The NHL playoffs have begun in earnest. Fans are excited. Teams are focused. The Sharks have already lost a game. Everything seems normal.
Except Ducks fans are sitting home, missing the party. To rub further salt into the wound of not making the playoffs for the first time since 2004, that team up the road, the Los Angeles Kings, get to make their playoff debut tonight. It only took them eight years of mediocrity before they could get to this spot. How many Ducks fans are now Vancouver Canucks fans?
In 2003, when the Ducks made their Cinderella run to a game 7 Stanley Cup final, things were magical and who knew when they would do it again?
After the lockout, new ownership and a solid group of players, the Ducks made the playoffs, won the Cup, and have given Ducks fans plenty to cheer about.
Now those fans have been spoiled and maybe even took being in the post-season for granted.
Not this year. The players stated they had a sick feeling in their stomachs when they were mathematically eliminated. The players had plenty of company in disappointed and upset fans.
Who could blame them? On paper, the Ducks looked like a reasonable contender at the start of the season. Oh how the formerly Mighty have fallen.
It would be easier if the Ducks could point to one specific problem and work on it, but there were many causes for the Ducks demise. A defense that lacked the depth it had in previous years, an inability to keep leads in critical games, a poor road record, mediocre goaltending to start the season, specialty team struggles, a lack of clearly defined lines. All those little things added up to big things.
So instead of only being able to plan things for two weeks at a time this spring, Ducks fans get plenty of free time, just like the players. However, the fans have been paying for tickets all season (those who still showed up). The Ducks? Have been collecting paychecks, no matter what the results showed.
It says a lot when instead of being overjoyed at doing unexpectedly well (2003), fans are now expecting nothing less a good playoff run every year.
Unfortunately, it will be a long time before the Ducks get the chance to redeem themselves.
Come October, they better be prepared to do what is necessary to have success on the ice. Starting from day one.