Despite the wailing of the idjits on some of the message boards around the St. Louis cyberspace and the retarded revisionist history of those who are claiming that the Blues are in the midst of a long-term rebuild (and, as one goofball called it, the 'latest of 10 bad years'), I have plenty of faith that our guys are going in the right direction.
First of all, the new leadership is making some good moves. Bringing back Larry Pleau is not a move I would have made, simply because I think the new owners needed to make a nice, clean break. But since they didn't, it's easier to look at the reasons why they did keep Pleau and Kitchen. Pleau, as I've stated in other places here on the GT site, made the hardest move of all by never, ever tipping his hand that he didn't agree with what was happening under the Laurie's reign. That loyalty is being rewarded right now.
Kitchen, I believe, has been retained based on the strength of his reputation as an assistant coach. His name has been known around the league as a fantastic assistant who was biding his time for a head coach job.
Personally, I've diatribed on him several times for the simple fact that he over-relies on his veterans and buries his rookies on the lower lines. Obviously, that didn't work last year on a team that needed to play youngsters in every situation.
This year, with free agency still weaving a wild path? Who knows? The Blues have added some vets, and more are to come, so Kitchen deserves another chance. A multi-year deal? I guess the Note had to give him one or he wouldn't sign. If he does a great job this year, it's a great move. If he sucks again this year, fire him and make the pay-out. In the NHL, it's a calculated risk.
John Davidson, our new team president, has made his reputation as a hockey man. He knows good hockey people. People respect his opinion. He knows everyone and can get their input. My guess is that he asked around and has confidence in Kitchen. If he's wrong, the only loss is more money.
Onward and Upward.
As of this posting, the Blues have re-signed Dallas Drake and added Doug Weight back from Carolina, Jay McKee from Buffalo and (possibly? probably?) Dan Hinote from Colorado.
Solid moves and a solid start to the free agency period. Hinote is no big sign, but he has leadership, experience, hard play and a Stanley Cup ring (2001). He'll be a solid 3rd liner and will be a fan favorite by December.
McKee is a really nice sign. Plus, as regular GT folks know, I love to tell you all 'I told you so'. In this case, I called for a McKee signing two weeks ago. So, I'm really happy with that move. The guy blocks shots like Craig Ludwig, crushes guys like Chris Pronger and has the experience to have been six games away from two Stanley Cups (lost with Buf to Dallas 4-2 in the Finals; lost in Conf Finals to Hurricanes, this year) and the six-games-away-from-two-Cups fire to want to get back there.
The guy is a warrior and a competitor and has a reason to want to win. That's a good sign.
Doug Weight is a big sign, too. Not as big as five years ago, when we got him for basically nothing except footing his NHL payday contract, but still a good sign. Dougie has always been a good Blue, despite the lack of talent he has been supported by. I wish against all evidence that he could play with Tkachuk, but it doesn't look like it'll happen.
And that means that the Blues still have two holes on offense: a center for Tkachuk and a shooter for Weight.
Despite some folks disagreement with my original post, I still think signing Shanahan is a good move. Check out the thread for all the details, but Shanahan on a line with Weight and Tkachuk on a different line is pretty silly.
There is also some call for Peter Cajanek to come back as the second line center. To this I say: SOFT! Please leave that guy off the list. Having lost out on Jason Arnott just yesterday, I think the Blues are looking at a hard-nosed guy, but may end up looking at another slick-rick guy. Jason Allison is no longer a top-tier guy as far as fans and team managements see him due to his rep as damaged goods, but the guy still has skills, scoring 60 points in 66 games last year, most of it stuck on the third line in Toronto. A big-assed guy, he likes to go wherever he needs to get the puck (which leads to his injuries). Put him with Tkachuk on an incentive-laden contract and I think we have a dangerous combo.
Defensively, the only guy I have interest in out there is Chris Pronger, and I highly doubt the Blues have enough to offer to get him back.
In goal, I'd still like to see the team swing a move for Nabokov out of San Jose. That guy still has the skills to be a dominant no. 1 netminder. JS Giguere? I'm less confident. I've always felt that he was riding the lightning one year. He's never looked dominant before that one great playoff run (back when clutching and grabbing and Scott Stevens were still dominant). He's still probably an improvement on Sanford, so i wouldn't damn it, but it's still riskier than Nabokov.
And while I agree that he was invisible in the playoffs (four goals in 24 games), I'd be pretty excited to see the Blues land Sergei Samsonov. Trust me, I'd love to have to worry about whether he'll score more than four goals in 24 playoff games next year.
I expect more info over the next couple days, so I'll be posting as necessary, but I really do expect the Blues to make a couple more significant signings before next weekend. This team has had one bad year in the last 25. I expect next year to run the streak to 25 good years in the last 26.
And that's not just my ridiculous optimism, because while I called the Blues' basement finish last year before the year even began, this year I'm confident that they'll be either back in the playoffs or one of the last teams eliminated from playoff contention.
Yeah, that's right. Take that, you message board naysayers and bi-yatches.