Try To Remember The Way To The Top ... (Don't) You Wait for the Drop

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Gotta Try To Remember The Way To Top … Try To Remember The Way Things Are
Cause I Gotta Win, Let Me Win - Win Park Slope, A New Tide by Gomez

What you are about to read (I hope) is not a typical fact based trade analysis for the St. Louis Blues. It is, however a bigger picture look with facts (yes there is reason to the madness) and thoughts broken down as syncintlcy as I’m capable. It is for a city and fan base that seems both loyal and somewhat bewildered.

Sometimes it is just hard to let go and hard to understand. There are times, when you are loyal to one team long enough that you go through trials and tribulations that don’t make sense at the time and can be quite heartbreaking. Especially when it involves choosing between the team you love and the players that make it up; distinguishing that there is a difference. You have to learn to decide whether you are loyal to a team or the players that make it up. I think in hockey, this is especially difficult because unlike most sports, you can’t just throw any player on any team. There is a greater connection to the individuals that wear the jersey. However, it often has to be done.

When you are a fan of a team that seems to be constantly rebuilding (or worse just building because when was it ever built to begin with) patience becomes painful at best and impossible at worse. You don’t want to trust new management (again) or that things are going to change this time. Especially while your favorite players are dealt. However, it is where the St. Louis Blues, management and fans find themselves. Again.

Here are the factors that have to be understood, painful as they might be:

Ownership and Investors

Nothing is settled for the St. Louis Blues on the financial side of life right now which makes the rest of the world it revolves in difficult to navigate. There has been a veil of secrecy around what is happening with new investors. There have been rumored interested parties for a better part of the season with little to none on the information being released. The last mere mention of the situation on the St. Louis Blues web site was December 8th.

Understand that until this situation settles itself, president John Davidson and General Manager Doug Armstrong have their hands tied to a great extent. Dave Checketts needs a financially viable franchise and management doesn’t know what leeway they will or won’t eventually have. Until then, the best they can do is prepare for the green light. By cutting salary and stockpiling draft picks, Davidson and Armstrong are putting themselves in the best situation they can for the word, “go”.

The Season and Player That Wasn’t

This season wasn’t suppose to go down like this. This was the Blues year to break out. With an underrated defense, a hot young goaltender and health on their side the Blues were ready to make their case in the West. Then it all started to unravel. With an accidental elbow to Cam Janssen then a hit heard round the world on David Perron. More freak injuries lay in the wings including a crevice in the ice that landed Andy McDonald into into the leg of Edmonton Oiler Shawn Horcoff causing him to miss much of the year with a concussion. And of course there is T.J. Oshie’s backwards fall that broke his ankle. Truthfully (and that isn’t even all the injuries), you couldn’t ask more from the Blues. The Peoria Rivermen and St. Louis had combined to make one hell a run out of a bizarre and excruciatingly painful season to watch.

However, with that came the unraveling of Erik Johnson. St. Louis was just waiting for Johnson to break out, step up and lead the Blues. He was finally healthy and he stayed that way. His team needed him to play every minute of every game like the number one pick he was. But something happened on the way to that dream. It failed. Johnson just couldn’t get there. Could it still be a maturing young defensemen? Yes. Could it be “change of scenery”? Yes. Could it be that he’s not the player projected when drafted? Yes. No matter the reason, it was painfully clear that he wasn’t going to step-up under the Arch. And a decision had to be made.

It’s never easy in these situations. When do you let go of a player like Erik Johnson? Do you hold on and hope for him to break out from potential to tangible talent, or do you trade them before his market value drops (teams will realize what the you already have: He’s not going to make that next step.)

Davidson and Armstrong had to make this call and for the future of the St Louis Blues, they made the right, and down-right gutsy choice. The Colorado Avalanche offered up exactly what the St. Louis Blues need for this rebuilding: scoring up front and help on the power play. With David Perron’s future in question, Captain Eric Brewer already traded and knowing that Brad Boyes was on the block to go, this deal was a no-brainer.

The first clue that the St. Louis Blues won this trade? The majority of the Colorado Avalanche fan base initially reacted with a big.. WHAT?! Not with, wow we just landed a highly touted young defensemen or a the Avalanche are really addressing a need for defense, no. They reacted with GET OUT! Not Chris Stewart and Kevin Shattenkirk. Clue one that the word on Erik Johnson was already starting to circulate around the league. It is hard to let go of a dream (I know, I went through this with the LA Kings, Jamie Storr and Aki Berg and it’s painful) like what Johnson was supposed to be but it is time to let go.

And truthfully, Ian Cole and Nikita Nikitin are proving themselves more than worthy to get a shot with the St Louis Blues, full-time. There were stretches of games when Ian Cole outright outplayed Johnson.  Their progress is part of what made this trade possible, look forward to further presence from them next year.

Draft Picks and Salary Cuts

One trade the Blues really could’ve done better was in their first deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning. However, overall the Blues did a very good job even if it doesn’t seem so right now. Steve Yzerman took his first swings as a GM at the trade deadline and hit it out of the park for the Lightning, really. Eric Brewer should do brilliantly there, albeit sadly after the recent addition to his family and his breakthrough as a captain and player this season.

The Blues have now, through dealing Brewer, Johnson, Jay McClement and Brad Winchester have dumped enough salary and acquired enough trade picks to be ready to go come during the free agency period. And if you think that Armstrong and Davidson aren’t capable of making a ruckus then you’ve already forgotten Jaraslov Halak. Neither the president or general manager of this franchise has any issue pulling the trigger (see Johnson) when the deal is right and given the room to run. With their cap nearly at the floor the Blues now have the opportunity to both look at their own list of Restricted Free Agents and what happens around the league, without qualm. Which is good, because as you can see, the Blues list is pretty lengthy and hefty.

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