After a home defeat of the New York Rangers on Tuesday, and another against the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday, there’s very few people heralding the great turnaround that has been so desperately waited for. The unfortunate reality is fans are holding their breath waiting for the whole house of cards to fall down on itself.
It’s not a good place to be. Not for fans, not for head coach Kirk Muller and decidedly not for the players. Carolina needs to make a postseason run, that is fact. Having been absent from the playoffs since 2009, this could be the last year fans will let them get away with it. A missed playoff berth this season could begin the exodus from PNC Arena and a frightening downfall and panic mode of the franchise.
Is that an extreme example? Possibly. However extreme it might be, it’s an actual reality. Watching Cam Ward check in and out for two seasons, watching GM and talking eggplant Jim Rutherford do his best to tank the team’s chances and watching talented players like Eric Staal, Jeff Skinner and Alex Semin fritter talent away in regular season mediocrity –this has taken a toll on the patience of the fans.
So to look around and see fans nervously waiting to see when and how the Hurricanes screw this one up, should give everyone in the organization from front office on down to hot dog vendor, reason for pause.
The Buffalo win was a well played win. Carolina was doing what it needed to do and getting things done. Yet, this has happened before and usually preceded a slide. Players don’t take kindly to things like this. A streak here and there, followed by golf in May –will not convince free agents to resign.
Carolina has faced more do-or-die moments in the current season than any in recent memory. This is not how it should be, as this instability will wear down the resolve of players and fans alike. The only cure is for coaches and front offices to make a commitment to team and fans, and the players to become the instruments of that commitment. Otherwise, the road is dark and short.