I've been reading a series of fun novels about a golf hustler named Eddie Caminetti who is so good at what he does that he tells people in advance how he's going to beat them and they are powerless to stop him. He even knows in advance when he's going to lose or when it's the right time to lose or when someone will welch on a bet. He's such a cool customer that he just doesn't care what anyone says or thinks about him as long as he wins, or advances his cause even in losing.
Someone in one of the books who knows Eddie tries to desribe him to another character who doesn't know him. He does so by telling an anecdote about one time Eddie went to the track. He bet $2 on a longshot and won a couple of hundred. He placed all that on another longshot and won another bundle. He kept laying all his winnings down on the next bet and kept winning. He had amassed a couple of hundred thou in winnings, and placed it all on a favorite. The favorite lost, costing Eddie everything. Later, someone asked him how he did at the track that day. He said, "I lost two bucks."
The moral of the story is, we were playing with house money. We were a longshot. We won our first race -- the season opener against Philly. We built on that and won a few more games. Jaromir Jagr was back. Henrik Lundqvist had arrived. Petr Prucha came out of nowhere. Records were set, cases were made for prestigious awards. We kept building and building until we had 100 points and a playoff spot clinched. By then we'd become a favorite. But like Eddie, that's the point where we lost the whole bundle.
But what did we lose? Did we lose a couple of hundred thou? Or just the two bucks we started out with? We haven't lost anything that we hadn't already won. We had a great run. We all expected it to come tumbling down at some point. But we didn't care, because we were building for the future, we'd uncovered some good young talent to build on, and we finally developed a culture based on hard work, accountability, and reward rather than, well, you know.
We didn't lose a thing, not even the two bucks we started with. Unlike Eddie's parlays, we don't have to give back the things we won along the way -- the respect that was earned, the fun that was had, the talent that was developed, the ethic that was instilled. We're still ahead in so many ways. We're so much farther along than we ever imagined we would be at this point. The final result cannot undo all the good that was done along the way -- because the result is not final. Even the losing and the way we lost will help build for the future.
For the Rangers, for us fans, wait until next year is no hollow platitude -- it actually means something.