I want the Blues to win as much as anyone. I want them to go on an amzing run over the last 13 games to make up the seven points and squeak into the playoffs. Especially when I think back to a year ago when the run that the Blues went on inspired hours of phone calls with my hockey buddies. Hours of calls that were basically us finding a million different ways to say, "Can you believe this?" over and over and over.
Because we couldn't believe it. It was an unreal ride as a fan. The team won must-win after must-win and piled up points and leap-frogged team after team. We got behind our players and propped them up. Chris Mason became The Beard To Be Feared. T.J. Oshie became the Mayor of St. Louis (and even got a real vote in the race). David Backes became bigger and badder than Chuck Norris. Patrik Berglund was our TechnoViking. The list goes on and on.
In that respect, it'd be great to go through it again. The team is essentially the same group that did it last year, better even. It'd be fun to be known again as the team that no one wants to play in the first round. The dangerous team. The hungry team.
But no matter how much I say that I want the Blues to do it again, I can't shake the feeling that I think it'd be bad for these guys to pull off the feat a second straight time. The problem I have with it is that I have heard the players say in the media that they really think they can do it again. I've heard from a person close to the players that one of them told him, "Don't worry. We did it last year and we'll do it again this year. We'll turn it on."
And while I normally love that kind of confidence in hockey players, when I hear that from multiple players in the media and through friends of players I see it as more of a warning signal. These guys think that it's just that easy. They'll flip a switch. They'll have a meeting and decide to get it going. They'll turn it on. It's a dangerous pattern of thinking and it's a terrible precedent to set, especially for a young team.
When the team decided to fire Andy Murray earlier this year they let everyone inside and outside the organization know their emphasis: Youth shall be served on this team. The core players are all between the ages of 23 and 26 right now, with more youngsters likely to force their way onto the roster in the next couple years. Now is the time when the foundation of the franchise is being rebuilt and formed for the next 10 or more years. So far the lessons that are being impressed upon the youngsters is that hard work and teamwork will be rewarded.
The worst lesson they could possibly learn is that the first half of the season doesn't matter. That they're so good that they can simply wait until the last possible second and then 'turn it on' and make a run up the standings into a playoff berth. It's dangerous and stupid and exactly the kind of thing that could seep into the corporate culture of the franchise and guarantee yet another long string of meaningless playoff berths that have no teeth or intensity. Another reason for the franchise to fall far short of its stated goal of parading down Market Street one day. We all saw what that miracle playoff run garnered last season: Not one playoff win. They'd spent everything they had in just getting to the fight and they were too spent to throw a punch once they got there.
These are formative times for this franchise. The lessons learned by the Oshies and Perrons and Johnsons and Polaks and Backes and McClements and Berglunds and Ellers and Pietrangelos and others will become the fabric of what this team is for the next decade. Forgive me if it sounds like I'm rooting against them, but I hope that the lesson learned this year is that you can't take anything for granted. You have to work hard from Game One through Game 82.
Last year's second half run was an amazingly fun time, but it was a fluke. Let's hope it stays that way.