Title: An Open Letter to Marc-Andre Fleury
Date: June 6, 2008
Original Source: The On Deck Circle
Synopsis: Coming off a Stanley Cup Finals Game 6 loss to Detroit, I thought maybe beleaguered goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury could use some cheering up by way of a letter from yours truly.
Dear Marc-Andre Fleruy,
I’m sure you don’t know me. Even if you did, you’d find it strange that I write you now, since I’m not the biggest of hockey fans and certainly not the biggest fan of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Still, I feel I can help you, and that you need to hear what I have to tell you.
Marc-Andre, it’s okay. It is not your fault. Just like the 2004 IIHF World Junior Championship Gold Medal Game wasn’t your fault. Just like the last few up-and-down years haven’t been your fault.
You’re unlucky. Some of us are, some of us aren’t. Don’t worry, I’m unlucky, too. But the luck doesn’t matter so much as how we react to what luck delivers us. As Ludacris says, “it’s not the hand that your dealt but how you’re playin’ your cards.”
So don’t rewatch Wednesday night’s Stanley Cup Finals-deciding Game 6 against Detroit, where your team had a legitimate chance to send the series to a seventh game on the back of a rabid crowd. No, don’t even think of the collective gasp the Mellon Arena let out when you allowed not one, not two, but three fluky goals. Put out of your mind the looks and tears of teammates as you all skated off the ice, losers, for the last time in the 2007-08 season.
Max Talbot can’t lift you up from this. Sidney Crosby can’t lift you up from this. The Pittsburgh Penguin faithful can’t lift you up from this.
To recover from yet another heartbreaking and haphazard outcome added to your young resume, you must focus on these three truths:
You are that good.
You can be a franchise goaltender.
It’s not your fault.
You have to believe these things, or else, your future and the fate of the Pittsburgh Penguins could be in trouble. Sure, Ray Shero and Penguin ownership have a lot to do with the fate of this franchise, as does the more-dynamic-than-any-other-duo-ever duo of Crosby and Malkin, but a great deal of pressure falls on your unlucky shoulders.
At age 23, with five years experience already, you are ready to make the jump. Your stats, while impressive, do not cover up for your inconsistency. The fans still feel, at times, like they can’t rely on you. Remember, it took only a few victories for Ty Conklin to be anointed The Savior. They don’t hate you, Marx, absolutely not. But they don’t love you yet, either. You must win them, the fans and the franchise and your teammates, over still.
And you can do that by bouncing back from this. You struggled after the IIHF Final, although part of that was probably due to the call-up-send-down merrigoround the Pens had you ride. Still, it was only this season that you seemed to have your confidence back. We all know a goalie’s confidence is a fickle thing, and Jose Theodore has shown us before that goalies can truly be a once-stumbled never-straightened group.
But you’re different. Regardless of where the finances and the stadiums and heck, even the team, land, you are the team’s future between the pipes. Age 23, more experience than most 30-year-olds, more talent than almost anyone else, it is simply your head that remains uncertain.
Can you recover from this? Can you?
Absolutely, Marc-Andre. You are that good, good enough that people will soon forget your IIHF mishap (again) and your less-than-stellar Stanley Cup Final (strong numbers aside, few would argue you were as good as could have been expected), if you give them reason to.
The future of the Pittsburgh penguins franchise is bright. Too bright, even. So bright that the rest is taken for granted, and you are the question mark. Can you be the goalie this franchise needs for the next few seasons and beyond?
Marc, you know you can. I know you can. Most everyone knows you can. Whether you do so is up to you. Actually, it’s more specific than that – can you pull a Good Will Hunting and say to yourself, “it’s not my fault?” If you can, the hockey world is your icy oyster, so to speak.
Luck is the residue of design, they say. So your residuals have been unfair thus far. But they are just residuals. The design is far greater, your hard work and your raw talent. Don’t succumb to luck, because just like that it could change or disappear. Goalies are too fragile to survive two experiences like the ones you had in 2004 and on Wednesday night, but you can be different.
Marc-Andre, you can lead the Penguins. Because Wednesday night was just an unlucky break, and the design for you, my friend, is a dynasty. If you can handle it.