One of The Fourth Period’s beat writers, Matt Reitz, wrote yesterday about the Internal Battles of NHL fans.  As Matt covers Los Angeles, he singles out those us who live and breath all things Kings, while also taking a pot shot or two at Montreal Canadien fans… the obvious closest comparison.

Since you probably haven’t clicked the link yet, you are wondering what these “internal battles” are exactly.

Matt asks:

Have you ever wished someone on your bench would turn over the puck just ONE more time so he could spend some time in the press box in order for someone else you want to see to play?

My immediate reaction:  … No.

Matt gets it backwards, I want to see certain players sit in the press box AFTER the turnover.

This misinterpretation of cause and effect will continue throughout the article, as Matt’s whole point is predicated on this concept.  After a brief account of the canonizing and demonizing of Carey Price the last few years, the article continues:

Take some of the people who wanted Hickey to get a shot, for example. Deep down, some of them wanted Muzzin to struggle so Hickey could finally get a chance. Loktionov fans wanted the young Russian to play better than Schenn because then their player would stick. Some fans wanted to see Westgarth fail because it would prove that the Kings need NHL players in the fourth-line spot instead of a guy who plays five-minutes per game.

It’s sick, twisted, and counter-productive, and a lot of us were guilty of it. I know I was.

Here’s the thing though: at the end of the day, when any player performs well, it’s a good thing for everyone. When Muzzin was thriving at the beginning of the year it was to the benefit of ALL Kings fans, not just Hickey haters and not just Hickey fans. All Kings fans reaped the benefits of a young player making a successful transition to the NHL, and all will enjoy the benefits if he comes up later in the season and flourishes.

Wanted Muzzin to fail?  Deep down?  The words ‘stretch’ and ‘supposition’ come to mind.

Westgarth… now there’s a more controversial character, one that more clearly brings to light the methodology of Reitz’s assumptive thought patterns.  I have been pretty firm in my general dissent against Terry Murray’s decision to play Westgarth as much as he does.  I do not believe an enforcer is an absolute necessity to a successful NHL team.  I have criticized Westgarth’s play and skating in particular since the dawn of this year’s training camp.

I do not want Westgarth to fail.

It would seem that Reitz is compiling the opinions of many internet hockey nuts like myself, seeing the outright disdain with which many speak of certain players, and then presupposing a thought in their heads on which to predicate such opinions.  Certainly these feelings towards polarizing players like Westgarth must be to serve a narcissistic purpose.  They could never be based on observation.  Watching what you consider to be a detriment on the ice can only truly be the projection of ones prerogatives.

None of those things I said could be sarcasm.

Because they are sarcasm, there is no “could” about it.

Having been involved in a near obsessive manner in the internet hockey forum hobnobbing for several years now, I have seen the comments which I believe Matt is referring to in his article.  There are people out there who have a particular veil over their eyes that colors all that they see which lends itself to the general discrediting of empiricism that prevails over many a message board.  This does not mean that fans want people to fail.  Fans want their teams to do well, period.  Call me an optimist (which is weird because I’m the one with the moniker ‘Surly’), but I believe that even those who have a disgust for enforcers (as an example), would be thrilled to see Westgarth play responsible defense, make a difference with his hitting and pot the semi-occasional goal and/or assist.  If anything, these people would be more thrilled than those who want an enforcer on the team even if said enforcer is perpetually skating in quicksand.

Moving right along, Reitz refers to the early season goalie “controversy” (I put this in quotations because there never a controversy as far as the team was concerned, which actually lends credence to the following that Matt wrote):

You see it in goal, as well.

At the beginning of the season, there was a sizable portion of fans that were just chomping at the bit for the Jonathan Bernier era to begin. While they wanted the Kings to succeed, it wouldn’t have been a horrible thing if Jonathan Quick got off to a bad start and opened the door for Bernier. Quick is in the Top 5 in goals against and save percentage, so should Kings fans who wanted Bernier to play most of the games be upset? I don’t care who is putting up those numbers. Ideally, both guys would be playing out of their mind; but I’d much rather have one guy playing well than both of them playing like Dan Cloutier.

If the Kings and their fans want this team to achieve the success they think it’s capable of, then they’re going to need all of these players to be good. That’s just a fact. Quick will have to be good when he’s in net and Bernier will have to have confidence when he’s between the pipes.

On this issue, Reitz more closely hones in on a malady of fanboyism.  Hell, it didn’t even start with the season, or in training camp, or over the summer.  It started during Bernier’s two call-ups towards the end of the 2009-2010 season.  One could even argue that it started when Quick got called up over Bernier in 2008-2009.

Here Matt is referring to those that you saw clamoring for the Kings to trade Quick while his value was high, willing to put every last marble (of which these people clearly had few to begin with) on the Jonathan Bernier as the second coming of Patrick Roy pile.  Since Bernier’s rather lackluster start and Quick’s league topping play, most of these folk have seen the error of their hastiness, though some will likely still argue that Bernier has only struggled due to being a back-up goalie.  They would and have said that if Bernier were starting, we would all be kissing the ice beneath his feet.  This is a discussion for another day.

Back to Reitz to finish up the article and drive home his point:

Muzzin, Hickey, Davis Drewiske and any number of other defensemen in the organization may be called upon over the course of the season. When they’re with the big club, all of them need to be capable of playing well. When the team is struggling on offense, both Loktionov AND Schenn could help the team. When Westgarth isn’t in the lineup, Kyle Clifford’s development can add needed grit to the team. When he IS in the lineup, Clifford won’t have that added responsibility.

As cliche as it is, each player makes up the team. Everyone has a role. Even if there are two players who are battling for the same spot, they’ll both have important roles before the season (and post season) is over. Every team needs a competent starting goaltender and a competent back-up goaltender. Teams need young players to step into the line-up who can be trusted on the back-end and can be productive when inserted as a forward. Everyone is a needed piece to complete the puzzle. Yes, even John Zeiler.

Who knows what role each player will be in by the end of the year? The point is that for a team to be successful, fans should realize that just because THEIR player isn’t in the role they think they should be, it doesn’t mean they aren’t important to the team.

Hey, you never know. Maybe you’ll need the guys on your team to be productive so you can trade for that left wing you need? Everyone has a role, even if its trade bait.

His conclusion is sound.  Everyone has a role and it is to the benefit of the team that everyone excel in their given capacity.  Expectations must be tempered in some semblance of reality.  Wanting Zeiler to put up points – folly.  Expecting Zeiler to not be a detriment but to keep up energy and momentum when he is on the ice – rational.

However there is a bit of slight of hand going on in the closing paragraphs of Matt’s article.  He leads us down a path that suggests we accept each player for who they are lest we cast aspersions to buoy our own talking points and personal player passions despite the marring of the team in which said player’s failures result.

X comes before Y, therefore Z must come before X.

This is essentially Reitz’s logic.  In this hypothetical non-equation, X is our expectations of a player, Y is the players actual performance and Z is our resulting opinion.

The real equations goes: X comes before Y, Z comes after Y, therefore Z comes after X.

If that hurt your head, I can sum it up like this:  Matt Reitz is full of shit.

My harshness may be a bit uncalled for, but this article rubbed me the wrong way.  In fairness to Matt, he does include himself in this group of fanboy folk at which he disapprovingly wags his finger.  To make a supposition of my own, perhaps Matt writes this article more to clear his own conscious than to expound upon a real issue which he has noticed among the greater fanbase.

Of course, he is right about Montreal fans.  Those guys suck.

The question is, do they really suck or do we just want them to suck so that we are right about us not sucking?

Logic is hard.