The St. Louis Blues, as currently configured, are built to win. Not win it all, mind you, unless a whole bunch of breaks were to fall their way (fingers crossed, y'all). But to win, nonetheless. The Blues are expected to win more games then they lose, They are built to make the playoffs. They are built to win the first round of the playoffs and to compete hard in the second round of the playoffs. Catch a lucky bounce or two, get a hot goalie or a streaky scorer or two and maybe, just maybe, something good could happen beyond that (Stanley Cup, y'all!).
And yes, I picture some drunk chick in a cowboy hat who is not from the South every time I type the phrase "y'all." It's part of the appeal for me.
Call this a gut feeling or call it sensationalism, whatever. But I'm certain of this: these Blues, constructed to win and on a modest positive streak under a new coach, are probably not built to win. There's just something wrong with the pieces in place. I am a fan - I like these guys. I hope these players all become a group that is better than the individual pieces. I don't want to see anyone leave. I don't want to see any fans stuck wearing the jersey of of traded player because, got-damn, those jerseys are expensive and I'm wearing this McClement anyway.
All the same? Someone is getting traded. I sat with a very knowledgeable hockey fan on Tuesday night. Knowledgeable to the point that he was pointing out certain "Hitchcockian" plays, and not the "look they're trapping and holding" comments that your idiot friend was pointing out. Mainly because your friend was wrong and pointing out stuff that happened in 1999. The guy I sat with pointed out the Blues' repeated move of driving the puck low on offense, only to throw it back high or to the slot as the Kings over-pursued deep.
It was eye-opening.
And while he never said it, my buddy's comments all pointed to the same point over and over: the Blues don't quite have the personnel to execute Cock Hockey as the coach envisions it.
So, who is making the grade with Ken Hitchcock and who isn't? Who lloks like they'll make it and who is going to get dangled out on the market by GM Doug Armstrong? Here are a few guesses:
Anyone's Guess. These guys play such small roles or haven't played at all yet, so some are untradeable, like Andy McDonald and David Perron, or have no value, like Kent Huskins, or could easily be thrown into a trade as an add-on, like Chris Porter, Evgeny Grachev, B.J. Crombeen or Scott Nichol.
Cock's Guys. These guys are hard working and visible on every shift and seem to be the kind of players who will thrive under Ken Hitchcock.
Alex Steen. Just as he has since arriving here from Toronto, Steen is a guy who works hard every shift, makes the smart play every time and follows every command of his coach. Can play in every situation and can score or set up others. Steen is the ultimate Cock guy.
Vladimir Sobotka. The little engine that could would run through a wall for his team and his coach, no matter who his coach is or what team he's on. He's not the most skilled little guy, but he has the heart of a lion. Coaches like the Cock loves dudes like Sobotka.
David Backes. The Captain is everything the Cock loves. He's big, strong, hard, a scorer and a leader. He can play in any situation and while not as noticeable on every shift as others, he never takes a shift off. Cap'n Crush ain't nothin' to fuck wit (as Wu Tang would say).
Jason Arnott. Not a top-line guy, but he plays his role and he plays it well. Plus, he's a known commodity to the Cock, and that carries weight (pun only partially intended).
Kevin Shattenkirk. Not typically what one would think of as a Cock guy, Shattenkirk is a more defensive than most people think. Cock has worked well most notably with offensive blueliners Sergei Zubov and Darryl Sydor, but he's a big fan of littel guy/offensive blueliner Russell and he has to see the upside in Shattenkirk. This is a guy who will excel in Cock Hockey.
Barret Jackman. He may get overruled by Armstrong if the Blues were to struggle and miss the playoffs, but Jackman is all Blue and just the kind of anchor that Hitchcock likes. He's the perfect partner for Shattenkirk, especially in Cock's 200 foot system.
Roman Polak. Hitchcock guy. He's big, fast, mean, fast and big. He's also fast. And mean. He has offense, but that's near the bottom of his priorities. One of the most underrated Blues defensemen, don't be surprised if he starts getting more attention league-wide under the Cock.
Jaroslav Halak/Brian Elliott. Who you gonna get for these guys who is an upgrade anyway? Both have played well during the Cock Era and there's no way they get packaged for anyone who is better than them, so they are as safe as possible. Only question is which 26-year-old is the starter at the end of the season.
Alex Pietrangelo. The kid's offense is being overshadowed by Shattenkirk, but this guys is Cock's new Zubov. Guaranteed.
Kris Russell. 'Natch.
On The Bubble. These guys seem like Cock guys, but they could find themselves outside the system and on Armstrong's available list.
T.J. Oshie. The kid/mayor has played well in spurts in his St. Louis career, but since the most recent coaching change he has been great. The way he's playing now makes him a Cock guy, but we've been fooled before. Will the new motivation and pending contract negotiation keep him in the good graces or will the lure of off-ice temptation cause him to lose focus again? In trade he probably gets the Blues more than he's proven he's worth, but what if he gains focus and realizes his potential post-trade?
Chris Stewart. Oh, god do we all want to love Stewie. We want to make him untradeable. We want him to be the new T.J. Oshie in St. Louis: King of the Town. But the big kid is streaky. The Avalanche couldn't deal with his streakiness. Can the Cock?
Tradeable. These guys we want to keep, but they haven't made the case to Coach Cock.
Matt D'Agostini. Hi, I'm 2011's version of Brad Boyes. But am I 2007 Brad Boyes and 43 goals? Or am I 2009 Brad Boyes and 14 goals? Either way, I'm probably not Ken Hitchcock's kind of player.
Jamie Langenbrunner. If this was 1999's Jamie Langenbrunner, he'd be untouchable. Unfortunately, 2011's Langenbrunner isn't as motivated, as hard on the puck or puck-carrier or as, well, anything, as 1999's Langenbrunner. Well, he might be as surly as the 1999 Langenbrunner, but we'll leave that to the historians.
Carlo Colaiacovo. Flashes of greatness. Flashes of steadiness. Flashes of weakness. Flashes of Splodeybones. Not a solid Cock guy, Colaiacovo could easily find himself part of a package out of town.
Patrik Berglund. The effort has been there under the Cock, but the numbers still suck. Is Berglund the classic change-of-scenery guy or is he a sell-high guy? No one wants Berglund to blow up more than Blues fans, management and staff. Everyone is pulling for him, even people who have already given up on Sam Bradford. And yet, if he gets traded, it'd be hard to blame management and it's likely the team could get a Lee Stempniak-like all-upside trade for him.
As fans, we all hate to see our favorite guys go, but to improve the Blues, trades are inevitable. Some of these guys will go. Hitchcock will definitely have a say on which players go and which players come back in the deal. Think I'm wrong here? Make your case in the comments.