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So Whatcha Want?

For those of you who can pretend like you're working while you read this site, here's a little live Beasties singing my question while you quick-scroll through my words. By the way, if you love Ad-Rock as much as I do, we're definitely friends.

Doesn't hurt that Cypress Hill is helping out on that video, does it?

But the question remains: So, whatcha want from this season of Blues hockey?

I have a few requests, as you might imagine. 

First of all, I want Jaroslav Halak to become a franchise goalie. I was watching some bullshit or another on the NHL Network and started to freak out a little bit. There are teams out there where it's OK for fans to wear a goalie's jersey to the games. There are franchises out there where fans know that, like any goalie, their guy might let them down a couple times a year, but for the most part he is going to win them more games than they deserve to win. Ryan Miller comes to mind. As does Henrik Lundqvist. Neither guy has won a Stanley Cup for his team, but his team's fans aren't worried about him - he's part of the solution, not the problem.

When was the last time the Blues had that guy? 

Halak was paid and hyped by management to be that guy last year. Obviously, the transition from "challenging backup" to "definite starter" was a difficult one. Fine. But this year is a big one for Halak. The pro shop is full of his STOP sign t-shirts and signs and jerseys. But if he struggles again, especially in big games against big opponents, all that trash will be on the 50% off rack faster than Erik Johnson's gear was.

As a Blues fan who has seen but one Conference Finals series with my team in it (and it didn't go that well), I need to know that they finally have the solid foundation that every championship-caliber team has to have on its roster. I need Halak to be the end of the long, wandering search.

I envy every team whose fans can say, "We're good in goal, but I have other questions about the roster." The time is now for Halak to make Ben Bishop and Jake Allen high-value trade bait. Imagine what the Blues could get in trade for either or both of those guys if they could count on Halak to play 65 games and to win 75% of them. Nice, right? If it doesn't happen this year and Halak instead joins the long list of decent but not great goaltenders this team has employed over the years, this column next year will be all about either Bishop or Allen and will instead make jokes about the bag of pucks we got for Halak.

I want every fan to realize that Barret Jackman is a great defenseman. There is a recent trend in this town for fans to bag on one defender and scream about how bad he sucks all the time. Eric Brewer wasn't my favorite player, but he isn't terrible, either. I'm not rooting for him to become a superstar in Tampa, but Brewer was a solid defensive defender while he was in St. Louis. Anyone who expected him to be an offensive player should do some research. 

When Brewer was out of the lineup, his haters strangely immediately turned to Jackman as their target for derision. Also retarded. Jackman got stuck on the power play in St. Louis a few times. Not because anyone thought he was an offensive-minded defenseman, dumbasses, but because the team was that bad.

Jackman is a great defensive defender. He is nasty to play against and a guy who makes the safe play when he has the puck 98% of the time.Safe play usually ends up in not scoring many points. So be it. Pay attention this year, haters, and rather than pointing out every time his pairing gets beat (he's a defenseman, that comes with the territory), notice how often he makes the smart, solid, separate-the-player-from-the-puck play.

Do me a favor and actually watch him this year with a better lineup and you'll all be on board with me.

I want T.J. Oshie to earn his next contract. Oshie was given a nice salary by the Blues. For one year. Have you ever seen a bigger Put Up Or Shut Up contract in sports? If Oshie scores fewer than 20 goals (again) and fewer than 60 points (again) and has behavior-related rumors and attendance issues (again), he'll be traded away EJ-style or he'll be on the shitty end of the stick come contract negotiation time next summer.

 If, on the other hand, Frosted Tips becomes the consistent goal scorer, point-getter and defensive stalwart that we've all wanted him to be for three seasons now, the O-Shie chants will return, the jersey sales will jump and the big contract offer will be there. 

No one wants Oshie to fulfill the potential that is apparent more than Blues fans. Until this year, that has included Oshie himself. This season, he needs to become his own biggest fan and become the NHL player he should be, not the NHL player everyone continues to hope he'll one day become.

I want David Backes to be all we've said he'll be. Read all the mainstream media reports about Backes being named captain and you'll see the gentile cracks against all of us. Cracks that seem to say, "Look, fans are idiots, but they all seem to think that David Backes should be captain. The Blues did it, so we'll see."

I'm offended by that type of wording, as should every other fan who wanted Kelly's husband to be our new leader. But Backes should be the most offended of all. He leads by action on the ice. He's apparently vocal in the room. He is a guy who has needed a reason to get motivated to get his game going in the past.

What better reason than having the spotlight on him? Backes' days of being the youngster with potential are over. He needs to get going from the puck drop of game one. He needs to score goals, tally assists, hit motherfuckers right through the boards and he needs to be the guy who leads this team from "potential" to "dangerous."

If he becomes the captain we all hoped he'd be, he'll become the player we've hoped he'd be and this team will become the team we know they can be.

I want the defense to become the best in the NHL. It may seem like a big request, but look at who we have on our team's blueline this year. The national media have long considered the Blues' defense to be a no-name group of defenders. This year, that should change. Roman Polak is easy to overlook, unless, of course, you're skating against him. He's a nasty bastard who can also go the other way hard. Free from his injury and surgery of last year, he can become a guy people notice this year.

Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk have the potential to become two of the most dangerous offensive defensemen in the league this year. ShattenCaptainKirk is clearly susceptible to the Sophomore Slump, but Pietrangelo, since he somehow wasn't a rookie last year, should definitely blow the fuck up in everyone's faces this year. No. 27 made Erik Johnson tradeable last year and Shattenkirk was better than the Johnson he was traded for last year. If No. 22 and 27 can both keep those trends going, the Blues are in great shape.

Throw on top of that Jackman, who I've already praised, and Carlo Colaiacovo, who is in a contract year and needs to do the same thing he's done every year in St. Louis (i.e. be better than he ever was in Toronto) and we get to watch a defense that could be crazy-good and no longer no-name.

I want these leaders to be leaders. What were the Blues' biggest problems last year? You could argue that they were veteran leadership and talent depth. If you agree with that, then you are as excited about the Blues' signings of Jamie Langenbrunner and Jason Arnott as I am. Those two guys want to extend their NHL careers. Being positive influences in St. Louis will do that. Both have won Stanley Cups and know what kind of commitment is required to do so. They can play tough minutes in games and do it at 100% commitment level. They can let younger players know what kind of behavior is OK and what kind is not OK. They can, hopefully, show the youngsters that while partying every night seems great, skipping a few parties to enjoy the big party at the end is totally worth it.

This team has needed second tier scoring for a while. It has needed first tier leadership for longer. I think we finally got both.

I want no more excuses. Last year, like nearly every year, we found ourselves bitching and moaning about injuries or bad breaks or bad schedules or bad calls or just bad luck. As friends of mine would say, there is no bad luck, just bad preparation. It seems like the Blues have done all the right preparation. They have the right people in the right places. They have the right challenges in front of the right people. The time is right for the players and coaches and management and owners to stop having to look for excuses.

This is not the best hockey team in the NHL on paper. But neither were the Bruins last year. The time for wallowing in misery and waiting for things to go wrong is over. The time to stop accepting excuses is now. 

The time to be better is now.

That's what I want.