You have the usual post-game ceremonies, and the fan appreciation video, and you leave with that feeling of "we could have...". Welcome to the usual Thrashers season finale. There wasn't the purveying sense of hope like there was last season. Rather, there was still a sense of falling short, and of knowing what this team is capable of and what this team actually did are two completely different things.
Can we succeed next season without Kubina and Afinogenov if they choose not to re-sign? Will Waddell make it a priority to grab Boulton and Slater again, and give them a nice little bonus? What about goaltending? If Moose doesn't come back, is Pavelec ready to do this on his own? Will we, as Slater very correctly pointed out, have that team continunity that forms a winner? What is the future of this team?
Matt Cooke got a healthy does of the future last night.
Frankly, you would think it's probably not the best idea to go after someone who was named for Evander Holyfield and whose father is a boxing trainer, but whatever.
We have some very bright pieces moving forward. Like Hedberg said yesterday after the win, "You have to keep building... Rome wasn't built in a day." There are lots of things to shore up, and we have to find a way to have motivation and fire all season long. No 10 and 5 game losing streaks during critical times of the year (or at all, preferably). We shouldn't see a single game next season like the last Boston game this one, or the last Carolina game. There is no excuse for this team to not be motivated.
We have a solid core, and we have young players who will continue to become the best in the league. Next season, hopefully, we won't have any outside problems dragging us down and away from what needs to be done. Yes, aside from the fight, last night's season closer was a bit underwhelming, but that was this season as a whole. Hard fought, and while we sometimes did just enough to get where we needed to be, we'd fall flat. Find a way to stay upright all next season, and we might just be good to go.