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Yet Another Open Letter To Tom Stillman
I wear hockey jerseys to work every day 10 months of the year. My office has eight Blues photos and posters hanging in it. My spare time during hockey season involves me making Blues puzzles for the enjoyment of others. As a visual representative of Blues fandom I am always asked about the Blues from people I meet. People at work, at home, on the web, at the bar, at the grocery store, at every place I go. This has been going on for decades. I know what the pulse of the causal fan is. I know what the thoughts of the serious fans are. I feel the emotions flowing through the die-hard fans.
Mr. Stillman, you have a problem. Your on-ice product is not meeting expectations. I have only met you once, but I have a strong feeling you know both hockey and business. Why are you going to allow the failure to meet expectations destroy the core fans the team has been courting since Brett Hull left? Surely there are reasons for failing to meet expectations. In the past few years when expectations were not met at least something tangible was done so the all tiers of Blues fans felt good about clinging to positive expectations about the club. Trades were made, free agents were signed, and high draft picks were able to embrace increased responsibilities on the ice.
As of today, there is no reason to expect any fan should be positive about the Blues. I know the dread that many fans currently have. Many fans that I would have believed would bleed Blue until dead are ready to call it a career. Something is going on and if it is being addressed behind closed doors none of us fans will be there to realize it. Without giving us hope we will have only results, and the Blues have backed themselves into a situation where the results will only start to appear in round two and take effect in round three. It will be too late for too many.
Why is this even happening? Have the fans been lied to about what to expect? During the worst of this team the fans were promised only one thing: hard work. And while that promise did not ignite a fire in some of the secondary and tertiary fans, us fans who did show up were nourished by nothing more than consistent hard work. Since then we have been told to expect all kinds of things that have only proved to be false: that us fans were the final puzzle piece, that a new partner for Pietrangelo would solve the problems, that a Cup winning coach would be the answer, that drafting character would result in team achievements, that getting a 5% better goalie would get us 25% closer to the Cup.
Mr. Stillman, start delivering or stop the promises. Start healing the fan base and stop hurting it. Tell us what is wrong. The hardcore fans can take it. Heck we KNOW there is sickness we just debate what needs amputation.
How can the coaching staff not be held responsible for long-term failures to meet expectations? I am sure Brad Shaw is a great guy but he has been with the Blues for eight years and the team has six playoff wins with him behind the bench. Logic tells me he can be replaced if no one else can. We are not currently in a position to build quickly through the draft nor does it seem likely we will have the cap space to make a great free agent signing. That position is the result of the current General Manager’s choices in the past. His choices have not met expectations.
The players are certainly not above being held accountable. Many of them seem to have long term no-trade deals so it may be more of a challenge to replace an expensive piece and yet, not replacing the problem pieces is an option that will create half price ticket days.
Nothing will do more harm this off-season than to reward failure. The only thing that is different going forward right now is that no fan expects anything for the Blues organization anymore. As a businessman, I suspect you realize just how bad that actually is.
If I had an actual solution other than to set reasonable expectations with your dwindling fan base and then meet them it would be this: The Blues seem to have a lot of people in management these days. One of them should be made the vice president in charge of giving a damn; this team needs at least one solid member of the St. Louis community that will visibly give a damn from now on.