I hate Detroit. I just watched them crush the Blues again. But I don't care too much. That place is a hellhole. Really. If you've never been there, it looks like it's completely bombed out. And the self-dubbed "Hockeytown" is a load, too. How many times have you ever let a buddy self-assign a nickname? Never? Of course never. And yet the NHL and the national media have allowed Detroit to self-apply "Hockeytown". You know what, I'm calling bullshit on that. Hockeytown is as ridiculous as the St. Louis-based Sporting News annointing St. Louis as the best sports town in America a few years. It was a crock then and it's a crock now. The teams in St. Louis were all great (or had a possibly steroid using superstar on the roster), so they were easy to support.
Same as Detroit. When that team sucks, and someday it will, that obnoxious "Hockeytown" that they have painted at center ice will become a full-blown joke. How stupid will it look when the Joe Louis Arena of Pizza Pizza is half-empty?
The Blues sit the youngsters and get shut out for the second time this year. Great. You and I and and everyone else who is a hockey fan in this town are hoping for something to go right with this franchise, and the ownership and leadership seem bound and determined to keep that from us. We're losing. A lot. I get it. So give us some damn thing to be positive about. Show us the youngsters. Nope, they're in the pressbox or sent back to Peopria (like Sejna who gets two games to be great or he's gone. Again).
Tell us that negotiations on the sale are going well. Nope. Mums the word on that. This franchise is the zebra that the lions are eyeing. Slower, weaker and clearly the easiest target. The team is just a reflection of the entire franchise; they've become prey. It's a disgrace. Bill Laurie and his wife, Money...err, Nancy should be ashamed of themselves for what they've created here. But I guess they're too busy worrying about who is going to be the next coach down at Mizzou to care. Not that I want to get on this topic right now, but the Lauries and all their money have completely screwed over the Missouri basketball program and the Blues hockey club. How can they convince themselves that they could have actually run an NBA team? What a joke. And yeah, I think their money is pulling a lot of strings down there. Can't prove it, it's just my opinion.
And since the Lauries and their money and the franchise and their GM can't figure out how to give us any good news about our team. I'll do it. I'm tired of management not doing their marketing job.
So, I'll do it. Here are a few reasons to be hopeful as a Blues fan.
1. It's going to get better than this. Not this year, but next year will be better than this year. The team WILL be sold eventually, and the last part of this year will be spent cleaning the freakin' house. New ownership will get rid of deadwood and bring in new, excited personnel. Trades will be made. Based on recommendations from the former Ottawa Scout, Jarmo Kekalaininen ianen (I think that's the right spelling), the Blues will pick up some new young talent. And we'll start to see the team turn the corner.
But this year is lost. So forget about it. I have had a few folks tell me that if the Blues start winning two of every three that they can still make the playoffs. So, someone must have printed that somewhere. Forget that shit, because it is not going to happen. In fact, I find it fairly irresponsible to even print something as crazy as that. Two of three? Every three? They have won two in a row just ONCE. They have won two of three ONCE. So, let's not get any crazy ideas.
Instead, let's take solice in the small things this year. When our team plays hard for 60 minutes and gets into OT or a shootout, that's gonna have to count like a win. When we see a guy like Dennis Wideman come in and play solid and earn a regular spot on the defense, that's gonna have to be a win. When you go to 14th & Clark and can walk around and not bump into people constantly, call it a tie.
When the team is sold, other little things will become wins. New marketing push? Win. Sejna gets more than two games to get used to the NHL? Win. New General Manager? Win. And that brings us to the next point.
2. This team is getting a new GM. When the new owner comes in he will have to clear out everyone associated with the apathy that is going on now. And the first step will be to let Waiver Wire Larry pack his shit and leave to go wreck another team.
And this is good news, because the new GM will be motivated. Let me explain the difference.
Almost everyone has had to quit a job before. Assuming it wasn't a summer job, you had to have a new job in place before you quit. So, you know how it is when you're in the waning days, weeks or months of your job. You hate it there and you know that it is time to go. You're bored and you're killing time every way you can. You're justifying full-blown jack-around time with statements like, "I don't smoke, so playing internet mini-golf is my smoke break."
Larry Pleau is probably playing the shit out of some internet mini-golf right now. Since I'm sure he's already got a killer Minesweeper score and Solitaire is just too boring and cheaty and the Windows Pinball is too hard to pause when the secretary comes in. Really, the guy can't wait to be gone. It's a forgone conclusion anyway, plus he has no ability to make any trades at this point, so he is just biding his time and checking Monster.com at home after work under "Sports Management".
