82 games come, 82 games go. Hockey seasons can flash in the blink of an eye or plod in a long, drawn-out mini-series, depending on your mindset. But every season of hockey games brings their thrills, excitements, let-downs and complete utter messes. The 2009-’10 St. Louis Blues were no different. Let’s applaud them for showing up.
For the first 23 years of my life, I was spoiled by the success of the Blues, at least in respect to their annual playoff appearances. Because such occasions were . . . uhhh . . . annual. Then the Mike Kitchen era arrived in 2004, then Bill Laurie decided to stop spending money to prepare it for sale, and then the shit hit the fan – both with the Blues and the National Hockey League. When play resumed, our local six started sucking horse cock – at least we got a #1 pick and some other high choices out of it, though – and fans fled the team as if the Blues were a collective form of Dr. Kevorkian. And no one could really blame them. (Seriously – Mike Glumac? Peter Sejna?) Then last year happened. And everyone got all excited again. And the bandwagon got full. Then this year, the team sucked dick at home to start the season. And then everyone jumped off the bandwagon at about the same time, leaving a mass of humanity not often seen since the Hindenburg explosion. Which leaves us – the loud, the proud, the ones anchored to the bandwagon permanently – to gather the pieces and see what this all really means.
In my life, it’s not always been easy for me to let a Blues season go. This is despite the fact that my favorite professional sports franchise is a baseball team whose season starts right around when hockey’s regular season ends. For example, I remember weeping intermittently for weeks after Steve Fucking Yzerman’s blue-line slapper in 1996. My parents were in attendance for the Blues-Sharks Game 7 in 2000, and when I called Mom the next morning, she told me that one of the friends they went to the game with (who is as avid a Blues fan as I’ve known) bawled after the game. I even got slightly misty-eyed at a local establishment (drinking underage, mind you) after that game ended. Nick Kypreos can still go blow a Nubian goat for all I care. And I want to get those visions of Roberto Luongo, Kevin Bieksa and fucking Ryan Kesler out of my head, but I just can’t and it bugs the piss out of me.
This Blues season, though, is remarkably easy for me to let go. This, despite high expectations and a young nucleus returning from a miracle playoff run. Why easy to let go? I’ll set aside personal factors here (which you guys are probably tired of hearing about by now) and attempt to give a few practical reasons:
- Youth is erratic by nature. Sure, the team has a young nucleus that made the playoffs last year, but rarely does such youth produce a consistent effort. I think a lot of us (maybe myself included) got ourselves suckered into thinking all of these youngsters would perform at the same consistent level this season that they ended last season with. We were wrong, but it’s not unusual for that to be wrong. The effort was rarely questionable, but by nature, youth tends to be all over the board and consistently inconsistent. That’s what we got for much of the season.
- When you have to make a coaching change mid-season, you’re usually too fucked to come back anyway . . . but they tried. And in this case, all of the above was true. I know a few of us were trying to make the stretch comparison of Davis "Earl Of" Payne to Dan Bylsma of 2009, but the fact is, that Penguins team was within spitting distance of the playoffs at the time of Michel Therien’s firing, and at the point the Blues fired Andy Murray, we were not. That Payne was able to lead The Note to the point where they weren’t mathematically eliminated until the Tuesday of the final week is telling of the kind of job he did with the team after The Green Goblin got shit-canned. THIS MAN NEEDS A JOB! So yeah, we were fucked anyway, and perhaps now we’re on the path to being un-fucked. But who knows. We’ll probably get to test this theory next year. So get to it, then.
- You never know when old veterans are going to become has-beens. Admittedly, it sucks when just about all of them become has-beens (or at least play that role) in one fell swoop. But this is part of being a veteran, and it’s going to happen. Admittedly, the process was already in motion for Darryl Sydor before he showed up for the first practice at training camp. Despite everyone saying what kind of reduced role Keith Tkachuk would have on the team this year, I didn’t believe it would actually happen until . . . well, until it actually happened and until he showed WHY it HAD to happen. I’ve always been solidly in Walt’s corner, but it’s never been more apparent that the dude’s old and needs to retire, which he now has announced publicly. Let’s wish him well, then quickly retire the number 7 in honor of Garry Unger and, perhaps, Red Berenson. Paul Kariya? You’re not washed up, but during your term here, you usually played like you were. So please kindly get the fuck out of my office.
- We didn’t finish dead-last in the Central Division. Sure, it hurts our draft positioning (like Bettman’s going to let us win another lottery anyway . . . c’mon, that’s once in a lifetime stuff!). But that’s life for you. So hey, let’s all point and laugh at the Columbus Blue Jackets, kids, while we still have the chance!
- Yeah, I guess the Cardinals are alright. Wait, what the hell happened here?! I thought this was a hockey article! GET OUT OF MY FUCKING HEAD, BRENDAN RYAN! I go to my first Cardinals game on April 26th. I won’t have the Stanley Cup Playoffs on my mind, and I won’t think twice about said tournament . . . until I get a text message from a buddy saying Patrick Kane was stretchered off after getting his skull crushed by, say, Wojtek Wolski (too awesome a name to pass up). Plus, it will be McKendree Night, so for once I won’t feel like a douche for wearing a purple shirt to a Cardinals game. Like I would’ve cared anyway. But really, who wears a purple shirt to a Cards game? Would you wear a green shirt to a Blues game? On second thought, don’t answer that question.
So when you think about it, it can be easy to let this season be the wash that it was. Sure, it stings. Every season that ends without the Blues hoisting the Stanley Cup has that old familiar sting to it – be it a playoff year or not. But what I’ve learned (and surely you have, too) is that you pick up the shards, learn your lessons, heal the wounds and trudge forward. If we kick some ass next year, all may be forgiven. Yeah, that’s the ticket.
LET’S GO BLUES!