By Brad Lee
What a weird ass time to be a sports fan in St. Louis.
The Cardinals had one of the most depressing and shitty years in recent memory. A scant season removed from winning the World Series, the franchise is at a crossroads with its Hall of Fame manager, franchise players and payroll.
The Rams seemed to be poised to make a run at the NFC West and then two quarters into the season left tackle Orlando Pace was lost. Suddenly Marc Bulger is swarmed every time he drops back to pass. When they hand the ball to Steven Jackson, four defenders are on him before he hits the line. A .500 season looks to be about the best the team can do unless the team makes dramatic improvements.
Who would have thought that team in townÂ that has the best outlook right now would be the team that "earned" the No. 1 overall pick a little more than a year ago.
IfÂ we weren'tÂ lazy, we'd look up what we wrote at the trading deadline last year. Basically, we said the re-signing of Manny Legace and Eric Brewer set up the Blues to only worry about offense in free agency. Combined with some extra draftÂ picks from the Guerin and Tkachuk trades, things turned around faster than anyone expected. And we're already seeing the results.
After begging for fans to come back to the DrinkScotch Center, the team claims it has sold 8,500 season tickets (compared to almost 4,800 last year). And while we don't know if that includes partial-game plans or not, that's pretty impressive. We've noticed an uptick in traffic around these parts. There was genuine buzz at the Fanfest last week. People are even buying the still odd looking to us new sweaters.
To our way of thinking, the first month of the season is crucial. It's odd saying that because the popular opinion is that the regular season in the NHL doesn't really mean anything. Not to the Blues, who were basically eliminted from playoff contention by Halloween. If the team is drawing fans and winning games in October, that's going to sell tickets in January and set up a playoff run in February and March.
We don't own a crystal ball, but we would wager that the Blues will improve upon their 2.54 goals a game average last season.Â With Paul Kariya, they should be better than 29th on the power play. They should have at least one player top 60 points this season compared to none last year. That's all a start. We don't think Jay McKee will miss most of the season. We think Eric Brewer is ready to earn his money. We think Dutchie Stempniak is going to get even better.
Basically, we expect to have a lot of fun this year.