By Brad Lee
The photo at the top is what Dave Checketts and John Davidson inherited at the end of the 2005-06 season. Every red mark is a player or coach who was dumped, traded, fired, allowed to leave or will begin the season in Peoria. This photo (here's a bigger version)Â illustrates a few things:
- The Blues earned that No. 1 overall pick.
- No wonder John Davidson looks like he has aged 10 years in just two.
- Brad Lee is a kick ass artist.
It also shows how much of a makeover this team has seen since this new era of Blues hockey started in June 2006. We stand today on the brink of the 2007-08 season hopeful and optimistic that this season will help us forget the last few dark years.
It is not a stretch to say hockey was on life support in this town after the lost 2005-05 season. Ownership had stripped the team of resources andÂ the franchise player.Â Out of town owners were courted. The team was a doormat for the league and attendance fell through the floor. And then that well-dressedÂ businessman with the Park Avenue smile and Salt Lake City background walked through the doors of the YourNameGoesHere Center and said, "I promise not to beÂ a dick like Bill Laurie." Or something like that.
Possibly Checkett's best decisionÂ so far (other than NOT moving the team)Â was to hire the former Blues draft pick and generally likable guy Davidson ast team president.Â JD decided to mix signing a few free agents while stockpiling draft picks to make the Blues more competitive and lure a few of the fans back. The teamÂ for real this time committed to the "grow from within" strategy. Three rookies are on the Blues' opening night roster, Erik Johnson, Steve Wagner and David Perron. Paul Kariya is a Blue. The roster is dotted with homegrown talent. Real talent. While this year is promising, the future remains even brighter.
We say the roster is set...sort of because there is talk that the Blues may recall Petr "Don't Pinch the Charmin" Cajanek in the hopes of another team picking him upÂ and half of his $2 million salary. That would probably entice the Blues to sign free agent Mike Johnson who is sticking around town after his training camp invite but did not have a contract as of this morning. We chuckle at the thought of Bernie Federko trying to describe a play involving three Johnsons.
EDIT: Strickland is reporting the Blues have recalled Petr Cajanek. Mike Johnson is still unemployed. For now.