As much fun as we had during the Islanders' epic 7-4 come-from-behind-and-tie-a-35-year-old-team-record win over Vancouver on Monday night, I'm sure it was very difficult on Canucks players, coaches and fans. Only five days earlier, Canucks defensman Kevin Bieska said of their 6-1 loss to Dallas, "if this isn't rock bottom, I don't know what is." So what does that make Monday's meltdown? The bottom of rock bottom?
The joke is on Bieska and anyone else who thinks this lost season for Vancouver in any way represents what rock bottom is for an NHL team. Let me tell you about rock bottom.
Rock bottom is when the losses pile so high over so many seasons, that they all blend together in one massive cloud of disappointment. After a while, the years and records and how many points they just barely missed the playoffs by don't matter. Another loss is expected and usually delivered over and over and over again, until your team mercifully packs its bags for the spring and you can watch 16 other better teams in the playoffs without having to care about who wins.
Rock bottom isn't being called a "tire fire" on national television. It's being ignored and dismissed by the majority of media and opposing fans. Rock bottom is searching every magazine and website for even a shred of a mention of your team, just to remind you that they're still there. Usually, those shreds turn out to be insulting, but hey, at least they're talking about you. It just feels like rock bottom.
Rock bottom is looking at draft rankings by the first week in February (if not sooner). Rock bottom is endless arguments about tanking versus winning, this 18 year-old versus that 18 year-old, trading this guy or that guy for this guy or this pick. Rock bottom is knowing it doesn't matter because the guys running your team will probably make the wrong decision anyway.
Rock bottom is being afraid to think positively about your team's roster because you don't want to be crushed again.
Rock bottom is not knowing if your team will still be there next season. Rock bottom is when legal issues, arena issues, politics, corporate mouthpieces and the whims and desires of Gary Bettman take precedence over what your team does on the ice. Rock bottom is when your team is a convenient ping pong ball for battling political parties, representing whatever they want it to be in order to get votes. Rock Bottom is when you're happy your team is leaving its home of 43 years to move one county over just because you can finally stop talking about moving.
Rock bottom is turning on the television and watching the guy who destroyed your team telling other teams how they should play. Rock bottom is hearing that guy talk glowingly about players he drafted and then traded away from your team a lifetime ago.
Rock bottom is having the sick feeling that nothing will ever, ever change from the top on down. That the guys in charge will be there for life, regardless of how many losses pile up on top of one another. Rock bottom is knowing that no matter how angry people get, how many protests are organized, how many seats go unsold, how many impassioned blog posts you write and or how many snarky comments you make, not a goddamn thing will change until a guy in a suit that costs more than your car wants it to change.
Rock bottom is waking up hoping for a firing or a sale and being disappointed every single day for years.
The point of this rant isn't to start a cross-continent depression swinging content. I'm sure there are Canucks fans who have been with them since 1970 that can tell me all about that team's struggles throughout the years. Plenty of other teams can get in on the action, too.
But one game or one bad season isn't rock bottom any more than four bad seasons out of 10 is. Rock bottom is where you decide it is. If someone, preferably someone high on the team's food chain, steps up and says, "this is rock bottom," then the losing can stop and climb back up the well can begin. If you're lucky, when you get to the top, you have the people in place to keep you there for a while.
Monday night wasn't rock bottom. Rock bottom is always the next game if you let it be.
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