As president of the St. Louis Blues, I understand you don't make every single hockey decision for the team. That's why you have a general manager, Larry Pleau, and other assistants, Al MacInnis and Doug Armstrong for example. But in your role, you have the final say (as long as owner Dave Checketts is onboard I would assume). So you're a man who can make things happen. Please allow me to make a few suggestions for what you do with your hockey team this summer.
First task: re-sign Keith Tkachuk. The 37-year-old is unquestionably the emotional leader of the dressing room. When the playoffs still seemed like a drunken pipedream in at the trade deadline at the beginning of February, Tkachuk could have taken the next flight to first place and pushed for a trade to Boston and a probable deep run in the playoffs. But Mr. Davdison, you stood pat and didn't trade Big Walt. You've admitted in interviews that a Tkachuk trade would have given up a chance at the postseason. I say not bringing Tkachuk back on an affordable one-year contract threatens to upset the chemistry on the team.
The Blues are still made of a lot of young players, many of whom are still learning on the job. The first-round playoff exit this season illustrates that point perfectly. Tkachuk still plays an important role, whether he can score 25 goals again next season or not. Have him play on the wing, a less taxing position. Benefit from another 10-15 power play goals in front of the net. Tkachuk has said he plans to retire here in St. Louis. He's still got a lot to give this organization.
Second task: Find another backup goaltender. Now I'm not asking for another Chris Mason, a guy who makes a fair amount of coin who's going to make the incumbent goaltender all pissy. There has to be a younger guy who's of backup caliber who won't cost a lot. The point is you have a starter. Your next best goaltender is a guy a year out of college in Ben Bishop. He needs ice time in Peoria. And Mason needs a night off every now and then.
Third task: Dump some defensive salary. I know, easier said than done, but we're only talking one player and I'm not really picky who it is. Jay McKee finally has been living up to his paycheck...which means someone might take him off your hands in the last season of his contract. Personally I think Barret Jackman is a fine defenseman - in the right role. He's not a power play guy. He's not a down by one goal late in a game kind of guy. But you can't tell me Barret Jackman can't matchup against skilled lines or eat valuable minutes late in the period and to finish off a game with a tight lead. And if Eric Brewer can't come back from injury, well there you go. That leads to another idea.
Fourth task: Tell Alex Pietrangelo that as long as he gets stronger this summer and shows up for training camp ready to make the team, keep him with the Blues. Last year's top choice for the Blues is still too young to play in Peoria. So it's here or back to Juniors for one more season. Create a spot for him on the roster and get him developing against better talent with the tutelage of an NHL team. Ask David Perron how that turns out.
Fifth task: Say goodbye to some guys who got you here. Dan Hinote has a hot wife to make him feel better. Mike Weaver has the rest of the Lollipop Guild to make him feel better. Jeff Woywitka has memories of getting traded for Chris Pronger to keep him warm at night. Of course the tough decision is BJ Crombeen vs. Brad Winchester. They both bring a gritty, physical game. But one guy lost his cool in the playoffs and took some killer penalties. And Brad Winchester didn't.
Sixth task: Add one more player through free agency. I'm not picky. It could be a second line guy. It could be a more offensively-minded defenseman. It could be Marian Hossa. Show that St. Louis is a destination again, and not just for a guy like Paul Kariya who is trying to prove he's worth the money or overpaying a guy like McKee who can do just a couple things really well. Show the fans and the guys on the team you're willing to make the team better. Money is coming off the ledger with a couple guys, so you've got some wiggle room.
Mr. Davidson, the fans responded this season. The atmosphere around the team was phenomenal the final weeks of the season and in the playoffs. The Blues are close to being a dangerous NHL team and could quickly grow into a contender. Last summer was time to let the team percolate. This summer, you need to be a little more proactive and make sure the organization has as much momentum as possible moving into the opening of the season.
Remember, whatever it takes.