St. Louis Blues: Why the Potential NHL Lockout Could Be Devastating
Hockey fans are legitimately scared right now.
The NHL could see its second lockout in eight years, and the third work stoppage since the 1994-95 lockout shortened the season to 48 games. Fans are screaming for the firing of Gary Bettman, who has been the commissioner of the league during all three stoppages.
But Blues fans have a problem of their own.
Before the 2004-05 cancelled season, the Blues had 25 straight years of playoff appearances. They were among the league's best teams.
Afterwards? They hit rock bottom.
Will the team succumb to the same fate? Or will they be able to make it to the other side relatively unscathed? The former could be the answer.
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The 2005-06 team was the first post-lockout version of the Blues. Of the 41 players that started a game for the Blues that year, only 16 were skaters that played for the team in the 2003-04 season.
Over half of the players on the team were first-time Blues.
A major reason was that the Blues are a mid-market team that had to take drastic pay cuts when the salary cap was introduced.
Now, the owners want to take a 50-50 split of HHR (hockey related revenue), which is a bigger step down from their original offer. But the amount of money the owners make isn't the problem.
The problem is where the money comes from.
The major markets (Montreal, Toronto and New York) make a considerable profit each year, while teams like Phoenix, Florida and Columbus have a very hard time staying out of the red. A better revenue sharing system is what the NHL needs, not more profits.
If the owners take away more of the players' salary and demand another rollback of player contracts, then the Blues will have to have another fire sale.
The results could look eerily similar to the 2005-06 season, in which the Blues went 21-46-15.
Loss of Momentum
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Much like they did before the 2004-05 lockout, the Blues have some serious momentum. In 2003-04, the Blues finished seventh in the Western Conference and made their 25th-consecutive playoff appearance.
Last season, the Blues made it back to the postseason for the first time since 2008-09, winning the Central Division in the process.
In both pre-lockout seasons, the Blues were successful. Last season's club made it to the second round of the playoffs before falling to the eventual champion LA Kings. But now, a lockout could threaten to destroy any momentum.
The Blues are fired up about the team they have, as nearly every player from last season is returning. However, a lockout could implode the lineup and the core players could be lost for good. That could mean disaster for St. Louis' postseason hopes yet again.
The Blues drafted well and have players in the AHL ready to step up. But if the Blues lose some significant players, then the postseason might be just a pipe dream once again.
Good-Bye Vladimir Tarasenko
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The 2004-05 lockout saw many star players move to the KHL and other European leagues to continue playing hockey during the winter months. Names like Peter Forsberg, Rick Nash and Alexander Semin were a few of the stars to fly the coop.
With another lockout impending, players are again looking to play in European leagues.
According to Yahoo! Sports, Evgeni Malkin has an agreement to play overseas if there is a lockout. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Sidney Crosby could be following Malkin to Europe. The Province, Vancouver's newspaper, says that the Sedin twins would join Crosby and Malkin in Europe if the entire season ends up being cancelled.
And as Andy Stickland points out, if the KHL and other European leagues can bring in these big names, what is to say Tarasenko won't follow suit?
The Blues worked extremely hard to get Tarasenko to come to the NHL in the first place, waiting two seasons for him to finish his time in the KHL before he came to St. Louis. In doing so, Tarasenko turned down a massive contract offer from his KHL club.
If there is no NHL season, why would Tarasenko not return to Europe and accept the contract he turned down?
Fanbase Doesn't Return
Besides the skeleton, this picture accurately describes what the Savvis Center (now the Scottrade Center) looked like in the first season after the lockout.
Attendance dropped from 18,560 in the 2003-04 season, to 14,213 in 2005-06 to 12,520 in 2006-07, which was good for worst in the league.
Attendance was so bad that fans could hear the players calling for the puck and talking on the ice.
The Blues, thanks to their recent success, have just started recovering from the loss of their fans. The Blues were ninth in the league in attendance during last season, which was actually worse than the 2010-2011 season, when they were seventh in the league.
But fans are angry that the league is threatening to lockout the players...again. They don't want another season to go down the drain. Hell, I don't want another season to go down the drain.
If there is another lockout, fans could see it as the final straw. They could eventually come back to the sport, but the fanbase would take a hit—one that may take longer to recover from than the previous lockout.
Aging Stars Retire
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Because of the 2004-05 lockout and nagging injuries, the Blues had to say goodbye to Al MacInnis. If there is another lockout, the Blues will likely have to say farewell to two more stars.
Andy McDonald joined the Blues in the 2007-08 season, but not without his fair share of injuries. McDonald has been plagued with concussion and concussion-like symptoms throughout his career with the Blues. These injuries have kept him under 60 games played in each of the past two seasons. Pair that with a broken leg in 2008, and McDonald tends to get injured a lot.
McDonald would not be fit to play after sitting out a season. With injuries plaguing the later years of his career, he would likely retire.
Jamie Langenbrunner is two years older than McDonald, but has had less injuries of late. Langenbrunner was a solid bottom-six forward for the Blues last season, putting up 24 points in 70 games. He suffered a broken foot in February of last season, contributing to the 12 games he missed.
Langenbrunner was more of a certainty to be in the lineup for the Blues, but when there's no season of hockey and you're 37-years-old, it may be time to hang up the skates.