I'm a pessimist by nature; my wife will tell you that, hell my dog will tell you that ("Sorry, Lola, but that rabbit is far, far more agile" "I'm sure those dog treats are tasty, but they're probably reconstituted pig anuses"). Part of it comes from my research, part of it comes from fantasy sports and the nature of predictions. Optimism is an emotional roller coaster; it's genuine, and so too is the disappointment from an expectation unfulfilled. I guess that's why I never liked cheerleaders (that, and the sexism).
But I'll be damned if the Jets haven't been a fly in my ear.
It comes from staring at the pages too much. All of a sudden two, three players look like they could improve from last year; others might regress, but not so much. Evander Kane's on nearly everyone's watch list for breaking out; Blake Wheeler had such a strong 23 games with Atlanta, he must be able to continue some of that success. Bryan Little, Ondrej Pavelec, Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien, and Tobias Enstrom are either nearing or fully in their primes, and it seems like almost everyone else is younger. Even Nik Antropov seems like a player who could bounce back.
All those rationales are common, preseason-mentality kinds of rationales. Everybody and their pet monkeys are in "the best shape of their life" in training camp, Jonas Hiller has no vertigo, Sidney Crosby had Gak injected into his skull so he'll never get a concussion again* (or was it Floam?), and every coach's "new" system is custom-designed to mystify their opponents and cause Pascal Dupuis to score 80 points.
So when I saw the Thrashers' success in outshooting their opponents after the All-Star Break last year (something I noted in the "Getting Defensive" series in the spring), I didn't realize it was going to make me into a homer by the end of the summer. I'll be damned if the neat new blog Driving Play didn't reconfirm the reasons for that optimism last Friday with this solid post. The long and short of it is that the Thrashers, despite their record, played some pretty good hockey after a few personnel changes, including most prominently the addition of Blake Wheeler and the subtraction of Rich Peverley. Zach Bogosian was given more defensive responsibility, and in general there were signs of (shock!) an Atlanta team that might play a little defense. Of course, Chris Mason played pretty terribly and the change didn't show much in the standings, but that little kernel of reason for optimism planted itself and now I can't get it out.
For as tempered as I usually am about expectations for this team, I don't think this reason for optimism is entirely unfounded. We might see an (albeit slightly) improved team from last year's Thrashers. It's not enough to get me to predict the playoffs for Winnipeg (pessimism doesn't ever leave, it just gets drowned out every once in a while), but it's not baseless to hope this team can sneak into the playoffs.
You know what they say: sometimes when life gives you reconstituted pig anuses, make dog treats.
* Let me entertain this idea further: he'd make farting noises whenever someone hit him, he'd smell like glue, he could lift newspaper print with his face, he'd harden if left out in the the open air too long...