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I Might Just Have To Change Some Things…

By gallagher

Like my header at the top of the page. Because these Blues aren't going to be doormats this year. Last year around this time I predicted a last-place finish for the Note. I didn't expect them to finish dead last in the whole league, but a lottery pick finish, sure. This year, they'll be a playoff contender. Not a guaranteed 8th seed, but probably battling for a spot late into the year. I'll put my predictions out on the line to be nitpicked in the coming weeks, but for now, here are the reasons I see a big change coming.

Keith Tkachuk should have a huge year. There was a time last season when big Walt wasn't injured that you could almost read his mind. And his mind was saying, "How-ly gawd. These little pricks cahn't hit me anymohr!"

He's going to put his big ass in every goalie's face and there isn't a damn thing anyone can do to stop it.

I've seen Tkachuk this summer and he looks ready to go. I expect him to be big, mean, unmoveable and scoring a lot of garbage assed goals down around the net. Barring any bizarro, Pavol Demira-esque injuries, Tkachuk hits 50 goals this year. Book that shit.

Bill Guerin is a calculated risk that will pan out. Bill Guerin is a player of pride. He had a ridiculous, embarrassing season last year, when he scored just 13 goals. He came back this season to show everyone that he is the elite forward who can score 30+ goals in this league. With Tkachuk drawing the top defensive pairing, Guerin should be a menace on the ice down low.

Oh, and what makes me think he's a player of pride? In Stars camp a couple seasons ago a non-roster player played him rough, like he was another non-roster player. Guerin gave the guy an overhead chop with his Easton and sent the kid back to the minors. He's not here to take shit off of anyone.

Brewer May Finally Be Past The Proger Comparisons. Last year he was known as Eric Acquired For Chris Pronger Brewer. Add to that the injuries that he was playing through and he was a total mess in Blue. The guy didn't seem to even enjoy the game anymore. In fact the guy smiled so infrequently that the GT'ers had a running debate about whether he actually had teeth. He'll be better this year for a few reasons:

1. Finally healed. He was reportedly banged up most of the year before he finally had his shoulder destroyed and his most painful year ever ended for him. Combined with being out of the spotlight now, Brewer should become the player he was in Edmonton.
2. He is no longer in the spotlight. This has occurred for a couple reasons. First, Erik Johnson, drafted 1st overall this summer, is the "New Pronger". He's big, mobile, defensively solid and a PP shooter, just like 44. On top of that, it can be argued that the Pronger trade brought Johnson to St. Louis indirectly, as our defensive dropoff led to the first overall selection. Second, Jay McKee is the big nasty defenseman with the big contract that everyone will be looking at now. Brewer will anchor a good second line and will be that much farther out of people's minds. Third, Pronger has caused controversy and been ejected from Edmonton. Now playing with Anaheim, his trade makes him the most hated guy in Oiler country. Somehow, the trade has cleansed the Blues of the trade. I don't know why, but since he has moved on, to the Ducks, no less, the pain of that trade isn't as sharp and doesn't make us think about Brewer so much.
3. No one is going to expect him to fill the offensive void from the blueline anymore. After the trade, Brewer was expected to BE Pronger. But Brewer is a defennsive guy first. After the long, horrible year that was 2005, the Blues have a few things to show for all the suffering. One of them is the blossoming offensive prowess of Dennis Wideman and Christian Backman. With the shooting duties falling to them, Brewer will be expected to help set up the point shot and not necessarily be the guy the PP is geared towards. He can just play defense and leave the O to the other guys.

One Good Back-up + One Good Back-up = One Great Starter, right? OK, I don't buy this one either. Manny Legace has always been a great back-up, and last season became a great starter. But he was playing behind a frontrunner. Being a good goalie behind a good team makes a guy look better than he is (see: Osgood, Chris for more information). I do not believe that manny Legace will steal a lot of games for the Blues this year. But I never thought that Lemont sanford was going to steal a lot of games for the Blues this year, either.

Personally, I was rooting for the Blues to swing the much-rumored trade with Buffalo for Dumont and Marty Biron. I was also hoping for the Blues to swing a trade with San Jose for Evgeni (John) Nabokov. He's just 29 and has shown that he can be completely dominant in net. Plus, at 29, he still has several good/great years ahead of him.

I actually am still holding out hope for a goalie trade as opposed to a Legace/Sanford/Bacashihua trimvirate in net this year.

So, I really don't see this as a reason that the Blues will be better. I'm just hoping that I'm wrong about Legace.

Weight has a playmate finally. GT subscribers and regular readers may remember my early-season story about how I think Doug Weight got a raw deal here. To sum it up, Weight was expected to center the second line and make a couple raw wingers into solid finishers. The problem was that he was never given anyone good enough to make better. His considerable playmaking skills went wasted as he struggled to make guys like Peter Sejna better.

Now that one of his fomer playmates, Guerin has been brought in, as well as Ruchinsky, who had decent chemistry with Weighter, he could finally become the uber-dangerous pivot that we expected to get five years ago.

I doubt that his Cup win this summer has dulled his desire, but he's been given every reason to do well this season and I think we'll see it from him. His best total in St Louis is 67 points. I bet he passes that this year.

Orszagh and Cajanek will become first liners overnight. Shit. Sorry, I can't even believe that one, and I'm pretty forgiving when it comes to this team. I'd love to say that I believe in a "we will rally around Kurt Warner" moment when it comes to these two guys, but I just don't see it happening.

I saw Cajanek take a hit at his first Blues training camp and completely disappear for the rest of the session. How long do you think it took for that trait to get into opposing teams' scouting reports? If a nobady fan at training camp can see it, EVERY team knows it. Playing on the top line with Tkachuk, every team is going to have their Tyson Nash clone barrel into him in the first shift an help put Tkachuk on an island for the rest of the game.

And Orszagh? To steal from Allen Iverson, Orszagh? You wanna talk about Orszagh? I mean, these are professionals. And you want to talk about Orszagh? How is Orszagh going to make his teammates better?

Orszagh? The guy has never scored more than 16 goals. He has never recorded more that 21 assists. He is a second line player on a bad team like the no-offense Predators he played for in his three seasons of full-season play. Expecting him to play on the top line here is a mistake. I expect people to be calling for his trade by November and for him to have a scathing GT nickname by late October.

There's a new attitude here. The Blues were allowed to lose last year. They were expected to lose last year. The old ownership of Bill and Money Laurie let Demitra go and then traded Pronger. They gave the team no money to improve and no authorization to make any trades to improve. The players got the message, as did the fans: This ain't our year.

But this year the Blues are being given some upgrades in McKee and Guerin and Dan Hinote (yes, I consider him an upgrade on the third line, plus he's won the Cup and has leadership) and Weight. And Legace, I suppose. These guys are expected to win. Not a Cup, mind you, but they are intended to be competetive and make a run for the playoffs. And that's a step ahead. Hopefully the goal in Year Three is to run deep in the playoffs. And the goal by Year Five had better be a Cup. Or things will start to get ugly around here.

In Closing.... Some entertainment for you. Here's the 2003 highlight film. Here's hoping that we have a year worth celebrating this season.

And Here's Hoping.... That no one ever decides to write a fucking earbleeder like this monstrosity. If you can get through this whole video you're a masochist or you need some serious musical education. Cringy, hoosiery and gay all at the same time.