If you've never seen a lame-duck before, get a picture of Larry Pleau and commit it to memory. Because that guy has had his GM balls cut off by Bill and Money Laurie as they try to sell their pet project down in St. Louis.
Wonder why we've had no trades aside from guys like Steve "thank god teams need a 7th defensemen" Poapst and no other moves than freebie pick-ups like Simon "I was good in junior" Gamache? Because Money has Bill "I married in" Lauries' balls in a little jar on her nightstand. In turn, Bill "I really just wanted to get a basketball team" Laurie has Pleau's balls in a little jar on his nightstand. Guess where Mike Kitchen's balls are. Close, but Larry "might as well collect this paycheck until they tell me to go" Pleau actually traded them to Bill Laurie for a free paycheck for a few more months.
The new guy, on the other hand, will be on fire.
The new guy isn't going to play Minesweeper and Solitaire and mini-golf on the internet. No, the new guy is going to storm into his new office, tear down the posters of Pascal Rheaume and Terry Yake and get to work. The new guy is going to call every GM in the league and find out who is available. He is going to find out who other GMs want to get. He's going to make news. He's going to make noise. He's going to give us something to talk about and be excited about.
This team has assets that will be of use to other teams. The new GM will be charged up to make the best deals possible. It sucks to lose the guys we'll lose, but he'll have to make good deals because he's trying to make a good impression. He'll do deals that help the team and give it promise.
And promise is something that we haven't had much of lately.
3. Our vets are going to new teams. Not normally a good thing, this year, it'll give hockey fans in St. Louis someone to root for during the playoffs. Notice that I didn't mention Blues fans, just hockey fans. If you're a Blue-only type of fan, you'll watch the playoffs with an academic perspective. I, on the other hand, could find a way to get all fired up about a random Ducks/ Flames game. OK, that's a pretty extreme example, but still, it makes the point. When the playoffs come around, I'll watch damn near every game. And I'll determine friend and foe on very subjective terms.
With Blues like Doug Weight, Dallas Drake, Mike Sillinger and even lesser lights like Scott Young and Dean McAmmond getting dispersed before the deadline, I'll have a reason to root for certain teams. Suddenly, I have a reason to want Ottawa, with Dally Drake gutting the puck out of the corner, to win. Suddenly the Flyers, with Weight anchoring the line behind Peter Forsberg, become watchable. Now I can watch Atlanta, with Sillinger and Scott Mellanby providing all the grit and leadership, and cheer.
And that's a reason to be positive. The playoffs won't have the Blues, but some Blues will have playoffs, and I'll be rooting for them.
4. We can be positive about the youth movement. Because we don't have a choice. And neither will the new management. Keeping guys like Weight and Sillinger and Drake, hard as it is to admit, doesn't make sense for a team that is starting over. When they go, the Blues will add youngsters. Either in the form of draft picks or guys who have promise but need to start over somewhere else, or holes in the lineup filled from Peoria.
But the youth movement is coming. With that comes a couple things. One, lots of mistakes. Lots and lots. Two, exuberance. The youngsters are completely fired up to be living their dream. They are in the N F'n HL, which is all they've thought about for years and years. Every shift is a blast. Every goal is a rush. Every hit is energizing. And that comes through to the crowd. Remember Tyson Nash's first year here? The guy was electric. And the crowd felt it. He played every shift like it was his last, even if he didn't have the scoring skills to play on a top line. How many Nash jerseys do you see in the crowd still? There's a reason. The guy made people excited to watch the team.
Imagine eight kids that are that excited. I'm not suggesting that the Blues play eight rookies, but I think we'll see eight rookies/second year guys on the roster at the same time next year. And that should be fun to watch.
The other benefit that comes out of that is that the Blues build a base. A base of players who earn their stripes together. Just like a boot camp platoon or a pledge class, they learn together as they suffer together. After a few years, that group is dangerous.
So, it's a positive thing. Plus, it's more fun than what we're watching now. And, I'm willing to bet it's more successful than what we're watching now.
5. We're going to get a new coach. And the new guy is going to be an exciting, AHL guy who knows how to exploit youth, speeed and the new rules. Mike Kitchen seems like a good guy. He seems like he would have done well with the old team. But this is not a good place for him now. Hopefully he'll get a chance to show what he can do elsewhere. But he's tainted goods in St. Louis. It's going to take a couple years to get this team back to competetive, and all the while, Kitch would be here with the stink of the old regime on him. And that just won't happen. Every failure will compound the "we hate Laurie" feel around him. So, he has to go.
