This blog entry is a day late and a dollar short. I was going to open my rambling with a short paragraph on how the Jets where stinkin it up, but of course they had to go and ruin it with a hard effort and a five to two victory over the Bolts. It was a marked departure from the five game skid that seen them hit rock bottom, losing to the worst in the league Columbus Blue Jackets. The recent winless streak was the first valley in what's sure to be a season of ups and downs for this new club and it’s had an interesting effect on the faithful. A faction of fans have caught a common bug that is seen throughout the NHL; Schizofania.
The NHL owners in their infinite greed, uhhh… I mean wisdom have seen fit to give us an 83 game season over the course of which even the best teams in the league will simply suck at some point, this is the prime infection vector for Schizofania. When a team starts to notch L’s and flies down the standings, invested fans will almost always want answers. When the answers from coaches, players and GM’s start to wear thin, potential victims start making up their own remedies, leaving themselves unwittingly vulnerable to schizofanic tendancies. This disease usually starts with trade talk. A player will be singled out and the schizofanic victim will invariably claim that if management would simply ship said player out, the home team would suddenly be Stanley cup bound. Of course the questions of trading with whom and for what, get conveniently pushed aside. Depending on who you talk to, during this particular outbreak said player was Dustin Byfuglien. No one can dispute the fact that Byfuglien has been a defensive liability, but he is what he is. He’ll roam and get burned or he’ll roam and blast one in, that is the nature of his game. In good times we’ll only see the wicked point shot or the wrister in open ice created from the pinch and in bad times we’ll only see the two on ones. With all of his faults though, Byfuglien, to me looks better in a Jets jersey than in the colours of a divisional rival. Defensive responsibility can be coached, size and scoring touch not so much.
If Schizofania is left to fester too long and the losing streak continues, stage two symptoms can become apparent. In stage two the fan will start to slowly grumble about coaching as trade talk is no longer satiating the need to express the victim’s frustration. In the early stages, commentary may revolve around an assistant but as the disease progresses there will be calls to replace the coach. The victim at this point has moved from the delusion of the perfect trade and on to the “If you can’t replace the players, replace the coach” Philosophy. Even non shcizofanics may be tempted to jump on this bandwagon from time time. Full blown stage two will see phrases like “he’s losing control” and “they won’t play for him anymore” tossed around. Luckily for Noel the losing streak stopped in the early part of this stage because if that talk gets out of control and the media starts to buy in, it’s time to dust off the resume. In the totality of the situation I can’t really fault Noel much, although I do think he resorts to the stick over the carrot more than he should. It’s also still a bit of mystery to me why Kane is benched for long periods of time when the Jets seem to need all the offensive ability they can get. But don't listen to me, it's just the stage two talking.
Stage three is dark days. The Schizofanic can unmercifully linger at stage one & two almost indefinitely as organizations roll through coaches, players and finally GM’s looking for that perfect mix. However, if the losing streak is severe enough or the playoff drought reaches into a decade, the dreaded stage three can manifest itself in terrible ways. Basically this is when the faithful begin to lose faith. We are seeing this happen in Dallas and Columbus right now, and who can ever forget that it was stage three Schizofania in Atlanta that delivered us our Jets. Fortunately for Jets fans, the drought has neither been long nor severe (with a few losses still netting us a point), remission will probably occur after a couple of wins. You’ll know when it’s happening as the recovering victim will go into a manic stage where parade routes will be planned and the president’s trophy will be handed out in advance, forgoing the formality of actually winning it. All sins will be forgiven and the remarkable systems of coach Noel will be hailed as revolutionary, along with the amazing play of Dustin Byfuglien.
The best thing about an outbreak of Schizofania though, is the means of its infection. If you have schizofania or know someone who has it, it’s a wonderful thing. It means that the NHL is playing in your city and your living and dying with your very own team. There is no more surrogate city, no more following from a far with fans you don’t know. Your team is back, so I say let the schizofania spread like wildfire. Just remember to never let yourself fall into stage three, because you might just find that the cure is worse than the disease.