(Originally published at Kukla’s Korner, March 9, 2013)
“If you expect nothing from anybody, you’re never disappointed.”
― Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
That seems like good advice, isn’t it? Of course if you recognize that it’s from a story about a descent into madness and all kinds of sad, you might need to rethink that assessment.
The Sharks have lost eight out of their last twelve games. Or you could say they have won three of their last five. One sounds better than the other, and the latter is more relevant since, even though one was a shootout, those games are more recent and probably better indicators of where the team is mentally than nine games ago. You could also say they lost to Calgary, which sounds pretty awful by itself, and since that was the very most recent game, you could argue that it is the most relevant.
But hey, the Blackhawks lost 6-2 to the Avs. Who thought the Avalanche would be the first to take them down? Does that mean the Avs are better than we thought? Does it mean the Blackhawks went to pieces without Patrick Sharp… or was it just time for them to go to pieces? Do we really expect the Blackhawks to now lose the rest of the season, because all things seek equilibrium? No, we would assume that they will continue to win more than lose because, having won so much they must be really good, right?
Does that mean that the Sharks’ four in twelve record is actually more relevant even than losing to CALGARY? Does it matter that they both lead to the same conclusion: the Sharks can’t figure out how to win more than lose?
I had a Twitter discussion about rules and statistics. Well, he was talking about statistical rules. I can’t count so it’s an exercise in futility to talk to me about stats. I treat a rule as more of a guideline. Call me a pirate if you must, but there simply aren’t enough perfect rules for a person to plan her life around. There aren’t enough clear lines for a GM or a coach to put a team together without following some fuzzy-edged patterns that don’t amount to statistical rules. You can’t wait for the perfect season to plant the crops, you have to hope you’ll get some rain and a minimum of locusts and that you won’t starve at harvest time.
Yes, a team that wins more games than they lose is likely to keep doing that. That doesn’t account for the 2010 Flyers or the 2012 Kings. The 2010 playoffs and the 2012 playoffs also don’t tell you how to make a team that loses more than they win turn around and have a great playoff run. That’s why they play the games.
Most of the time, winners win and losers lose, and it is difficult for fans or even disinterested observers to not think of that as some kind of rule or guideline. It’s hard to keep hoping when there’s so many signs telling you things will end badly. Yes, it is terribly exciting when the team does go off script and change course, and when that happens, who really remembers the demoralization and utter hopelessness they felt when things were bad?
Everyone. Sometimes they even get angry that the team didn’t play better sooner, so as to save them all the angst and hopelessness.
But we simply can’t know, and maybe that is the most frustrating part of all. Whatever happens, we can never honestly say we knew it would happen beyond a reasonable doubt. I guess that’s my way of saying, “surprise me, Sharks.”