Coping with A Disappointing NHL Season
For NHL fans whose favorite teams have no hope of reaching the playoffs, the remainder of the regular season can be a miserable experience.
Some, such as fans of the Chicago Blackhawks, are facing this situation for the first time in years. It’s been a decade since the Blackhawks last went through this. Their older fans recall the misery of those earlier years and perhaps fear their team could slide back into those dark times. Meanwhile, those too young to remember those years struggle to cope with this unfamiliar feeling.
At the other end of the spectrum are followers of teams long mired near the bottom of the standings, such as the Arizona Coyotes and Buffalo Sabres. For them, year after year of hope keeps giving way to bitter disappointment with no end in sight.
Then there are those, such as Edmonton Oilers fans, who thought their years in the wilderness finally ended with last season’s strong performance, only to see those heightened hopes cruelly dashed. For them, confusion reigns almost as much as frustration. Is this season merely one final speed bump on the road to glory? Or was last season a burst of overachievement by an otherwise average bunch?
There are also fans whose teams, like the Montreal Canadiens, see-saw between potential and mediocrity. Over the past five years, the Canadiens made the playoff three times, finishing atop the Atlantic Division twice and reaching the Conference Finals in 2015. Now poised to miss the playoffs for the second time in three seasons, there’s growing unease over the franchise’s direction.
Finally, there’s the supporters of a long-time playoff contender, like the New York Rangers, that opts to avoid the offseason rush and commence rebuilding the roster now. Management decided several weeks ago that being a postseason bubble club wasn’t good enough. Their actions generated mixed emotions among their fans. Some are disappointed the Rangers didn’t try to hang in there for another shot at the playoffs while others are pleased that the front office isn’t wasting time overhauling the lineup.
For the fans of these teams, there will be different coping mechanisms to get through what’s left of the regular-season schedule.
Blackhawks and Canadiens supporters could spend the time debating what direction their respective teams should take in the offseason. Some will advocate a quick-fix approach while others advocate for a full-blown rebuild.
Sabres and Coyotes fans by this point are either numb to their teams’ ongoing ineptitude or running out of patience. After all the years of having their expectations raised for nothing, despair could be the dominant feeling.
For Oilers fans, it could be a wait-and-see approach. Their current management added several pieces that contributed to last season’s impressive performance. The faithful will be anticipating similar moves to address the problems that derailed them in 2017-18.
As for Rangers followers, those who’ve accepted the rebuild will look forward to what should be a busy summer. Their club accumulated a great haul of draft picks (seven in the first three rounds, including three in the opening round) for the 2018 draft in June. They also cleared considerable salary-cap space that could be put toward other additions.
All of these fans will also try to find some positive signs over the remainder of the season that might bode well for next season. They’ll single out the inexperienced youngsters whose performances improve with extra playing time down the stretch. Veterans who struggled earlier in the season could raise hopes by finishing the season with a strong effort.
These fans will try to find any silver lining that suggests this season was an aberration, that the long-overdue turnaround is imminent, that consistency is just around the corner, that the rebuild will be better and faster than expected.
In other words, “Wait ’til next year!”