I have one more article half-written on Tom Dundon and the ownership transition, but that will wait until later Monday or possibly Tuesday.
If you missed them late last week, you can find part one which had my initial thoughts on Tom Dundon and the ownership transition and part two which shared my thoughts on Friday’s press conference.
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe will dare to step inside the debacle that was Friday night’s loss to the Washington Capitals.
Anytime a home team has a win in hand like the Hurricane did on Friday and then blows that lead in multiple stages, it is not a good thing. In the NHL where most games are decided by a goal or two, late collapses like the one the Hurricanes experienced are not that out of the ordinary. And the part where a fan base, especially those in attendance, becomes some combination of frustrated, disgusted or similar is not unique to Hurricanes fans or our team’s current situation.
But I do think Friday’s heartbreaking loss featured a perfect storm of circumstances that had a multiplier effect on the feelings and emotions that were attached to the loss.
1) There is no guarantee, magic or certain timeline on the ice
First and foremost, the timing of the loss sent a fan base with its head up in the clouds and looking forward a bright future spiraling back to the ground with a thud.
Friday afternoon featured the press conference formally and FINALLY announcing the transition of ownership that has been in process for nearly a decade. With that press conference came a burst of optimism and hopes that the new era of Hurricanes hockey that was beginning would be much better than recent years.
That hope and optimism is still in place. And by no means did one hockey game significantly change the long-term trajectory of the team.
But what it did do was remind the loyal fan base, with a punch in the gut no less, that as of right now the team is still a team that has not made the playoffs recently and must still figure out some things to change that. Just because the ownership changed, there are no guarantees. There is no certain timeline. And there surely is no certainty that the Hurricanes will make the playoffs this season.
The fan base that has endured eight consecutive years of playoff misses and some tough times as a fan of the team in recent years is more than ready to move past “going to be better” to “is better,” and Friday’s loss on a day of optimism was a stark reminder that whether this happens during the 2017-18 season is still very much up in the air.
2) A reminder of lingering issues
The game also offered a bit of a microcosm of lingering problems off the ice that did not just suddenly and magically disappear with the ownership transition.
Fans who have been regulars at PNC Arena over the eight-year down cycle have lived a gradual decline of the fan base. Tom Dundon spoke aggressively about improving the fan experience and similar on Friday, but just like with the work in progress on the ice, the situation in the seats is similar. Friday featured the kind of game that many season ticket holders dread. It was the patented home game against a good team that draws well coupled with an agonizing loss. Attending weekend games recently with light attendance and a dead building is hard. Attending weekend home games against opponents who draw well and then losing badly while the opposing fans cheer hurts worse and makes for a grumbling walk through the parking lot afterward.
So as much as I and everyone like the idea of making improvements in terms of the product and the fan base, Friday’s game was also a stark reminder that this too is not instantly and magically fixed by the ownership transition.
Despite the inevitable setbacks, the gains are real
Though there is no immediate fix for what ails the Caniac Nation, I do think that the team and its hockey community are in a much better place now. I also think that the burst of energy and the “we need to be better” mentality by themselves will boost some of the off-ice stuff to a higher level that will be even better if managed well. And on the ice, the gains made already are real. The team is significantly deeper at both the NHL level and also in terms of building a system that can make it possible to maintain success once achieved.
Hang in there fellow Caniacs! Our day is coming even if it is unclear exactly when and even if the schedule is not necessarily the one we want.