The Ducks have managed to once again fade away into the offseason, and once again it was the Nashville Predators that sent them to golf courses early. Hockey fans are part of a selective community. We are the smallest of the "big" sports. The hype is smaller here. The battles a little fiercer. The boards make the rink a bit more gladiatorial. Hockey fans exist on the fringe. It increases our fervor, and enflames our hate. No one hates like a hockey fan. However, when the fight is over, when the players are spent and someone else must move on, we come together and shake hands. It is perhaps peculiar that the one sport that permits fighting also has the most civilized response to losing. So without further ado, my appreciation to the Nashville Predators.
Shea Weber: You annoying, dirty bastard. You were practically born to be a Duck. I can't recall a time when Perry was in near the net and your fist wasn't in the back of his head. You defended that crease like your life depended on it all series. That canon from the point is still energetic. The hits can still be big. You might have lost a step, but I wish we could have swung you to our side. It might have made a difference these past few years.
Ryan Johansen: Listen youngblood, I know you made a couple highlight reals with Ryan Kesler hanging on you like you were the only girl at a frat party. I feel like this handshake line is turning into a list of players I wish Murray had managed to put into Ducks sweaters, but maybe hockey fans feel like that about most good players. You made a good showing and got some pucks to go in for you when your team needed them. You'll be a star center in the league for years to come.
Pekka Rinne: It was a rough year. The Vezina Rinne is long gone. To say otherwise would be lying. It seems there was a little magic left in the pads though. You stood tall for two games and turned away pucks like they were Supreme Court nominees and you were the Senate. That joke probably isn't as funny to you because the Finnish government is funny, but some of the readers chuckled. Don't deny them this joy Pekka after crushing their playoff dreams.
Peter Laviolette: There's no doubt you're a qualified coach. It's good that you landed in a place where your talents are being appreciated. You made the right adjustments in the series to keep your team competitive. It was good to consolidate the scoring talent to give you more ability to score individual goals. It was good to focus on shutting down Perry. It was clear you wanted to make sure he didn't beat you. Your adjustments helped your team win those last two games.
Preds Fans: Look, I get it. We don't like each other. It's like we are living that horrible episode of South Park where they both book the city park for the benefit concerts and they sing "I'm a little bit country, I'm a little bit rock n' roll" at each other. Anaheim fans are laid back. Nashville fans could probably burn down Bridgestone one night and nobody would be surprised. But, we both love our teams in our own way. We have more in common than we realize. When it gets down to it, we are exiles of the hockey world. Fans of franchises in "non-traditional" markets. Perhaps we can stop despising each other long enough to realize that hockey at large would probably prefer we all go away.