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I just don't believe anymore
Why I shouldn't write when I'm half frozen
10/6/14 - By Ryan Hall -

I'm sitting here in my front room, staring out my back yard window watching the leaves blow off the trees. It's a particularly grey day, with the temperature below zero this morning when I got out of bed to walk our dog. Despite every fibre of my being wanting to stay inside where it was warm, there I was shivering as we walked to the park to play a quick game of fetch before breakfast. During one particularly brisk lull, as my dog was hunting for his ball in amongst the leaves, the wind picked up, the leaves rained down and I couldn't help but think that soon the snow would fall.

And that meant is was almost hockey season.

While that fact could readily be confirmed by a quick glance at the calendar, what struck me more than anything else was the apathy that gripped me in the midst of my revelation. For as long as I could remember the start of the NHL season was something that excited me, and I would prepare by reading The Hockey News season previews, watching TSN's specials, and generally sinking into the buzz of a new campaign.

Yet this year I just can't bring myself to do it.

You see, something broke last playoffs, and I don't think it can be put back together. Some might call it the suspension of disbelief, that ability to block out all the flaws and honestly believe that your team could win. Others use the term 'Teal-Coloured Glasses' to describe that tunnel vision that focuses on the strengths of our club and thinks they can compensate for the weaknesses. Whatever term you use, I seem to have misplaced mine, and it's damn disconcerting!

You see, for years I've had this faith in the core of our team. I've honestly believed that Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau were winners that just ran into the cruel fickle fate of sports. After all someone has to lose, and sometimes it's going to be the team you root for. I was okay with that, because I didn't doubt the pedigree of our players.

It was easy to do that too! Dan Boyle had a Cup ring from Tampa Bay. Brad Stuart had a couple from the Wings. Niemi's got one too. That's not even counting Olympic medals of all colours, World Championship trophies, and even some personal hardware. This HAD to be a team with a winning caliber.

That all went away during one gut wrenching week last Spring though, when the heart and soul of the Sharks was torn from their chests and laid bare for the entire hockey world to see. The sad fact is that this is not a team with a championship core. It's just not. Somehow these players, who in other situations can step up and be winners, just can't find that level when they wear teal. That's not a knock on them, it's a reality of life. No amount of Joe Pavelski magic, Logan Couture drive, Patrick Marleau speed, or Joe Thornton vision is ever going to change it.

It's not even a slight against management, despite the cries that they be held accountable. What would anyone of us have done differently? Would you have not acquired Thornton from Boston? Would you have let Marleau walk? Was trading for Heatley a bad move? Or flipping him for Martin Havlat? Should they have passed on Dan Boyle? Could we take issue with drafting Couture or Pavelski? Signing Anti Niemi? The fact is Doug Wilson somehow keeps fleecing other teams and bringing in talented players, plus drafting players that contribute in the top 6 (Couture, Pavs, Nieto, Hertl, etc.) or play top 4 paring minutes (Vlasic, Braun, Demers, soon to be Mueller) without having Top 10 picks.

Nor can this rest on coaching either! Darryl Sutter is a winner through and through, plus he's taken every team he's coached to at least a conference final. Ron Wilson went to the Cup finals himself with Washington. Maybe it's Todd McLellan's fault, but he's the winningest coach in franchise history with 2 conference finals appearances to his credit. Throughout all of these men the Sharks have always played to their strengths, led the league in Offense and Defense at different times, and been above average on Special Teams. So coaching isn't letting them down either.

So I return to the fact that for some reason, this mix of players in this moment in time just aren't winners, and that has just robbed me of any excitement for this season. I just don't believe that things will be different, because insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. Without that belief though the fun disappears, as the expectations that will be levied on this squad just can't be realized.

Maybe they'll surprise me, maybe something will magically change, but I just can't see it happening. At this point the Sharks are who we think they are. It's one of the immutable realities of sports, and as a fan it's just part of my life. Just like those leaves clinging to the trees in our park, when the wind gusts and things get rough, the only possible conclusion is that this current club will fall.

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