[This article originally appeared in the 10/29 issue of St. Louis Game Time.]
Marketing people suck. No offense to you personally if you happen to be employed in the industry of spinning unpopular facts into cleverly crafted lies to make your clients' products look like they're worthwhile rather than the shit they are, my apologies. Everyone's got to make their money somehow and some of us just happen to be able to sleep at night no matter what we do to turn a buck. Hell, hookers and drug pushers sleep, right?
But marketing, more often than not, is doing us all a disservice in the selling of their message. Take, for example, the Blues' current marketing slogan of "You're The Missing Piece Of The Puzzle."
I know when I saw that one I thought, "Oh shit. Did they have to put a picture of the Stanley Cup in the ad, too?" Of course, the wife, an O.T. who specializes in these things, had a different take: "Why did they rip off the Autism Awareness ad campaign with the whole puzzle thing?"
And I'm not touching that last one with Steve Ott's two-inch dick.
The marketers' message is all wrong. Clearly this isn't a Stanley Cup team. There isn't one player or coach on this team that honestly, deep down believes that we're all going to party on Market next June. They'll all say that the goal is the Cup and they'll all think to themselves that if they make the playoffs "anything can happen." And it's true. Edmonton was a seventh seed when they made the Stanley Cup finals in 2006, but seriously, slow down everyone.
The marketers keyed in on everything wrong with this team and made it the so-called rallying cry. After an unreal run last year with contributions from young players and role players and one uber-hot goalie against a weaker schedule than the first half of the season, there was reason for optimism among Blues fans, but the vast majority of us who never leapt off the bandwagon early weren't quite ready to scream, "We Want The Cup!" during the pre-season games.
And now, the over-optimistic marketing has spawned the worst-possible outcome: the fans are freaking the fuck out.
This is a team that is going to have some bumps in the road. Like last year, they'll win some games they have no business winning (spotting Detroit two-goal leads in two road games in pro-Detroit Sweden and then winning both of them come to mind) and they'll lose games where they start to believe their own hype against teams they should beat (Atlanta and L.A., good teams both, but still, at home in front of revved-up crowds).
Hate to break it to those of you who didn't know this, but a 5-4-1 record in their first 10 games is kind of a win for the Blues. It's not a playoff record, but the first month of the schedule was not favorable for the Note. Yes, they'll have to do better over the next 10-game set and the set after that, but the first 10 were primed for failure. Two roadies against a team that was two goals away from being the Stanley Cup champion last year to start the season in Europe of all things; lots of travel and two back-to-back game sets in the first 27 days of the schedule. Pile onto that heap of shit injuries to Eric Brewer, Barret Jackman, Carlo Colaiacovo, Alex Steen, T.J. Oshie and D.J. King again and you have the makings of a head coach writing out his suicide letter.
By contrast, the Central division-leading Blackhawks, who also started off in Europe, but against the "that's still a team?" Florida Panthers, came home and had just as much time off as the Blues, had only two of their next eight games on the road (and the two were both in-division) and had only one back-to-back set, hosting Edmonton and then heading to Tennessee the next night.
The Blues have been on a "west-coast swing" that somehow ended up in Pittsburgh. They flew in from the East Coast last night to play here today. And, if things go right tonight and the hockey gods finally relent on their punishment of the Blues, the Note could wake up tomorrow just two points behind the Hawks for the division lead with a game in hand.
Consider this a call for some rational thinking. Better yet, consider this your official unofficial marketing message for the year... Your 2009-10 St. Louis Blues: Calm The Fuck Down Everyone, It's A Long Year
And yes, the team has my permission to go ahead and make that into t-shirts.
-Sean "ripping off Bill Hicks" Gallagher