The year is 1970. Tie dye tee shirts, LSD habits and the ‘revolutionary’ ideals of the 1960′s are fading fast. The Beatles announced they are breaking up, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin are gone at the age of 27 after respective overdoses (that’s younger than Alex Steen and David Backes) and political unrest brewed with conflicts in Vietnam & Cambodia raging on. Protests over those military conflicts left 4 students shot dead at Kent State University by the US National Guard.
I can imagine that this seems like a lifetime ago to many of you, hell it was before my time all-together.
But the reason for my historical backdrop is that this was also the year when Bobby Orr became an instant sports icon for scoring the most famous Stanley Cup-winning goal in the history of the game. It may even be the most iconic image in the history of professional sports.
As a true hockey fan I love the image. I even have a signed copy in my apartment, Orr just hovering in the air as the crowd erupts. But a part of me cringes every time I look at it. He scored that goal against the St. Louis Blues. And even worse, 1970 was the last time the Blues made it to the Stanley Cup Finals. Nineteen freaking seventy! It’s been 43 years since the city, the fans and the team had the opportunity to play for the title of the best hockey team in the world.
Now I know there is a lot that goes into the outcome of every season, all the why’s and why not’s for the club advancing past the second or third round of the playoffs. Whether it’s bad drafting, bad trades, an inability to sign free agents, Steve Yzerman’s slap shot from the blue line, the San Jose Sharks circa 2001 or the LA Kings circa the past few years, there’s always an excuse from Blues fans and faithfuls.
Will this year be different? Is this the year the ‘Youth Experiment’ is finally legitimized? Can they finally breakthrough and take down LA, Chicago, Anaheim or whoever in a game 7 on the road in May?
These are the only questions a Blues fan should be asking themselves in 2013.
And with all the preseason and early season hype, from The Hockey News predicting the Blues to win the Cup, to Las Vegas odds makers giving them 3rd best odds to win it (behind Pittsburgh and Chicago), to having the league-leading goal scorer a quarter of the way through the year, do you really think this can be the year they do it? It seems like other knowledgeable, reputable people think so.
But I’m not convinced.
While all the stars seem to be aligned, and there are positive Blues vibes in the mind’s eye of the hockey Gods, there is still one major question that exists:
Can our forwards compete head-to-head, in a seven game battle, with the likes of Toews, Kane, Sharp, Thorton, Marleau, Kopitar, Richards, Carter, Perry and Getzlaf?
This is the question that Backes, Oshie, Steen, Berglund, Stewart and the rest of the core up front have yet to answer. And until they outplay Kane or Kopitar or Perry, we should all urge Doug Armstrong to continue to pursue a superstar centerman or winger.
I’m not saying that St Louis is superstar-free, we have one in Alex Pietrangelo, along with a perennial goaltending duo that rivals any in the world.
The Blues biggest problem, and biggest hinderance to potentially advancing to the 2014 Cup finals, is their ability to score consistently and in crucial situations in the playoffs.
If you look at the last seven years since the Ducks won in 2007, here are some of the key forwards who contributed to the championships- Getzlaf, Perry, Selanne, Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Crosby, Hossa, Malkin, Kane, Toews, Sharp, Bergeron, Kopitar, Carter and Richards. These guys made their impact known when it counted. Zetterberg scored the Cup clinching goal in ’08. Kane scored the OT winner in ’10. Bergeron scored to clinch it in ’11. Carter won it for LA in ’12.
I am confidently able to say that any of the guys I named above would be the top forward if he were traded to Blues tomorrow. And that’s a frustrating thought.
Yes, St Louis has perhaps the most talented and deepest defensive core, including three #1 goaltenders, but at the end of the day, you aren’t going to win 16 playoff games 1-0. You need to consistently put pucks in the net, and you need to have that one forward line who can get on the ice with 2 minutes left in a game, down by a goal, and create scoring chances.
This is the missing piece of the post-lockout puzzle for the distinguished St Louis franchise.
Obviously it is easier blogged than done, to attract and retain a superstar forward to the Blues. But it has to be done to make this 2013-14 Blues team a serious contender to win it in the spring. While the options are limited- maybe Neal or Malkin, Marleau or Spezza- there have to be guys out there that we could sacrifice a bit of the future for, i.e. 1st round picks, top prospects, whatever it takes to win the Cup.
That needs to be the new normal for dialogue around Scottrade and watering holes from Chesterfield to South City- whatever it takes to win the Cup.
Not to compete, not win the Presidents trophy or sell season tickets. The drought has gone on long enough. This is the time. With an unbelievable young core full of talent and grit, the Blues are one or two superstars away from being annual contenders for Lord Stanley’s trophy.
Make it happen Mr. Armstrong.
And a note to Blues fans, if the 43 year drought makes you depressed, just remember it can ALWAYS be worse…you could be a Leafs fan. (sorry Mom)
So what do you think Bleedin’ Blue nation, who is that one forward to put the Blues over the edge? Or is this unproven roster finally good enough? You be the judge below!