By Brad Lee
We're not one to complain about obviously fake names. We do have a guy running around this joint who goes by Childhood Trauma (If anyone knows his real name, drop us a line. We'd like to know.) But when a person by the name of The Puck Stops Here (obviously it's not Hannu Toivonen) writes something about the Blues for Fox Sports.com, we have to take a look at it.
St. Louis slides in 2nd half of season
Tell us something we don't know.
The St. Louis Blues looked like a much improved team at the end of 2007. They were in 14th place in the league with a 19-18 record (with four losses counted as regulation ties). They looked likely to make playoffs and Andy Murray looked like a likely coach of the year (selected as coach of the most improved team).
Now why didn't TPSH include the three category record? That's just confusing. And who thought this team after finishing 14th (out of 15 teams!) would "likely" make the playoffs? It was a crapshoot/fight to the finish/borderline proposition at best. TPSH sounds like a nickname derived at the methadone clinic.
Things no longer look so good in St. Louis. Since the beginning of 2008, their 10-20 record (with six regulation ties) is the worst in the NHL. It now looks as though St. Louis will likely miss the playoffs and there is a movement to have Andy Murray fired as coach.
Well now they have 22 losses (couting overtime and shootout losses) since the arbitrary date of Jan. 1 (the Blues actually finished December just as poorly). And there's a movement to fire Murray? Who says, message board posters? Sports radio call-in hosts? Our own lovable and likable commenters? A movement, that sounds like a club. Is there a membership card? When are the meetings? Sounds like the Blue Revolution. It's been quashed.
The biggest change has been goaltending. Manny Legace had a very good start to the season in goal and even appeared in the All Star Game. But he has not been able to keep up his top level play. More recent games have seen Legace look like the journeyman goalie we expect him to be.
Now wait a second. You, Really Bad Hockey-Related Screeen Name, have gone too far. What's Emmanuel supposed to do when the Blues score six goals in seven games when they officially fell out of the playoff race? Is Legace supposed to play the point on the power play? Is he supposed to set up in the slot for a one-timer? You want him killing penalties too? One commenter during the Flames game asked where would the Blues be without Legace. The answer: probably below the Kings and possibly last in the NHL.
St. Louis has been exposed as a team with no real strength. They lack gamebreaking scorers. Paul Kariya leads the team with 52 points in 67 games played. This makes him the second lowest scorer to be his team scoring leader (Mike Comrie of the New York Islanders has only 47 points).
But Mike Comrie is dating Hilary Duff, so he's got that going for him which is nice.
St. Louis has few other offensive threats. Only Brad Boyes, Keith Tkachuk and Andy McDonald have more than 40 points. Their defense is also lacking in any elite threats. Rookie Erik Johnson may be one someday, but not yet. Eric Brewer, Barret Jackman and Jay McKee would all be solid second line defensemen, but none have played like frontline stars. When Manny Legace is no longer providing top goaltending, St. Louis becomes a team with no strengths and a team with no strength is a bad team (usually worse than a team with strengths but clear weaknesses as well).
So what you're saying is that the Blues suck offensively at all positions.
It is amazing how big the value of goaltending is in the NHL today. If a team's goaltending goes sour, they are instantly a much worse team than when the goaltending was good. Further, it's amazing how often good goaltending is interpreted as good coaching. Alain Vignealt won coach of the year last year largely because Vancouver traded for Roberto Luongo. Andy Murray looked like a coach of the year as long as Manny Legace played like an all-star. As soon as that stopped, some people decided Murray was the problem and should be fired. Murray is neither a coach of the year nor a coach who should be fired. Both are overreactions to goaltending.
Wait, I thought the problem was they didn't have any offense. TPSH did a breakdown of the team's scoring; where's a similar look at Manny's numbers? How can Manny be the only person to get the blame on a team not only missing the playoffs but threatening to finish last in the NHL again? What about that lack of scoring?
When St. Louis was sold to Dave Checketts in 2006, the previous owners had moved to reduce payroll by getting rid of their expensive stars (most prominently Chris Pronger and Pavol Demitra). They have yet to recover. In three seasons after getting rid of these players, they have yet to make the playoffs and don't look particularly close right now.
How's the talent level now different than in 2006? How's it different than at the beginning of the article when TPSH said the team looked poised to make the playoffs this season? Oh wait, it's not.
While we agree that good goaltending makes an average team look better than it is, an uninformed column about a team the writer knows nothing about is just a waste of electronic ink on the Internets. These insane charges against Emmanuel Legace should be dismissed. They are not based in fact and the prosecution has failed to even remotely make a case. The defense rests.