1. Mike Keenan
Iron Mike Keenan quickly brought one of the most hopeful periods in team history along with him. After getting into a dispute with the New York Rangers’ GM, Keenan left the Big Apple only weeks after winning the Stanley Cup.
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However, things quickly soured and the honeymoon period was extremely short. The Blues were forced to make a trade of Petr Neved for Esa Tikkanen and Doug Lidster as part of a compensation package to appease the NHL, which was not at all pleased with how all the events transpired.
On top of losing Nedved, the NHL fined the Blues $250,000, which was the most a team could be fined at the time.
Tikkanen still had gas left in the tank, but Nedved went on to a very good career and could have been a really nice piece in the Blues lineup. Additionally, Keenan went overboard in bringing in “his players.” The Blues immediately got older under Keenan with acquisitions of players like Adam Creighton, Craig MacTavish and Stephane Matteau.
He also seemed to take joy in picking the team apart. He traded ultra-popular Brendan Shanahan for a then-unknown Chris Pronger. He sent Curtis Joseph packing for draft picks. He traded away Guy Carbonneau, where he won another Cup with Dallas, for Paul Broten. Broten, interestingly, went from a steady NHLer to a minor leaguer after playing under Keenan.
Really, you could make a top-10 list of move Keenan made, by himself, that we wish were April Fools’ jokes. There are still people in this city angry about losing Shanny and CuJo.
All of that pales in comparison to his most infamous achievement. Shortly before the trade deadline in 1996, the Blues fleeced the LA Kings and picked up Wayne Gretzky. The Blues had the talent to win it all and might have if Toronto had not taken a run at and injure Grant Fuhr. With their friendship and chemistry, Gretzky and Hull could have equaled or maybe even eclipsed Hull and Oates.
Instead, another dream was ripped away from the fans quicker than you can say Hull and Oates. There are tons of rumors as to what transpired but it boils down to Gretzky thinking St. Louis was going to be his last stop and that not happening.
The stories say that Gretzky had a contract offer on the table prior to the end of the regular season. Keenan, being an uber-genius, yanked that off the table, which is something you do not do to the Great One.
Once the offseason came around, 99 made it clear that he would not re-sign with the Blues as long as Keenan was in charge. The team picked the coach/GM over the greatest player ever and it came back to bite them.
Keenan did his best to drive Brett Hull out of town as well, but the player ended up winning that battle. The Blues had some good seasons under Keenan, but the move to bring him in was still the worst in Blues’ history. Keenan was fine as a coach, but once the Blues put him in a position of power, it was the death knell.
Keenan ousted several all-time great players and almost drove two of the best in NHL history away from the Blues. He traded away fan-favorites and players that went on to win elsewhere. He alienated almost everyone he came into contact with.
He is still one of the most hated figures in team history and rightfully so. While Nedved wasn’t a mega-superstar, I’d like to see how history would have changed if the Blues kept him and hired someone else.
It is hard to only take one item out of an equation and keep all else the same. Still, think of the possibilities if the Blues had Hull, Gretzky, Cournall, Joseph or Fuhr, Shanahan or Pronger and MacInnis as well as the solid secondary pieces they had before Keenan brought in all his cronies. It still aches to think about.
What do you think of this list? Did we miss any? Would you swap any rankings around? Let us know.
*note* additional trade info found at nhltradetracker.com