Thursday, January 13, 2011

Winning is Not Losing

Any team can "trip up" another. Ha ha, puns.

I hate when the Canucks play teams at the bottom of the standings. No good can come of it. As Skeeter pointed out earlier in the season, good teams are supposed to win games against bottom-feeders. It's expected. The problem is, the act of meeting expectations is often met with a little but a slight shrug. No one commends you for doing a satisfactory job. In truth, the real story is exceeding expectations.

Narrow wins over bad teams, like the Canucks' shootout victory at Nassau Coliseum on Tuesday night, do not exceed expectations. In fact, when the Canucks barely get by a team they were expected to defeat, one could say they've barely met expectations. For fans and media who have lost perspective--spoiled as they are by Vancouver's run of stellar play--barely meeting expectations is equally as bad as failing to meet them. For some, a close win over a bad team is the D-minus of sports. It's shameful. The worst part of it all is when people suggest--as one Team 1040 host did yesterday--that it's as bad as losing.

Well, that's just silly.

There are no D-minuses in sports. There are no grades--it's pass or fail. I know hockey fans love to grade their teams; the Canucks' midseason report cards are a rite of passage. But I've never much cared for this meaningless hockey trope. Who cares if Alex Burrows is only a B+? Sports aren't about how you win. They're just about winning. It doesn't matter if you blow a team out or edge them out so long as you win. There's no shame in almost losing.

You didn't lose.

Furthermore, there is no expected victory in the NHL. It's a league with tremendous parity, where any team can beat any other team on a given night. The New York Islanders may be twenty-seven spots behind the Canucks in the standings, but they're not the Washington Generals. Sometimes they win. Statistically, almost every team should beat them, but they beat other teams besides the Devils and Maple Leafs. In fact, in the last two weeks, they posted wins over Tampa Bay, Montreal, and Detroit. In a win over Pittsburgh, they ended Sidney Crosby's point streak.

They can win, even against top teams; they just won't do it consistently.

The Islanders aren't a team to be taken lightly. No team is. Every win is commendable. The fact that the Canucks win so often is even more commendable.

Granted, a run of shaky outings typically means a losing streak is looming, but we can resort to nail-biting and navel-gazing when the losses actually happen. In the meantime, no win is a loss, because winning is the opposite of losing.


  1. The Mid-Season Report Card makes me agree with Hansen being the unsung hero. He wasn't mentioned once.

  2. Spoiled, that's the word... if fron now on, canucks go 6-3-1 it would be great, but your are going to hear people complain sooooo much and that's 65% hockey! Better than what we did whole season last year... crazy isn't it?

  3. As we discussed over the phone, I completely agree with you.

    That said, there's nothing wrong with noting deficiencies in the Canucks' play after a win: criticizing areas that need improvement in order to avoid losing in the future. That's just intelligent reporting that recognizes that not everything is hunky-dory if the Canucks win. In the same respect, if the Canucks play well and lose, there's nothing wrong with noting the positive aspects of the Canucks' play. Suggesting that a win be considered a loss as I heard on the Team 1040 yesterday (I believe it was Blake Price on air at the time), is completely asinine. A win is a win is a win.

  4. I thought you might agree with me, especially after you verbally agreed with me over the phone.

    Criticism is warranted. Even a win can be picked apart--we do it nightly with the IWTG. But it's still a win.

  5. I think that we can all look to Vin Diesel for the definitive word on this...

  6. We truly are spoiled.

  7. I agree, with one caveat: When the Canucks almost win, we like to focus on the positives and say a few bounces the other way and they win. If they get credit for almost winning, they should lose some credit for almost losing.

    Hardest Canucks research I've ever attempted and given up on: Over the course of the entire history of the team, how many "career highs" in goals and/or points did all the coaches preside over, and who over what?

    Also probably sets a record for earliest in a project I've given up.

  8. "Statistically, almost every team should beat them, but they beat other teams besides the Devils and Maple Leafs."

    This is an obsession of mine, as some of you no doubt know (as I posted earlier, the Canucks do have to lose some games, so complaining about dropping games to bottom feeders who aren't even threatening them in the standings amounts to a preference for fating them to lose to better teams where the losses are "four-pointers").

    The reality is that there isn't a 1.000 team and a .000 team every year, with all other teams falling in a neat, predictable bell curve in between. Teams routinely "break character" if it can even be characterized that way in a league with a salary cap where parity rules. Moreover, shouting about losing to a team below you in the standings is circular logic, since it is those very games which shifts the standings. In this vein, it's always amusing when fans chirp about losing to a bottom-feeder in the first couple weeks of the season when the standings are still very much in the process of sorting out who a bottom feeder is. "OMG, they're 1-3-1, how could we be losing to an inferior team??!"

    All that said, I do think the Islanders' game is a bad example, because any shootout result is a tie. The Canucks could have "lost" following an identical game of hockey. So the Canucks didn't actually win the game, so much as achieved two points under a contrived NHL system. And this is reflected in the Isles getting a point too.


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