By Brad Lee
Hello, and welcome to Jan. 30, 2006, HOPEFULLY the turning point for the St. Louis Blues franchise. Lets get the crap out of the way first.
No the team is not better with Mike Sillinger and Doug Weight. The guys they got will not turn into comparable players or even guys who will help build the team. Hopefully one of them will be serviceable. That's it. Who knows what will happen with the draft picks.
No, the trades mean more than who left and who arrived. It means this franchise took a solid step to actually committing to a youth movement. The charade is over. The truth is out in the open. It's almost like the Blues have come out of the closet. And I could not be happier.
The game Monday against the Flames started out as a chore. The 2-0 deficit, flat play, frequent penalties. It all added up to a depressing night to end what was sure a rough day at Savvis. And then Jay McClement whipped out the move. He side stepped a defender at the Blue line, suddenly had open ice and then knew what to do with it. It was kind of like a junior Alexander Ovechkin move, but it was a ray of sunshine, a breath of fresh air, a kiss from a puppy dog.
Then the tying goal from Dutchie, a break with Peter Cajanek screening the goaltender and it actually working.
Fast forward to the shootout after a BREATHLESS OT that could have ended for either team a half dozen times. Dennis Wideman scored the gutsiest goal of his whole NHL carrier. Ok, it's not that long, but if he gets stoned on his PK, it's over and the Flamers win. Instead, he put his move on and extended it. Pumped from this, Sanford closed the five hole and gave the Blues a chance to win. And Dutchie BURIED IT.
Honestly, that was the most fun I've had watching a game in weeks. Maybe months. They could have lost in OT or the shootout. I wouldn't have cared. This should have happened a long time ago.
Now Larry Pleau, please, please puhleaze dump The Visor, Poapst and maybe McAmmond, fill in with a few guys coming off the IL and see what they can do. Put some young guys on the power play and first line. Give some ice time. Let the kids make some mistakes and put them right back out there.
Here is the bottom line. For the first time since the rumors started, I feel confident a sale is imminent. They wouldn't have made the trades if it isn't. Only four guys are under contract for next year with NHL-only contracts. The salary cap is up and the payroll is down. I'm not saying they can make a contender in a year, but they could return to respectability and on the road to bigger and better things in a season. Maybe two. It all hinges on the new owner and the new leadership in the front office.
But it all started with Jan. 30, 2006. Let's go Blues.