It sucks to lose a game like that to a team like the Avs. But it became obvious at some point during the third period that Sanford was going to have to pitch a shutout to get a win. And that's asking too much of him, even if the Avs are struggling. They're still a solid team and it'll take a pretty special effort to disk them a miss for 60 minutes. But Sanford came close.
But, let's make no mistake: this is not the same team that got smoked 6-1 in Colorado the last time these two played.
Everyone who comes here knows that I have a tad bit of a positivity problem when it comes to these guys, but now it's actually got some meat to it. These guys are competing so hard every night, if not every shift. And the youth are inheriting the team. Jay McClement is moving up the lines due to his never-quit play. Dutchie Stempniak is firmly lodged on the second line. Wideman is a top four blueliner. Mike Glumac (what's a Glumac? anything as long as you let it set up overnight. thankyou, goodnight) is making chances for himself by moving his feet. I think he has a great opportunity to earn a job for next year.
And it's going to continue, as the Blues start announcing trades over the next two days. As vets go out, more kids are going to be pulling on the Note for the first time. Kids from the trades or, more likely, kids from Peoria. And their enthusiasm will continue to be infectious. Even the most bitter of you have to admit that this team is way more exciting to watch than the team we saw in November. I think it'll get better. And I think this is the right way to build a winning franchise. Give the youth their opportunities. Sprinkle in key vets. Draft well. Avoid three-promising-kids-for-one-great-vet deals.
We're seeing the start of it, so remember the feeling. The Blues won't turn the corner towards rebuilding next year or even the year after that. They turned the corner back in January. Once we get the stench of Wal-Mart off this team, then you'll see the mass media start talking about the franchise's new beginning, but they'll be wrong. It's already started.
The Coach Comes Back.
I didn't realize it until I saw an interview with him tonight, but I miss Coach Quenneville. I imagine a lot of you do, too. He was fired for the classic "you can't fire 20 players, so you fire one coach" bullshit excuse, and the Blues are going to regret it for a long time. At least he joins good company, with Cup winners Scotty Bowman and Jacques "could you read this for me, I forgot my glasses" Demers as former fired Blues bosses. The guy took the fall for a team that was in danger of breaking a meaningless streak of playoff appearances.
Great. So you fire the guy who has won more games for your team than any other coach in order to make the playoffs, where you promptly get run in five games. Fantastic long-range planning, fellas. You know, my windows were dirty last weekend, so I just bashed those bastards out with a tire iron. No more dirty windows! Can I have a hockey team now?
So, I have a problem with all of that. But I always had a bit of a problem with Q when he was here because he seemed to have a hard time giving the rookies room to learn the game (read: make mistakes). That obviously wouldn't work on a team that was undeniably veering towards a youth movement. So, when he was canned, I thought it was a nod towards the impending rebuild that we are living through right now.
But look at Q now. He's got a youngster in net, backed up by a rookie. He's got a rookie on the top line (who happens to have 32 goals). He is breaking in new guy Kurt Sauer on defense, one of the hardest NHL positions to learn (especially under a former d-man like Q). Whaddaya know? Quenneville can play youngsters in key roles. Now I wish he'd been kept on even more.
They say that professional head coaches HAVE to be moved every so often because their message gets stale. If the shortsighted basketball-loving owners had just waited one more season, Quenneville would have had essentially a whole new team. Old message becomes new message if all the personnel are new, correct?
But here's the reason I knew I missed Quenneville as our coach. In the interview, he deadpanned his way through the whole thing. And I don't know what he was saying, but all I was hearing were classic Quenneville-isms.
"He played fine."
"I didn't mind him."
"Not a bad game."
And on and on. The guy's classic understatement made every semi-compliment seem like a ray of sunshine. I could picture him with this team, throwing out his atta-boys like they were two tons of crested Blues Gretzky jerseys (which I swear they have buried in the bowels over at Scores West Arena).
"Wideman? Yeah, he has a decent shot."
"Stempniak? He didn't bother me tonight."
"Sanford played a really OK game."
I miss Coach Q.
Gallagher's Trade Predictions.
So, I hear rumor of some other internet hockey rumor guy who managed to make half-truths and pseudo-information into an actual paying gig. Hey, good for him. Let me try my hand at it.
Edmonton: 65%; Ottawa: 15%; Carolina: 10% Other: 10%.
(See! See how I left that opening? This is great!)
Eric Weinrich (and that shooting range Visor)
Vancouver: 85%; Vancouver 10%; Other: 5%.
(Huzzah! This is awesome!) By the way, what're the odds he goes with a different colored shield when he changes teams? Got to be good, right?
Calgary: 15%; Colorado 15%
Oh hell. This is actually a pain. I'll leave it to the rumor mongers.
The point is this: I think at least two of those guys are gone for sure. Three if they can actually get someone to believe that McAmmond still has a wrist shot.
I think teams actually want Drake. Teams want Weinrich (shhh, don't say anything too loud). Teams didn't want Scott Young until he unloaded a couple 1999-era wristers up in Vancouver. Now I think a couple will look at him. I don't think anyone actually wants McAmmond, but you never know. All four could get moved. Three is possible. Two getting moved is likely.
But don't get all riled up yet. Unless Larry Pleau somehow pulls off a career move in negotiating, we won't see much in return for any of those guys. Mid-round picks. Risky prospects. That's about it.
On that I'd put about a 85% rating.
Coolest GT Reader. Ever.
I love this job. I really do. And mainly it's because of the little things (because big things are pretty much non-existant at this point).
Tonight, we had to have a discussion with one of the St. Louis Police Officers who wasn't as familiar with us or the city ordinances that we operate under as some of the other guys are. Most of the time, we see nothing but familiar faces on the men in blue who are around the Scores West Arena. Every now and then, we get a different guy. We have to show him our paperwork and explain the city's agreement with the Arena on city property versus private property and whatnot. Not a big deal, but tonight it caused a gap in our normal coverage, as the 16th St vendor was out of position for 10-15 minutes. During that time, I think we missed a few of the regulars. Why is this important? Because it set up this exchange:
I wound up out at the Metro corner, selling the paper. I noticed a guy walking up from behind who is a guy I sell to at every game. A die-hard. This guy, with the sweet retro Twist sweater is at every game. He's suffered through the worst contests and cheered through the best ones. Sometimes he's there with mom and sis.
When I recognized him, I said, "hey man! How's it going?"
He replied (as I paraphrase)
"I found you! Man, I didn't see you guys when I went in. When I was sitting down, I was thinking 'damn, no Game Time tonight'. Then, when the Zamboni came out, I saw a guy carrying one around. So I came back out.
"And I found you!"
That is why I do this, my friends. I can't even explain how cool that is to me and my writers and everyone else involved in this paper.
And I mean that literally. I've tried to write this paragraph five times and can't properly convey what your support means to us. So I'll let my man's words speak for themselves. We'll see you Friday night.