19 February 2009
That's what Francois Giguere's statements reminded me of in this interview with Terri Frei. Now I don't put too much stock into what Giguere actually said for two reasons. The first being that Giguere, and Lacroix before him, have always kept things pretty close to the vest in terms of discussions of personnell (In fact Frei blogged that he belives Giguere was keeping close to the vest when talking about the goalies). The second reason I don't put too much into it is because of the way the avs always seem to go around yelling "all is well". It's tolerable when all is well, but when the parade has rapidly deteriorated into unorganized chaos it falls somewhere between "comically pathetic" and "bold-faced lying".
One of the biggest complaints about the Avs is that, at times, they seem like a political spin machine more than the community hockey club. I realize it's a business, but a large part of that business comes from building ties to the community and feeling like the local team. So when the Avs start to feel more like a corporate entity than an organization tied to the community fans have no trouble ignoring the team when times are tough, both economically and on the ice. If the Avs were more upfront about their team evaluation and the current state of affairs I think the fans would be more forgiving of the on-ice product. This is made even worse by the fact that the Avs are fantastic at doing good things for the community. There's a certain nobleness in doing good deeds and not advertising them, and I'm not suggesting the Avs change that policy, but being more human-like and less corporate in dealing with the paying customer would go a long way to shedding the corporate image that's holding them back. Telling the fans "all is well" when it isn't dehumanizes the franchise because it's not only lying to us, the fans, but it's insulting our intelligence.
This doesn't even mean the Avs can't be positive. There are some very encouraging signs for next season. The Avs young players have started to step up. Chris Stewert has been very good, and looks to be the real deal. Wolski has emerged as a fantastic defensive center, that has tons of offensive ability. Jones, in his limited action, has been good. And Cody McLeod seems to have made the transition from Jordan Tootoo style pest (i.e. dirty) to Laperriere style pest (feisty, with the ability to put the puck in the net).
One of the biggest frustrations is the Avs insistence that every bad thing is unlucky. Any Avs fan knows that this team, as currently constructed, is a bad team. Yeah the Avs have been unlucky this season, with injuries to Sakic, Foote and Stastny. But every team has had injuries, because they are hockey teams. Vancouver and New Jersey lost perpetual Vezina candidates for the majority of their seasons. New Jersey has also been without Bobby Holik, Jay Pandolfo and Brian Rolston for significant chunks of time as well. Minnesota has played the entire season without their most dynamic scorer. Dallas has a combined 28 games from Sergei Zubov and Captain Brenden Morrow, plus another 28 from former Selke winner Jere Lehtonin. The Flyers have gotten 9 games out of Daniel Briere.
The difference between the teams above (playoff contenders) and teams like the Avs is that those teams had enough depth to overcome injuries at key positions. A team that goes through the season without losing a star player to injury is the exception, not the rule. Good teams still lose players, they just have the depth to overcome those losses. Rationalizing the teams misfortunes to "bad luck" insults the fans intelligence. Nobody likes being duped, and claiming the Avs have just been unlucky too often makes people feel like the wool is being pulled over their eyes. In fact I think the lack of honesty has contributed to the attendance woes at the Can this season.
Sure a losing season is frustrating, but I think most Avs fans are more frustrated with the lack of concern from the front office. Many of the interviews, and moves, have given the impression of the company line: bad luck, but the fans have seen through that. Now it's an excuse. What are you doing to make the franchise better and what will it take from us. Fans are willing to be patient (see Blues fans) but fans want to know what they are waiting for.
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