Assessing the State of the St. Louis Blues
My earliest complete Blues memory is when I was 13. Before that, I remember cheering for the Blues and watching them when they were on ESPN, but my first real recollection is the 2000 playoffs.
Chris Pronger had won the Hart, the Blues had won the President's trophy, and everything looked solid for the Blues to make their deepest run in the playoffs, since a man named Scotty Bowman was at the helm.
The Sharks had other plans, taking a 3-1 series lead, including an excruciating Game 4 victory over the Blues. The Blues managed to force a Game 7, only to inexplicably lose at home. Roman Turek giving up the goal on the shot from the neutral zone is still seared into my memory.
In 2001, St Louis made it to the conference finals and forced overtime in Game 4 against the Avalanche. Colorado and the Ray Bourque Express managed to win that game and Game 5, on their way to winning the Cup.
Since then, the Blues have lost every player from that club except for Keith Tkachuk—the day we traded Pronger was a dark day—have gone through a handful of head coaches, and changed ownership.
It appears that Kekalainen, Davidson, Pleau, and Murray are building the right way and wisely using all of the high draft picks we've acquired from our poor play. Erik Johnson had a good rookie campaign and David Perron was a pleasant surprise, while T.J. Oshie, Patrik Berglund, Lars Eller, Ian Cole, and Alex Pietrangelo are not far behind.
I'm also excited to see the continued development of Lee Stempniak, Jay McClement, Brad Boyes, and David Backes. It will be interesting to see how these younger players will fit in with veterans Paul Kariya, Andy McDonald, Jay McKee, Eric Brewer, and Barret Jackman.
However, my biggest worry in the Blues organization is goaltending. It's crazy to imagine that this organization once had Curtis Joseph and Grant Fuhr in net—how that 1995-96 Blues team didn't go to the Finals, I'll never know—because since then, it's felt like they've been scraping by with Brent Johnson and Curtis Sanford.
And it's really disappointing to see Chris Osgood and Patrick Lalime, who had good track records before donning the Blue Note, turn into busts. Manny Legace appears to be a solid netminder, but not good enough to carry the team. The signing of Chris Mason will hopefully provide him some rest, and he may be the best backup we've had since the lockout.
The biggest roadblock to feeling optimistic about the Blues' chances of winning a Cup anytime soon is what's going on around the Central division. The Detroit Red Wings have an embarrassment of talent that they've deftly managed financially, and they won't be going away anytime soon—especially if they can continue to develop guys like Valteri Filppula, Johan Franzen, and Niklas Kronwall. The
Chicago Blackhawks are experiencing a revitalization with Rocky Wirtz at the helm, and with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane as uber-young building blocks, their future is bright.
Barry Trotz continues to lead the Nashville Predators in the right direction. How they were able to make the playoffs and give the Red Wings the biggest scare they faced after losing all the talent they did is a testament to how that organization is run.
Even the Columbus Blue Jackets had a better offseason than the Blues, inking star goalie Pascal Leclaire, getting rid of dead weight in Nikolai Zherdev and Dan Fritsche, and welcoming R.J. Umberger, Kristian Huselius, Raffi Torres, and Jakub Voracek (their No. 1 draft pick in 2007) to the club.
I'm excited to see how the Blues respond this season to everything that's transpired around and within the organization, and I'll also likely end up predicting that they'll sneak into the playoffs as the eighth seed—but I fear visions of bearded Blues bouncing around the Scottrade ice with Lord Stanley will not be realized anytime soon.
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