The difference between fans and management is the fans saw a horrible preseason lead to a horrible start and are worried that this might be happening again. Management and coaches are new to all this and are confident they can fix all of the problems before next Saturday.
``I'm trying not to compare ourselves to that team,'' new GM Joe Nieuwendyk said when asked about what a poor preseason meant last year. ``We have our own identity and our own issues, and we're dealing with them. We have some great practice time in Cedar Park coming this week and we're aware of what needs to be done. So let's go out and do it.''
Marc Crawford said: ``We didn't look good tonight, and there is no excuse for it. Obviously, St. Louis is a team that is getting themselves exactly prepared for their road trip over to Europe. They used the game it should be used, and we didn't...We're going to have to address it. Obviously, it's not the way we want to end our preseason. On the positive side, we have four great practice days next week, and we are going to utilize them real well to make sure we get ourselves totally prepared.''
The players were a little more concerned:
Here's Stephane Robidas:
``There's a lot of stuff missing, obviously. And it's obviously really, really disappointing for us to come out flat like that. To lose a game like that - That's not how we wanted to finish the preseason, but hopefully it's a good lesson for us that we need to work as a team if we want to win hockey games. We've got to pull everybody in the same direction, everybody's got to be on the same page. We are playing a little bit of a new system, we've got a different coaching staff, but bottom line I think we've got to come together as a group and play for one-another. I think that's the main thing.''
So, do you give them a mulligan or are you really, really concerned?
I'm somewhere inbetween. On one side, they were playing their fourth game in five nights and really were playing together as a team for the first time. On the other side, they really do look disjointed as a team. It does not look like they understand what they're supposed to be doing in the new system. Marc Crawford disagrees with that.
``Absolutely they understand what they're doing. There was one structural mistake tonight, costing us; it was kind of a fortunate break for [St. Louis]. That was on the fourth goal of the game, but apart from that, it was just battle issues for us tonight. With the number of battles we didn't win tonight, you're not going to win many games.''
All we can really do is sit and wait to see if he's right. This is a big week and they do have time to get healthy and get ready to play. Brenden Morrow (sore thigh) said he wanted to play tonight, Crawford said, but trainers held him out to be safe. Jere Lehtinen (hip/groin) is expected to be ready next Saturday against Nashville. That will change a lot of the lines.
While Mike Ribeiro played with Steve Ott and Krys Barch on Saturday, I think you can imagine an opening night lineup that looks something like this:
That seems like a lineup that can work.
That said, the team still has to fix its problems with the defensemen. We'll see if it can.
I hate to say this, because it is way too early to panic, but I guess I leave this game by saying that I have now acknowledged that this really could blow up in their face if they don't stay on top of it. A new coach with a young defense trying to play a skating game and allowing key chances against...There is the potential for a real mess here.
But they also could fix it. I don't think you're a stupid fan or a homer if you want to wait a while longer before rushing to judgment.
I guess I look at this like Alex Auld's start the other night. Auld said a big win in preseason doesn't mean anything, but it sure is better than the alternative.
This is the alternative.