When a sports team loses its final game and the season ends, it's like a carnival shutting down for the season. After an entire winter and spring of fighting for the ultimate trophy, the team falls short and goes home. After 82 regular season games and 20 thrilling postseason games, the St. Louis Blues were shown the door by the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Finals. The show is over folks but the fucking ride was sweet.
A few thoughts:
*The Sharks weren't better in every category than the Blues but they were in the right areas of the game. Their defensemen did a better job of neutralizing the Blues attack and restricted the number of high quality chances on Martin Jones. The Blues defenders couldn't keep the Sharks from getting open looks at Brian Elliott. This started near the end of Game 1 and never stopped. Like a bad cut without medication, it just got worse. Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski had their way and up until the final minutes of Game 6, Vladimir Tarasenko was held pointless. When your stud is shut down until garbage time for six games, there's a good chance you aren't winning the series.
*Brian Elliott was still the boss of the playoffs. Without him, they perish in the first round. There were two goals on Wednesday that he had no business trying to save. He carried this team for five months and when he was in net during the Sharks series, the Blues scored just four goals in four games. With all due respect to the young and ferociously talented Jake Allen, I hope 2016-17 is launched with Moose in net.
*I've had a change of heart about David Backes. The Blues need to make a big effort to re-sign him. He's too important to this team's fabric and future. We are talking about one of the best two way forwards in hockey and with 7 goals and 14 points during these playoffs(including two game winners), Backes proved his postseason worth. After the game Wednesday, he was crying like a bearded Buddha baby about what his teammates did for him when he wasn't well. He played Monday and Wednesday at less than 100 % and I hope those tears weren't partially caused by a feeling of closure. Bring back David motherfucking Backes. A lifetime Blue.
*Can we lose Jay Bouwmeester at sea? Misplace him. Drop him off in Costa Rica. Let him become the sweet Mr. Rogers on the movie adaptation. Something. His contract is an anchor. His play during the playoffs was shit. He fell down several times, was soft on others, and generally didn't do much. He had four assists and was a -1. Bouwmeester came to St. Louis as a good trade and played well. That was before he aged 40 years.
*Trade Kevin Shattenkirk. I used to be a big fan of this guy but during the past month of play, Shatty looked like a guy who knew he wasn't getting a contract extension in St. Louis. He finished the playoffs with more penalty minutes than points(19) than points(11). His D-zone coverage was porous and his overall play broke down. Trade him for a top tier center before his contract runs out after next season. Doug Armstrong has handed out a terrible long term contract to a defenseman. Let's not do it again. The emergence of Colton Parayko and what the Blues have down on the farm make this move possible.
*Bring back Troy Brouwer if the money and years are right. He is a clutch performer and someone who produced a pretty dynamic line with Robby Fabbri and Paul Stastny that should only improve next year.
*It's easy to jump on Tarasenko for not breaking through until the final four minutes of Game 6 for some. It was almost as if a switch was flipped inside him and he started busting towards the net and firing at will. The Sharks gave him more space near the end and there was the "hey we are down 4-0 so why not go for broke" mentality working there as well. The people who wanted him benched or blamed his newborn child as reasons for his zero points need to find another sport calmly and quietly. The Sharks showed their great two way strength and shut down Maverick. Simple as that.
*I'd trade Jori Lehtera if there was a taker. Christmas would come early if the Blues were able to shed Bouwmeester, Lehtera and Shatty's contracts before the season started. Lehtera is capable of beautiful passes and sequences but overall he produced his best in the early stretch of the 2014-15 season. He is a reason Tarasenko couldn't break free in the Sharks series. When you have a skater as slow and ghost like as Lehtera, emerging is pretty hard. He makes 4.5 million for the next three seasons and doesn't deserve it. After 44 points in 75 games in 2014-15, Lehtera gave just 39 points in 79 games this season. 11 points in 25 playoff games. Cut him loose. He is the Blues version of Matt Adams.
While it didn't end with a cup being raised over Backes' head and a party on 14th and Clark, the Blues took fans on one helluva ride this season. The best run in nearly two decades. I'm not one of those people who say "Cup or nothing". Those are very depressed people and I have a family to take care of. The Blues went further than fans thought and came within two wins of a Cup Finals appearance, which would have been their first in nearly 46 years. What are you going to do? Bitch and moan about what the Sharks did and St. Louis didn't. Go ahead, but withhold from calling fans out for being thankful for a great fucking ride. Two Game 7 wins and a true battle. For a team that played together 100% healthy for the first time in April, this was a good season. The future may be uncertain for a few names, but I expect the Blues to come back with a vengeance in 2016-17.
Ken Hitchcock earned the right to say yes or no on a return. He let this team gallop in the postseason and his freedom to embrace the change showed. Sure, he switched goalies twice but when your back is getting close to the wall you do what it takes. Hitch is old, hungry, and pissed off. I am not sure if he comes back but he's earned the right to say no. If not him, then who takes his place if there is a desire for him to return?
There will be more words from this end of the "I won't shut up police sector" but I figured 1100 is a good start. Take care folks and remember this. The Blues didn't win the whole fucking thing but came close. Respect the effort and the emotional ride. A lot of NHL teams would have appreciated the extra hockey.
Thank you to Art Lippo for throwing curving chirps at me all season long. He's a good follow and fellow. Sean Jeffries, Harrison Milfeld, Drunk Hitch, Hitch's Hat, Laura "Hildymac", Donut King, Justin Striebel, and a few others are also solid. Thanks for the interaction you rogues bastards.
So long for just a while.