A phrase that seems cool to bandy about is "veteran leadership." It's said to be essential to a hockey team, especially one with a lot of youth. It tells the kids to suck it up, stop partying, and focus on their job. It gives people who have never been in a deep playoff run or who have won the Cup someone to look up to - someone to lead by example. With a team like the Blues, who seem to be bottom-heavy when it comes to youth, you need a role model for them. Halak just came off of a great playoff tear - yeah, it was his first one, but he made it two rounds farther than the Blues' kids did. Andy McDonald has a Cup. Barrett Jackman has been with the team since 1999. Eric Brewer has the mobility of a 90 year old. You get my drift.
With the retirements of Darryl Sydor and Keith Tkachuk, and the probable move of Paul Kariya back to the Ducks, the Blues are lacking in the old man department. The question is, do we need them?
Several of us were guilty last year of trying to figure out just why Darryl Sydor was on contract, other than because the press-box had a killer media meal. He didn't play too often, and when he did, it couldn't be said that he was a game-changer necessarily. Paul Kariya had a horribly below average year because of age and injury. Keith Tkachuk, despite the fact that he was good for 32 points, was often shuffled to the 3rd or 4th line. And, in the end, do kids like to be lectured by elderly people? No. Not in the least. If the Blues want to improve, they have to get a sniper - regardless of age - and at least one top two defenseman, again, regardless of age. It's time to look forward.
There's Something to be Said for a Mentor
Youth's swell, but God, they can be dumb. Not as in intellect, or even hockey sense - but in the sense of experience. You have to be in the league for a while before you learn the ropes - not even what you should and should not do, but nuances like tendencies of goalies, or which way a player dekes on his way to the net. As we all know, a lot of kids can't see their hand in front of their face, and need to be told what exactly's going on for them to figure it out. Who else are they going to look at on the ice? Do locker room speeches make a difference when done by someone who is 26? Will they take anyone yelling at them seriously unless that guy reminds the young player of their dad? Probably not.
Who is out there who fits the bill of grizzled veteran and non-press box chicken wing connoisseur? Let's look at CapGeek.com's UFA tracker - always fun. Anyone jump out to you? No, not Mathieu Schneider. 41's a bit too grizzled, and God, there comes a time where you just retire. Number two guy listed by age is Bill Guerin, recent Stanley Cup winner and Sidney Crosby linemate. Also someone who netted 21G and 24A last year. As far as defensemen go, there's always Willie Mitchell. We need another Splodeybones.
Anywho, there are a few others out there - Eric Belanger, Ruslan Fedotenko, heck, even Jonathan Cheechoo if you feel like playing against the fates and seeing if he can have another outstanding year. Honestly, as far as the vets go, those are the best picks. Nothing amazing to be sure, but some guidance and experience can be squeezed from all of them. Guerin's obviously the cream of the crop, and would give some fans a chance to actually wear that jersey again if they bought one.
Anywho, would you guys want a new resident old fart on the team? And, if so, who would it be?