When we last heard from St. Louis Post-Dispatch sports columnist Bernie Miklasz--at least as it regards to the Blues--he was wondering why the Blues front-office would dare try to find a coach better than Ken Hitchcock. It's so unfair! Trying to get rid of a guy that's failed four times! WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO DO SUCH A THING?!?!
With that as a backdrop, you could see this morning's column coming.
As we know, St. Louis heart-throb forward T.J. Oshie was traded to the Capitals for forward Troy Brouwer, goaltending prospect Pheonix Copley and a third-round pick. Not many people have really gnashed their teeth about the deal. Hell, if you paid attention to ANY of my postseason and offseason rambling, you'd know that I knew Oshie had to go. The trade itself may be polarizing, but that it happened is not.
Then, Bernie spoke up. As he does. As he is allowed.
The timing of this column couldn't have been better . . . or, really, worse. On Episode #92 of Beyond Checkerdome, in response to the Boston media flame-bombing Dougie Hamilton as an "uppity loner" (a couple years removed from just-short-of-outright saying Tyler Seguin was a "party animal" who didn't fit in with the Bruins culture), CCR and I praised the St. Louis media for not being THOSE kind of dicks to players that were being booted out the door unceremoniously.
Now, in hindsight, maybe we should have said that the beat writers are quite fair to former Blues. The columnists? Well . . . obviously, as we see here, that's another matter.
While this column is not anywhere close to being as denigrating to Oshie as Boston was to Hamilton or Seguin, the piece is pretty damning.
The headline tells it all: "Blues will be better off without Oshie". I understand the writers don't write their own headlines, but if an editor sees this column and decides upon THAT as a headline, it kinda tells you what the rest of the ride is going to be like, doesn't it?
Bernie said he doesn't understand Oshie's elevated status in St. Louis, pointing out his playoff failures and the fact that he's scored 20 goals in a season only once in his career. He, of course, failed to point out that he's been a 50-point scorer two seasons in a row, with David Backes--who is not exactly the bastion of offensive prowess--as his center more often than not, all while playing very well defensively (as the metrics--that he later uses on the behalf of Troy Brouwer--clearly show). He also failed to point out that, yes, Sochi DID happen. THE WHOLE WORLD WAS WATCHING, BERNIE. And yes, St. Louis is part of that world. That has an effect on people.
The thing that really pissed me off about this piece, though, was this snippet:
Though he dismissively plays it off now, Oshie criticized coach Ken Hitchcock late last season. This took some gall; I'll give Oshie that. No one is saying that it's easy to play for Hitchcock, but he did coach Dallas to a Stanley Cup and ranks fourth in NHL history for most career victories.
What has Oshie won?
So, I guess it's not just the Blues' front office that's clinging to something that happened NEARLY A FUCKING GENERATION AGO as it regards the current head coach. And to use THAT as your argument against Oshie? Fucking come on, Bernie. You're better than this.
Bernie goes on to say that Oshie was a "rock star" off the ice, which no one disputes, but as we know, Teej had considerably calmed down in the recent past. Then he mentions Oshie's playoff failures. Again, no one disputes this. In fact, this was the key reason *I* kept asking for an Oshie trade. Moving on.
He goes on to praise the "physical and mentally tough" Troy Brouwer and his three 20-goal seasons, but fails to point out that he got two of those 20-goal seasons in Washington AND--more often than not--while playing on the same line as Alex Ovechkin . . . I hear he's pretty good and stuff.
And then he extols Brouwer's grittiness. Because with Steve Ott around, the Blues REALLY need more of that, right? If I want grits, I'll go to North Carolina, thank you.
He goes on to note that Brouwer won a Cup with Chicago in 2010, scoring four goals in 19 playoff games during that run. Four goals! Wow! Amazing! Oshie couldn't have POSSIBLY done that in 19 playoff games! Well, no, really, he couldn't have, because the team NEVER FUCKING MADE IT THAT FAR.
All-around, this was really not Bernie's best piece. He's struggled writing about the Blues in the past, but this just seemed largely unwarranted.
My conclusion here is two-fold:
- Bernie fully entrenched himself as in-the-bag for the current coach. Apparently, though he'll say that he understands the criticisms people give toward Ken Hitchcock, he seems to feel there's no reason to question Hitch or his practices. This, despite the team having home-ice advantage in five playoff series since his arrival, losing four of those series. He can be questioned, Bernie. Fired, even, if he doesn't perform to standards, whatever they may be at this point.
- Whether we like it or not, T.J. Oshie was a strong part of this team's core for a number of years. This is not an easy time for Blues fans. We know the guy wasn't perfect. We know he struggled in the playoffs. We know he made a lot of money and didn't deliver much when it was needed. But did you really have to kick Teej in the nuts before shoving him out the door, Bernie? Was this required? I would posit . . . absolutely not. And you definitely didn't have to use the coach against him as part of your main narrative. That's just silly.