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Today's turn goes to longtime reader of the paper Gonzo Steadman.
Every article after the Blues third straight putrid playoff performance can be boiled down to an old song: A Change is Gonna Come.
But why? What's the root cause? Did Hitch grind them down too much? Is Oshie a whiny baby? Is Berglund an overpaid ice dancer? Is Backes the right captain? Can they afford to trade Steen? And, most importantly, where is the fucking leadership on this team?
Teams that have a strong "core" (yes, I'll beat this term into the ground as well), don't no show a Game 1 of the Fucking Stanley Cup Playoffs! They don't disappear after scoring one measley goal in Game 5 and they definitely shouldn't be FLAT for any playoff game. I teach my nine-year-old that the only reason he plays hockey is to win the Stanley Cup. All other reasons, like having fun, are nonsense. YOU PLAY TO WIN THE GAME, ER, CUP! Right, Herm?
Any team that rolls its core group on its "top" line and that line scores three goals in total in six games will be gone til September. Get out the sticks boys. No, not those, your golf sticks.
This is a core group that have run three coaches out of town and are taking aim at the fourth - Hitch. And what do they have to show for it? Ten playoff wins since 2006. Yes, TEN (and four of those wins are over the Sharks who gag worse than Jenna Jameson). The Blackhawks have won MORE SERIES than the Blues have won games in that time.
And every year, it's a new excuse. The Blackhawks are a bad matchup for the Blues. The Blackhawks are the best team in the NHL, they won the Cup. The Kings are the best team in the NHL, they won the Cup. They ran into a hot Jonathan Quick. The Kings are a bad matchup for the Blues. The Wild are a poor matchup for the Blues, they have a hot goalie. The Wild wear magical North Stars tees under their Wild jerseys, etc.
Well, Gents, to be the Man, you have to beat, er, win a FUCKING SERIES. I am sorry, I can't even spit the usual cliches and metaphors out, because this team is the definition of soft. After three straight years failing to get out of the first round and only ten playoff wins in eight seasons, a change is needed in this team. They all are too comfortable and have not had a shock delivered to that dressing room. The only significant pieces to get jettisoned are Halak, Chris Stewart and Erik Johnson.
Ah, yes, Erik Johnson. Remember him? He was the guy the Blues selected FIRST OVERALL - AHEAD OF JONATHAN TOEWS. For some reason, no one in St. Louis remembers this, but the Blues have been ignoring leadership for the better part of a decade. The Blues took him because he was a defenseman, potentially a cornerstone defenseman and ignored the forwards because, well, they were forwards. However, they missed this from the 2006 pre-draft Central Scouting Report on Toews: "[A] highly competitive team player who is unselfish and will take a hit to make a play...is a very consistent hard working player who leads by example... has outstanding leadership qualities..."
Um, so now we want to add leadership to the "core." Wouldn't the time have been to draft it in Aught Six? I mean, he is the best leader in hockey since Mark Friggn Messier. The Hockey News called him "The Most Dominant Captain in the Playoffs" and SportsNet in Canada has dubbed him "The NHL's Best Leader". You know who wasn't on this list? (OK, not a trick question, aside from Backes, Oshie and Berglund.) ERIK JOHNSON WAS NOT ON THAT LIST.
So this problem goes all the way back to the 2006 draft. To get serious about the leadership in the room now, after three straight playoff disappointments is what one would dub, a serious misjudgment of character.
Look, I know Monday Morning Quarterbacking is easy to do, but the point is that this could have been addressed if the Blues were focused more on the intangibles that every great hockey team has (except Mike Keenan's Blues teams because they traded away all of their talent for mediocre "grizzled" veterans) in addition to talent.
The problem is they misjudged the talent and the character issue. Oshie Steen and Backes are nothing more than a glorified checking line - an overpaid third line that has Bobby Bassen rolling over in his grave right now.
So yes, management is going to bust up this "core" but for what? Aging and declining veterans (Milan Lucic)? Young unproven kids that clearly aren't leaders (Taylor Hall or any of his Edmonton cronies)? Maybe the focus should be on finding a young leader, who can elevate his teammates' games. Doubtful, I am sure no one will give the Blues fair value for the core and Hitch will pay the price because Oshie thought he was mean. And we'll be back feeling the same way all over again next year.
Unfortunately for a lot of us, we've been saying wait til next Spring our entire lives.