This is the way the 2010-2011 hockey world ends, not with a bang, but a whimper (and apologies to T S Eliot).
For the first time since we began following our hometown hockey boys, there is no April joy, no second season, no reason to start watching out of market games because of their scheduling implications. The only things left to do are cheer against the Rangers and watch Zach Parise improve in his last four games before free agency.
As badly as the season started, there were so many things of which to be proud since mid-January. Patrik Elias was on fire, skating perhaps better than before the lockout season, and finishing in the slot as well as he did in 2001-2002. First hat trick in five years – against Philly, a team he just pwns – is evidence enough. Some real chemistry on the lines was a positive. Going 24-4-2 over a 30 game stretch; more than a third of a season of close to perfect hockey in every imaginable shape and form. And yet there were disasters as well: not correcting the trajectory before the season was out of hand (whether it was MacLean, Langenbrunner, or some combination of them and other factors we’ll never know, but I’m personally hoping Dallas goes deep so the Langebrunner trade yields a prospect). Injuries to the defense left us with three freshmen on the blueline nearly the whole season. Colin White’s play improved tremendously once Lemaire was back, and then he was repeatedly scratched with a nagging injury down the stretch. Salvador is gone. Taormina is recovering. There’s such potential there with Volchenkov, Tallinder, and Green all healthy at the same time.
With a long off-season, here’s hoping the Devils stay in shape and train through the warm months. That they come back in September hungry, wanting to never feel this way in early April again. That the echoes of Montreal’s fans signing “Hey Hey, Goodbye” resonate and reverberate, and remind them of what preparation and conditioning and team play can deliver or deny. It was a tough year to be a fan, and yet the last third of the season saw some of the best attendance at the Rock since the buiding opened.
Personally, I’ve yet to watch a baseball game or take out the golf clubs, subconsciously not wanting the miracle of the last two months to end, never wanting to see a wizardly Jacques Lemarie behind the curtain frantically telling us to pay attention to the flash and not the reality. But reality has set in, and for the first time in 15 years, I’m sorry to see the arrival of summer.