Reality Sets In: The St. Louis Blues Are Done
At least we’re no longer in limbo, Blues fans. We know the Blues aren’t making the playoffs.
Maybe it’s best to press the reset button anyway, and wash away the problems of this season, though I’d like to think a postseason would have done that as well.
It will be good to put all of the the issues that plagued this team into the past: The blown third-period leads, the awful home record, the goal-scoring struggles, the tentativeness, hesitancy, and poor decision making, the sophomore slumps and down years, and the losses in game two of back-to-backs.
This team is definitely aptly named beyond St. Louis’ rich tradition in Blues music. I have been feeling blue since Sunday.
Every St. Louis Blues season has an ending, obviously. Historically, every Blues postseason has ended in a loss for our cup-less franchise. Since the lockout, every regular season has been over before the schedule was finished, outside of last year.
My emotional and logical sides have agreed that this season is done. I’ll still be pulling for a miracle. I hope they win every last game and somehow sneak into the eighth seed. And of course I want to at least see a strong finish to carry into next season.
I took a little trip back to St. Louis for a wedding and my birthday a little over a week ago, and I had hoped to be reveling in St. Louis Blues fever.
I had hoped to make a bold prediction after the Colorado game, that the Blues would be playoff-bound. In my opening I said, “I was putting all my chips on the table,” and predicting the Blues were making the postseason.
I had to scrap that for writing an obituary after that home loss to the Avalanche. Last year’s finish wouldn’t be duplicated, though the Blues tried the same pattern.
But then I held off on writing them off. Wins in New York and New Jersey reignited my optimism. So I’ve had a couple of different drafts ready to go as the Blues held us in limbo.
The blown 2-1 lead at home against the Nashville Predators on Sunday officially put the fork in them.
They never got as hot as last year’s team, and several players had a drop in production. I’m of the theory that last season’s team overachieved, and that it really is still a developing franchise.
There’s a lot to look forward to with the Blues, at least. Patrik Berglund, Brad Boyes, and Paul Kariya all played much better in the second half of the season. Perhaps there’s still a spot for them on this team next year, including Kariya.
David Backes has grown into the leader that fans, management, and his teammates thought he would. T.J. Oshie is going to be an All Star someday. Erik Johnson recovered from his knee injury to look very much worth the first overall pick of 2006.
There are two good veteran options in goal. If the Blues can’t keep Chris Mason, they could elevate Ty Conklin and have one of the franchise’s younger goaltenders back him up.
The blue line is deep, and Roman Polak has turned into a solid defenseman. If the Blues are looking to move Eric Brewer, there’s one less year on his contract, making it that much easier.
The Blues were smart to leave the interim tag on Davis Payne, just so they can still look around at who’s available in the offseason. They would probably remove “interim” from his title if the Blues make the playoffs, and he does seem like a good fit for this team, but at least the Blues can still see who’s out there.
Last year’s playoff push gave everyone involved with the Blues false hopes this season, including the Blues themselves. The players felt they could repeat last season’s feat without an improved effort or more focus.
The coaching change brought some improvement in player attitudes and strategy, even though the gain in wins was minimal. But that wasn’t quite enough to spark this team and improve its consistency.
Fans, media, and management also had lofty expectations after last season's frantic finish to the sixth seed in the Western Conference. But we’ve learned this team isn’t ready to put together back-to-back playoff seasons.
There’s some solace in knowing they’re not a playoff team this year, even though it’s not the closure I wanted. It's like getting a break-up over or receiving word from your doctor about a test.
I’m feeling blue like the rest of you Blues fans, but at least now our hearts can move on and management can focus on improving this team in the offseason. Spring is here; it’s time to breath new life into the franchise.
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