan Post-mortem: Eastern Conference

Now that the Wings have officially won the Cup, fans of each of the 30 teams can ponder what they accomplished (or didn't) this last season prior to moving on to next year. As with many things, success (or the lack thereof) is on a sliding scale against reasonable expectations going on.

Eastern Conference:

Montreal Canadiens - first place in the regular season, eliminated in the 2nd round by Philadelphia. The season should be considered a success for the Forum/Bell Centre faithful as nobody would have expected them to be at an elite level.

Pittsburgh Penguins - second place in the regular season, eliminated in the Finals by Detroit. Supporters should view this as a successful season as well. The Pens reached the precipice of glory with a very young team and Captain Sidney Crosby showed himself to be the real thing.

Washington Capitals - third place in the regular season, eliminated in the first round by Philadelphia. Fans should feel very good about the year not so much with the results measured against preseason expectations, but rather against where things were mid-season. The push after bringing in minor league coach Bruce Boudreau was remarkable and bodes well for the future... oh yeah, having Alexander Ovechkin helps as well.

New Jersey Devils - fourth place in the regular season, eliminated in the first round by the New York Rangers. Devils fans should feel... ok... not great, not awful, but ok. Given that the team lost a few players to free agency and relied on a getting older Martin Brodeur, expectations shouldn't have been terribly high, but unfortunately, Devil fans have gotten used to a larger degree of success than was achieved.

New York Rangers - fifth place in the regular season, eliminated in the second round by the Pittsburgh Penguins. Blue seat fans of the Blueshirts should feel pretty good about the season. Even with the second round defeat, solace can definitely be taken in the opening round victory over the rival Devils.

Philadelphia Flyers - sixth in the regular season, eliminated in the third round by the Penguins. If you're a Flyer fan, there's probably a few things that can be said about you... (1) you likely identify with Colonel Kurtz's line about loving the smell of napalm in the morning and (2) you should feel extremely happy about the season gone by. After having been the worst team in the league last season, reaching the Conference Finals was none too shabby.

Ottawa Senators - seventh in the regular season, eliminated in the first round by Pittsburgh. Now... here's a rough one. Whereas thus far it's really only been the New Jersey fans with cause for disappointment, Senator fans should feel downright miserable about their team. They underachieved in the regular season and saw their coach dismissed, and then played no better for his boss (and ultimately their boss), GM Bryan Murray.

Boston Bruins - eighth in the regular season, eliminated in the first round by Montreal. Hopefully Boston sports fans haven't gotten spoiled with the success of the Patriots, Red Sox and Celtics and can appreciate what the B's did this season. Nobody would have expected them to be a playoff team and the Bruins showed a lot of youthful fight (see: Lucic, Milan) and almost knocked off top seed and hated rival Montreal in the playoffs.

Now that the playoff teams are on the table, a brief summary is probably in order.

Of the top eight teams in the East, fans of six should feel good about how their boys played and what the future holds. Interestingly, the two teams whose fans shouldn't be as happy with the results (Ottawa and to a lesser extent New Jersey) are also the two playoff teams that appear to be most on the downward slope due to age and declining performance.

And now, the rest of the Eastern Conference teams in order of finish (starting with the nine seed)...

New York Islanders
Tampa Bay

Yeesh... not much good that fans of these seven teams could say. There was of course some good hockey played at times, but... not enough.

Coming soon to a website near you... the Western Conference summary from the perspective of Joe and Julie fan.

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