By Brad Lee
It will take a minor miracle for former No. 1 overall draft pick Erik Johnson to see any NHL action this season. Yet the Blues are still going through with the 2008-09 season. Those crazy bastards.
A torn ACL and a damaged MCL in the right knee of one of the most important players in the organization might be the defining moment for the season, and the puck doesn't even drop for real until Oct. 10. On Tuesday when the speculation started piling up and then the real news hit, it was a punch to the gut to the franchise and the fanbase. It hurts, man. It hurts bad.
But even in the middle of wallowing in self pity and wondering why God has foresaken the St. Louis Blues between alternating shots of Wild Turkey and Johnny Walker, it suddenly came to me. Maybe the fortune's of this team aren't pinned on a single player, a 20-year-old defenseman with one NHL season and 33 career points on his resume. Shocking, I know.
We haven't rolled out any preview stuff yet, but let's just say you weren't going to read the phrases "slam dunk" and "playoff spot" in the same sentence. I've been of the opinion since the team did nothing in free agency that during the throes of this season most fans will see this season as a step backwards. But as long as the youngsters gain valuable experience and the youth movement happens, then it hypothetically won't be long for fans to suddenly realize this season could be a turning point in the growth of the organization. And then Johnson had to get hurt in a freak golf cart injury. But I guess all is not lost.
On the same night that Johnson's injury was revealed, This year's No. 4 overall pick Alex Pietrangelo scored two assists on the power play in a 3-2 exhibition win over the Dallas Stars. The 18-year-old is expected to earn at least a nine-game tryout with the Blues in the regular season before they have to decide to keep him in St. Louis or send him back to his Junior team. Man, that's a lot of pressure to put on that young a guy.
The Blues have decent depth on the blueline, but lack the deft outlet passer to really energize the transition game and a quarterback to man the power play. Captain Eric Brewer is going to get a shot. Jay McKee should never see the power play. Barret Jackman's experiment with the man advantage did not end well. Roman Polak is an unknown, Jeff Woywitka hasn't shown what his role on the team will be and Steve Wagner needs seasoning. Add Orangejello to the mix and it's a weird mix of inexperienced and offensively-limited defenseman.
The opportunity is now there for someone to seize it and not let go. That could be fun and extremely frustrating all at once. That's kind of like insanely following the St. Louis Blues. Especially on days like Tuesday.