The summer tends to get pretty quiet for fans of the Blues. The season ended three months ago and with no big trades brewing this summer, no money to spend on free agents and no high draft picks, there wasn't much to inspire us around these parts.
And then Bernie Miklasz wrote an excellent assessment of the Blues' current situation in Saturday's P-D. In it he laid out a few important facts:
- The Blues will be near the bottom of the NHL in terms of dollars spent on their roster next season.
- Teams near the bottom of the NHL in spending usually wind up near the bottom of the standings and do not make the playoffs.
- Teams near the top of the spending list tend to be the teams that go deep into the playoffs.
- Even if the Blues find new owners, they'll likely be similar to the Checketts-led group: a conglomerate that can barely afford the costs, let alone afford to push the roster to anywhere near the top of the salary food chain.
Obviously, there's only one conclusion from all of this and it is that the Blues aren't going to be legitimate Cup contenders anytime soon. Sure, growing from within and building through the draft is a smart way to build a strong, healthy franchise and the Blues under Checketts have done that. Also, the trades that Doug Armstrong has made have been, almost unequivocally, excellent in terms of improving the franchise. The problem, of course is that you can't always get the maroons in Colorado to pick up the phone and make trades like they did to send Kevin Shattenkirk and Chris Stewart here and it therefore gets difficult to build your team only through the draft, "underachieving duded-for-underachieving-dude" type of trades and through the increasingly weak unrestricted free agency pool every summer (Brad Richards was the prize this year? Really? At 31 and commanding $60 mil over nine years, that's too many dollars for a guy on the far side of his most productive years. Congrats, New York.).
The fact of today's NHL is that you have to draft well and develop your prospects well (sort of the anti-Columbus route) and then augment your team by moving struggling youngsters for someone else's struggling youngsters. The Blues have done both of these well under the Checketts regime (Carlo Colaiacovo and Alex Steen for Lee Stempniak and the aforementioned Stewart trade come to mind).
But there is another tool that an NHL general manager has to have in his kit that Armstrong does not have, and that is the ability to pull off the money-deal blockbuster. Drafting well is haphazard - using the "best player available" method usually means a team winds up with too many good goalies or too many centers or too many forwards who do the same thing. It's when you have a surplus in one area that you can package a few youngsters together and go after a team that has a salary issue with a superstar player.
The Blues have the cap space and the talent pool, but not the deep-pocketed ownership to go after those type of players. At some point, when your team needs to go up another gear, a general manger needs to know that he can package a roster player, a prospect and a draft pick (or some similar combination) and acquire an impact player, whether it be a defensive stud, an offensive game-changer or a stopper in net.
With the team up for sale right now, it's time for this franchise to go get the right owner. It's time for those of us who have blue in our veins and serious hockey-related credit debt to do our part to help woo the right owner to this franchise. Who is the right owner? I think we can all agree that the perfect owner looks a lot like this:
- Loves hockey.
I got a guy in mind who meets two of the three criteria. And I'm willing to say that I think we can make the third part happen.
Shahid Khan, come be the Blues owner - the potential is there for greatness.
In case you're unfamiliar with Shahid Khan, he is the Urbana resident and business owner who was on the verge of owning 60% of the St. Louis Rams last year. Khan started his business life in Urbana as a U of I student who also worked at a local auto-parts business. He went on to become that company's director of engineering and eventual owner of the company. It is now a $2 billion organization.
His success in business has brought him to the point where he can consider team ownership. The numbers, of course, are shadowy with professional sports, but when Khan tried to acquire 60% of the Rams they were worth approximately $913 million. His investment, then, should have been in the vicinity of $547 million.
And while the NFL is way more profitable than the NHL for its owners, the NHL is way cheaper (relatively) to come in, become an owner, and make a splash.
The Blues are considered to be worth about $165 million for the whole kit and caboodle. Khan was ready to spend about three and a half times as much money to own just a little bit more than half of the Rams. Think about the impact that he could make with the Blues with that kind of cash reserve. To give it a little perspective, in a recent run-in with the IRS, Khan and his wife "quickly" paid the IRS $68 million to settle up a fine that they officially disagree with. In other words, they gave the government enough cash to match the NHL's salary cap for one year, in cash, for a fine that they don't agree with and are fighting.
If the City of St. Louis sends me a bill for a fine on a rolling stop I may or may not have pulled off back in the fall, there's no way in hell I'm paying that. Sixty-eight million dollars as a "hold on while I research your claim"?
Come on, man.
Clearly, Khan has the money to not only own the Blues, he has the money to allow his general manager (Doug Armstrong would be my choice, Shahid) to be as aggressive as he wants, whenever he wants, up to the cap, to make this team a champion.
As for the second requirement, Khan is a local. While he was born in Pakistan (and wacko Debbie Schlussel thinks he's a "Muslim Tax Evader"), Khan has lived in Urbana since 1971, when he was 16 years old. Clearly, if you're a billionaire, you have the ability to make St. Louis "local," if you don't already consider it that way anyhow.
Khan is obviously a football fan since he came out of virtually nowhere to within minutes of majority ownership of the Rams. It's also obvious that he's a big Rams fan since his purchase of the team seemed to be a indicator that he was doing so to keep them local in light of the ownership agreement about their arena and the ability to move them after 2014. This apparent love of sports and love of the 'local' team plays into our hands, as does his desire to own a professional sports team.
So, all we have left is the last part. Shahid Khan needs to become a Blues fan. How do I know that he isn't already? Well, it's obvious because of his omission in the discussion already. If he was a hockey fan, a likely billionaire living so close to St. Louis and he was a hockey fan, this thing would already be done.
Here's the key: all we have to do now is get Shahid to become a hockey fan. How do most people become hockey fans? By going to the games with a person who already a fan.
I am willing to take the lead on this. Shahid, I have two tickets up top in one of the cheapest parts of the building. It also happens to be pretty close to hockey heaven. Come sit with me in my seats for the home opener and we'll talk about the game and the team from up there where we can watch how the game is played and how the plays develop. Then, for the second period, we'll go down and sit in some of the expensive seats down close to the ice so you can get a feel for the speed and power and intensity of the game. For the third period we can stay down low or head back up to my seats: you choice.
After that first game, I guarantee you'll at least be intrigued. After that game, I have a feeling you'll be reaching out to the current ownership team and I'll let them explain to you how great it is to own this team and to cater to these fans. If you're unconvinced after that, well, at least we tried and you have lost nothing.
So here's the next step - I've made my case and I've made an offer. We know where to find Mr. Khan in general, but not how to contact him directly. Can any of you Game Timers make the connection? Can we find an email to him? Can we find and confirm his Twitter account?
Let's get cracking. And if you're reading this, Mr. Khan, my email is firstname.lastname@example.org and the Twitter is @StLouisGameTime. I'd be happy to call you to discuss the situation or to give you my digits if you want to call me first.
There's much to gain and very little to lose at this point. Let's do this.