Sometimes, escaping into a dream dulls the harshness of reality. For sports fans, this is an annual occurrence. When it becomes a ritual is when one should start to worry. The St. Louis Blues are experiencing their toughest season in over a decade, so their fans need some kind of medicine to dull the pain.
Thinking about the 2020 All Star Game coming into town in exactly one year is a good start.
Maybe it was Red’s voice. I don’t know. When the official announcement dropped today during the Winter Classic, straight from Gary Bettman’s mouth, the Blues Twitter account released a video that brought chills to my spine and warmed the heart on a cold start to the New Year.
Red Berenson, who I like to the other St. Louis legend named Red, starts out the video by pulling a quote from a legendary baseball film, Field of Dreams. “If they bring it, we will come.” Combined with the piano-powered score that accompanies Berenson’s words, the narration should light a fire inside of you. As a Blues fan, hockey fan, and general fan of good things coming to your city.
Sidenote: I’m glad they chose Red, who was just elected into the United States Hall of Fame. Brett Hull, or even Jon Hamm, would have been the popular choice, but they went old school and grabbed Red, who was just in town over the weekend.
No matter what happens in 2019, next year is going to something special for St. Louis and the Blues. As it did with The Winter Classic two years ago at Busch Stadium, the spotlight will center on our great city in the Midwest, and the spectacle will be divine. Win/loss records don’t matter here. When big events come to St. Louis, people show up.
As Berenson details in the 141 second video, all one has to do is look at the past few years. The soccer matches at Busch. The Winter Classic. The basketball action at Enterprise. The PGA Championship at Bellerive. For the first time in over a decade, a pro sport midseason classic will happen in St. Louis. It doesn’t take long to think back the 2009 MLB All Star at Busch. Albert Pujols being center stage and Prince Fielder bashing baseballs into the sky.
That’s where the medicine may wear off. What kind of team will be here when the action comes to town. Who will greet the Blues when the elite arrive at 14th and Clark? With the Blues ending 2018 in embarrassing fashion, losing to a mediocre New York Rangers team that had allowed at least four goals in eight of their past eleven games coming into Monday’s matchup, doubt is hard to hide as a new year begins.
A year ago, the Blues were 24-15-2, and won the first two games of the year. It wasn’t until February that the 2017-18 season went off the rails, with St. Louis losing seven of ten to begin the month. As action opens up this week, the Blues are 15-18-4, which places them in the basement of not only the Western Conference, but the NHL as a whole.
I would expect things to get worse before they get better. As in more losses, clubhouse friction, and the ensuing plethora of articles talking about the head coaching search, players on the block, and so on. If you think it’s hot right now, you’ve seen nothing yet. If the Blues keep losing, the doubt will continue to roll into that clubhouse, where veterans are departing and rookies are rolling in, and chaos will ensue. It will painfully fun to watch and then all together sad.
So forget about it for now, and think about the All Star Game. Will the Blues have a rep? I would think Ryan O’Reilly will find himself there at the very least? Through shit and shine, he has saved the team from true oblivion this season with his performance. It doesn’t matter how bad things get; O’Reilly just keeps on producing. He must be used to it it coming from Buffalo. Who else besides O’Reilly? One would say Alex Pietrangelo or Vladimir Tarasenko, or a young Robert Thomas, but I’m not so sure. O’Reilly is the only sure thing.
Instead of getting enraged about the Blues’ troubling season, I’ll just get lost in Berenson’s words. It’s not giving the team a pass, but choosing your coping mechanism. Win, lose, tie, or shame, the St. Louis Game Time website and paper will go on. In case you didn’t notice, the past 50+ years have trained us for disappointment. We can handle it. All losing does is put more ammo in the prose gun.
A losing season can’t diminish the impact of an All Star Game. Know that. As rough as this season has gotten, thinking about next year, a common theme in town, isn’t a bad prescription.