Through lacklustre play and coaching changes, hope is key for Winnipeg Jets' fans

Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

In this week's Love Hate we talk about the influence of blind hope in the world of professional sports.

Since I felt the sweet sting of a crisp autumn wind in September 1999, I have been a devoted Cleveland Browns fan.

They say the autumn wind is a Raider, but even so, I found myself falling in love with the Browns. I watched intently that first week of their inaugural return as Ty Detmer quarterbacked his band of expansion draft teammates in a game that saw them get absolutely dismantled by the Pittsburgh Steelers 43-0. On Sunday night. In primetime. From that moment, I was hooked.

My allure towards the Browns wasn't due to the jerseys they wore. It wasn't the fact that they employed the 1990 Heisman Trophy winner in Ty Detmer out of Brigham Young University. Though it should be noted that I have a strong affinity for BYU and, more importantly, Ty Detmer from his previous stint with the Philadelphia Eagles. No, it was none of those things. Rather, it was my enamourment with then-rookie Tim Couch that forever sealed my fate.

Tim Couch. That can't-miss blue chip prospect with pinpoint precision and elusive scrambling ability. Surely, it would only be a matter of time before he learned Chris Palmer's offense and led the Browns to becoming the prize of a so-so AFC North entering the new millennium.

Fast-forward six head coaches and twenty starting quarterbacks later and the Cleveland Browns are still exactly where I found them that fall of '99. Through all their trials and tribulations, I still stand here a Cleveland Browns fan. Cut my wrist and you will see the orange and brown cascade from my veins. I make no apologies for it. As bad as they have been, are and continue to be, they will always and forever be my team.

Am I a masochist? Maybe. Should I be institutionalized? Very probably. But in the fourteen seasons that the Cleveland Browns franchise has found new and exciting ways to rip my heart out and stomp all over it before gently placing it back into my chest cavity, there is one thing I have never lost.

Hope.

As absurd as as it ultimately be, I've never stopped believing in the Browns, even though they've given me a multitude of reasons -- including their current coaching search -- to throw in the towel. It's completely asinine to believe that one days they will finally flip the switch to becoming a relevant NFL franchise. But here I am. Loyal. Devoted. Believing.

Though their perils may never reach the same levels, the Winnipeg Jets are one of the NHL's few variations of the Cleveland Browns.

Like Captain Planet, poor coaching, poor talent and poor roster management have let their powers combine to unleash their brand of mediocre hockey on the good people of Winnipeg.

Two and a half years in, they're already onto their second head coach and are a panicked Evander Kane trade away from being an absolute travesty. But regardless what has happened to jade us over the past thirty months, be it draft picks, waiver claims or player utilization, the outlook on the future still has me optimistic.

Hey, if I can believe in the Cleveland Browns, I can believe in anything.

And that's the important thing to remember as we collectively move forward into our next chapter of rooting on the Winnipeg Jets. No matter how bad things get; no matter how enraged this franchise makes you, optimism in the future must always prevail.

It may be a misplaced quote, but Jim Valvano, former head coach of the NC State men's basketball program said it best. While fighting through the latter stages in his battle with cancer, a weakened Valvano took to the stage at the 1993 ESPY Awards to deliver one of the most powerful and impassioned messages we have ever received through sport. While the whole eleven minutes are a truly inspirational journey that everyone should indulge, there are seven simple words that have always stood out for me.

"Don't give up. Don't ever give up."

No one likes cheering for a team that's floundering. It's even more painful when you're investing finances into a franchise for which you get minimal results. But faith is the cornerstone being a fanatic. Whether it's gearing up for a run to the Stanley Cup Finals or hoping that the first lottery ball plucked is that of your organization, hope is at the core of everything.

Look no further than the recent hiring of Paul Maurice for how hope can revitalize even the most cynical, yours truly included. There is a refreshed, reinvigorated feeling that surrounds the MTS Centre at present moment. Whether that proves unfounded or not remains to be seen, but hope for a brighter future has pierced the dark and dreary folds that have weighed on everyone within this organization these past two weeks.

Hope is the crutch on which we lean to get us through the tumultuousness. When one loses it, there's truly no coming back. It's gone forever and like a candle in the rain, the flicker extinguishes. Goodbye passion. Goodbye desire. Hello Gilmore Girls, baggy sweat pants and a whole lot of apathetic Twitter commentary.

Don't let that become you. Keep your hope alive. If I can believe in the Cleveland Browns after fourteen woeful seasons, surely this isn't much to ask.

Three things I love this week

Change: You could tell by the body language in post-game comments these past two weeks that this team had become mentally exhausted and, short of selling each other up the river, had run out of answers as to what could be done to fix their current state of affairs. And while there is no one answer as to how to fix this, there is a starting point. Enter Paul Maurice. Your move, Jets' roster.

A fresh set of eyes: That's right, more Paul Maurice praise. While he has been given very little time to get his line-ups in order, Kevin Cheveldayoff said it best in yesterday's press conference. It will be good for management to have a fresh set of eyes critiquing this roster and moving the parts to where they are best suited. The hope is that Maurice can see what we've been clamouring for ad nauseum for months now with regards to the bottom six and Dustin Byfuglien's natural position.

Life on the farm: One of the best puck possession teams in the AHL, the St. John's IceCaps have seen improvements from many of their young talent of late. With a new coach taking the reigns, it might not be long before we see the likes of Carl Klingberg, J.C. Lipon or Adam Lowry for NHL trial runs. These are exciting times.

Three things I hate this week

Quick turnarounds: Oh hey, you just hired a new head coach? Awesome. And he's meeting his players tomorrow? Splendid. See you on the ice at 7:00PM for a meeting with the Phoenix Coyotes. Cool. No pressure or anything.

Change for the sake of change: Again going back to the Cheveldayoff press conference, it was hinted that along with the firing of Claude Noel, there will be more changes to come in the future. The expectation here is that none of those changes revolve around a player of Evander Kane's calibre. There has been plenty of rumours from outside markets regarding Kane's availability and we can only remain optimistic that Cheveldayoff means it when he says he doesn't want to set this team back in terms of asset management.

Goaltending play: I get that we're beating a dead horse here, but man, have Jets' goaltenders been horrendously underwhelming lately. Ondrej Pavelec has a .767 save percentage over his last five starts and Al Montoya hasn't been much better in spot duty these past few weeks. This will likely trend upwards as their play has been unfathomably low but don't expect them to morph into playoff level players going forward.

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