In his place, the new owners will have the new GM hire a new coach who can grow with the team, reach out and touch the youngsters and exploit the new NHL. The Blues would be wise to hire a guy who they can deal with. Someone who fits the new perspective. Because the new guy needs to be around for five years, minimum. I'd love to see blackballed Ted Nolan come in, just to say that we helped break the cycle on that guy, but he's not the right fit. He'll be looking to prove he's a good coach by having immediate success.
No, the answer lies down in the minors.
6. Keith Tkacuk will still be here. I know some people think that'd be a bad thing, but you'll never convince me of that. Tkachuk has a no-trade, but if the Blues play hardball, they can get rid of him. They can waive him. They can scratch him. They can play him in 4th line minutes. They can do these things to wound his pride and force him to accept a trade. But I don't think that will happen. I think he'll stay. And I think this season and the subsequent rebuild will be good for him.
Tkachuk has been known for being petulant and self-serving and a whiner. He seems to me like he's getting past that. He's getting a perspective for the game. Being suspended for fattiness to start the year and then losing a lot this year has given him perspective, I believe. He wants to stay here to finish his career. He has proved that he can still dominate on ice, especially with the new rules preventing defensemen from raping him as he charges the net. He's becoming more vocal.
People may not believe any of this, or even that he'll still be here next year, but I do. And I believe that a veteran Tkachuk who has perspective and who sees a base of youngsters built up on this team can become our own version of Dave Andreychuk. Andreychuk, a Hall of Famer and captain of a young Tampa team, refused to be traded to a Cup contender for a couple years. He brought new accountability to a young crew. He taught the youngsters. And in the end, he captained a Stanley Cup team.
The same could happen here. You don't believe it. But I do.
7. The games can still be fun. You gotta work harder now, but it's possible. You have to drink more beer before going in that you used to have to do, but the possibilities are there.
Try to find the most non-sensical jersey possible. The Blues jersey with the number 69 and no name plate? Pretty good, but there are better. The two little asian ladies in matching purple Ducks' personalized "Rucchin" sweaters? Better. Much better. Rucchin doesn't play there anymore, the Ducks jersey is horribly gay, the purple is nightmarish and the Ducks aren't even in town. Neither is Rucchin. That's gotta be a front-runner. The Detroit personalized with the guy's name and the number 00? Yeah, you're a double zero alright. The guy in the shorts with the referee jersey? Bizarre, but he commits and wears it like 20 games a year, so maybe that's better. Maybe it's worse. You decide. You and your steamed-up buddies could argue for days about it. But it'd make the game more fun.
Similar game, same idea; try to compete with your buddies on dumbest comment heard. No, that's not Brett Hullie. No, it's not the third quarter. Yes, the ushers do carry handguns.
Try to convince the non-hockey goofballs near you of something ridiculous. Seriously, many of them are here just as a precourser to going out. Does any hockey fan wear high-heels to a game? Of course not. Does any hockey fan wear his business suit with the tie removed to a game? Barely ever. Time to screw with them. See if you can convince the girls in front of you that you're going to be one of the bicycle racers during the second intermission. Convince them that you're a scout for Vancouver. Convince them that points can be awarded for winning a fight. The more outrageous the better.
8. Know that when the team is finally sold, you won't have to work this hard to have fun again. remember two years ago and before? Just going to the game a drinking a couple breers was fun enough. Those days will be back. Hell, once the team gets sold, I'd bet attendance (actual attendance, not the numbers that get reported, which include all season ticket sales) jumps by two grand per game. Not enough to make everything better, but it'll help. Next year, it'll be even better. And when the team starts to surprise a few folks every now and then, we'll get back to the way it was. And when that happens....
9. You can say you were here when no one was here. You'll recognize the fair-weather fans when they come back. All the games from number 7 will work even better. They'll be the ones who are mentioning the 'new guys' and talk about Bacashihua and Wideman. They'll be the suckers. And you can call them all 'bandwagon'.
"Hey, bandwagon, Wideman has been here for two years."
"Bandwagon, the beer has been $8 for two years now."
"No, Bandwagon, Lalime has been gone for over a year."
It'll be fun. And it'll feel good. I know I'll do it.
And more importantly, the crowd will be full again. I won't be able to sneak down low on an $8 ticket, because every seat will be full. And it'll be fun again.
Remember when it was like that every night?