Dear St. Louis Blues.
This is an open letter to every player and member of the front office with the St. Louis Blues hockey organization. You have exactly one year.
On March 1, 2012, if this franchise is in a similar situation as this year, then we will be taking a no confidence vote in the ownership and leadership of this team. If you collectively fail that vote, be prepared for a barrage of immature, disgusting and tasteless actions to illustrate our displeasure. You may think we're bottom of the barrel now, wait until you see what we can really accomplish if we start trying.
Here's why we're doing this. When Erik Johnson was drafted with the No. 1-overall pick in the June 2006 NHL Draft, he was welcomed to the organization not by Bill Laurie, but, you, Dave Checketts, and your brand new team president, John Davidson. That will be five years ago at the end of this season. Five years seems like a decent measuring stick for judging whether or not a team can turn things around and be competitive. Plus, fans felt compelled to make excuses and give the team the benefit of the doubt several times, us included. We all know your ownership group bought a rusting hull of a franchise adrift in a sea of uncertainty and red ink. The roster had been gutted, fans stopped coming and caring. Trust me, it was dire that season, the first season of the Game Time print publication (Gallagher has an honorary doctorate in Timing, by the way). So the new owners got an automatic free pass for a while.
While the fans and the new ownership were on a honeymoon, some young kids got to play and develop, guys like David Backes, Jay McClement and Lee Stempniak. Later they were joined by Johnson, Patrik Berglund, T.J. Oshie and David Perron. With that many young guys, the future was bright, the potential intoxicating (the beer was intoxicating as well). You shocked hockey fans in 2008-09 by making the playoffs, but you bowed out without a win. That run was a house of cards. The goaltending wasn't solved. Bigger problems surfaced the next season that cost Andy Murray his job, but in turn the free pass was extended. This Davis Payne guy, he might be the one. But he can't undo the mess overnight. He's got to have a training camp and a full season. But. . . the team was still trying to find a new majority investor, so a trade for a goaltender and no free agent help is all that the front office could do during the summer. Free pass? Free, being the operative word with no money.
Now we get to this season. The team gets off to a franchise-best start. Hopes are high, expectations are higher. That free pass was about to expire. Then the injured list got really crowded in November and December. While fans tried to keep their cool, the team fell apart. You can't dissect this season without acknowledging that this roster could not keep itself afloat internally when adversity struck. The Blues were eliminated from the playoffs in December and January, not March or April. February was about waiting for the other shoe to drop, to see what the repercussions would be for failing. At least in my mind, time ran out. This rebuild had gone wrong, this core group of players was probably never going to make it. Either the leadership was wrong or the attitude was wrong or the mix of players was wrong. The bottom line, something was wrong.
Every Game Counts was the slogan for this year. So when the team didn't play that way-injuries or no-someone was going to pay the price. Those people are Erik Johnson, Jay McClement, Eric Brewer, Brad Boyes and Brad Winchester. But you know what? My response is to wish those guys good luck. Everyone left behind, you get one more free pass -- with an expiration date.
With the trades you made at the end of this season, you suddenly have some flexibility with some spare draft picks and about as much room under the salary cap anyone could imagine. This team is the waxy build-up just on top of the salary floor. You've clearly identified who the core of this team is right now. More young guys are going to get their shots. Doug Armstrong, you better not be done building this team. But you have one year, sir. This team did not go back to the drawing board. This is a retooling of the rebuild, not a demolition. Show us something, Blues players, coaches and front office, and we'll stick with you. Be back in this situation this time next year, we're talking mutiny.
You have been warned.