It is not yet the mid-point of the NHL season and we are already seeing salary dumps and waiver wire surprises. The New York Islanders have stepped forward and declared themselves sellers already. While a few other teams are on standby, circling the outer perimeter like an airliner from "Die Hard". This is the NHL at the All-Star break, a confusing time for fans who want to know, is their team a contender or pretender?
The Blues should not be confused about who they are this season. This is the year that management should make a few major additions to count themselves among the league's major players for the cup that is Lord Stanley. You can be sure that GM Doug Armstrong is in the process of identifying what exactly this team needs to make a playoff push. Management already took a large step this past summer when Jaroslav Halak was acquired from the Montreal Canadians. Getting a number one goaltender that is a long term solution has been a source of concern for this organization for some time. The Blues have ample depth on the blue line. So much so, that any trade would most likely draw from that strength to improve the offense. The Blues have several key pieces in place to form together what could be an elite team. However, President John Davidson must realize that there are only so many young players that you can keep around. Eventually, assets must yield results. Which, in turn, should lead to success.
So first, the core of this team, meaning untouchable players, must be identified. For the sake of this exercise I will offer up a short list. (Disclaimer: the opinions in this article are strictly opinions unless otherwise noted) T.J. Oshie, David Perron, David Backes, Alex Pietrangelo, Roman Polak, and of course Halak. All other roster players are in play and should be used to bring in the necessary pieces to compete in the West. I could also name a short list of prospects that I would consider keepers. Ian Cole, Vladimir Tarasenko, and Jake Allen. Yes we could use catch phrases like "stay the course" and "remain patient", but can we please get serious here. Look at the Western Conference and you'll find that the competition for a playoff spot is tough enough, not to mention winning a playoff series or two. And yes, I believe that getting to the conference final is a solid if not attainable goal with this team. So I would rather use catch phrases such as "built for the playoffs" and " beat the redwings". Well, I just made that one up myself.
One player the Blues had interest in was Jamie Langenbrunner. This is the type of move that would have filled an immediate need of playoff experience and leadership. Other players that fit that mold are Jason Arnott, Alex Kovalev, Mike Fisher, Rob Niedermayer, and Shane Doan. Some bigger names that would be interesting are Ales Hemsky, Jarome Iginla, and Tim Connolly. Iginla would be an ideal splash to make at the deadline, however, Calgary would most likely be asking more than what the Blues, or any team for that matter, would be willing to offer. There have been trade talks that one would characterize as "under the radar". One name that has been heard is Josh Bailey of the Islanders. Bailey, although young, has good skill that the Blues need at the center position.
Yes, this is a declaration. The transition is a memory, the rebuilding is complete, the development has finished. It's time to grow up and play with the big boys. With the news of the ownership shuffle almost complete, the only thing left to do is just win baby.