By the time you read this blog post, these standings’ll be passe. That’s not the point.
Those of you who know me personally, or who follow me on-line, or even those who read this blog and things I write elsewhere know that I’m not an optimistic person by nature. I adopt the very Denmark-ian ideals of not expecting anything. If something bad happens, ok – but if something good happens you’re pleasantly surprised. I’ve learned that when you expect things is how you get disappointed, and the more you expect them the more disappointed you get.
Take, for example, the Cardinals this year. I was pretty much sure they were toast in the Wild Card race. I was happy when they made the playoffs, but figured the Phillies’d take care of them. Then I was happier, but thought that the Brewers had their number. I was thrilled to see them make the World Series, but fatalistic that we had lost game six. Twice.
David Freese might’ve taught me to stop being so terribly pessimistic – and then Albert Pujols taught me that my pessimism has a place. Eh, you win some, you lose some. But hockey more than baseball has shaped my attitudes and expectations. I’ve been a Blues fan for forever, and I admit that I was spoiled by 25 years straight of playoffs. That can spoil a fan – but at least the Blues never won the Stanley Cup, so it still taught us to be humble. The Blues were good, but not too good. Apparently humility isn’t enough, because the teams after the lockout – with the exception of the 2009 tease – brought fans down a peg. Yay youth, yay promise – but that only takes you so far when you’re dodging golf carts come the second week in April.
Last year’s blazing start was another tease that Blues fans underwent. I was shocked at the tear that they were on, and I enjoyed it. In the back of my mind, however, was always this nagging voice: “Something’s going to go wrong. You know that, right?” Damn voice has ESP, because players started dropping like flies until the team had a third of the Peoria Rivermen on its roster. You enjoy that hot start? Here. Here’s a terrible January and an amazing inability to shake whatever the hell funk you’re in. Oh, and a 10th place finish? Gravy.
That’s why this season I’ve held back. I’ve waited for the injuries, but have only been rewarded with two major ones in the forms of Andy McDonald and Alex Steen (injuries to Carlo Colaiacovo do not count). I was ok with the start of the season. Not thrilled, not ticked. The hiring of Ken Hitchcock made me nervous, and then he had to go and prove me wrong. The Blues did a 180 after his hiring, and that’s what got me believing.
Last season the Blues’d have stretches of three or four games where they dominated, and then long stretches of a funk that no one could snap them out of. This season? None of that. It’s telling that the biggest concern as of late was the “skid” they were on to end December. 0-2-1! No! Those three games were the longest Blues’ losing streak of the year, and honestly if you want to be picky about it in between the two losses to the Red Wings was a shootout loss to the Predators, so the Blues haven’t had a three game pointless streak all season. Home record? They lead the NHL with 17 wins. Goals allowed? 2.05 a game. Actual positive shot differential? Check.
So, no losing streaks and a ton of consistency this year. Is this a return to the pre-lockout spoiled playoff years? Who knows, but the Blues haven’t been in 1st place in the Central Division at the 41 game mark since 2000-2001. Am I optimistic? It’s starting to come out. I’m fighting it, I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. I’m expecting something terrible to happen. I’m expecting all of these things, but honestly I’d be shocked if any of that happens. Maybe what I’m not expecting is well within my range of expectations after all.
Maybe, just maybe, it’s safe to be an optimist.