STANLEY CUP CHAMPIONS!
I could end my season wrap-up right here and be done with it. But this season was so much more than the ending we’ve all been waiting for for up to 52 years.
This missive is typically written in an angry mood from another short, disappointing playoff run. But the only anger and disappointment this year was the early season record. After what was likely the best off-season in Blues history, expectations were high. Armstrong managed to re-sign Perron, sign Bozak, wrestle O’Reilly away from Buffalo with unwanted scraps Berglund and Sobotka, and sign Pat Maroon.
Finally, the Blues had a strengthened roster with legitimate talent on all lines. Then thud. Outside of O’Reilly, who endeared himself to St. Louis with his unbelievable start and work ethic, the entire team stunk. Bouwmeester looked done. Tarasenko added nothing. Bozak? Meh. Maroon? Yeesh. Allen gonna Allen. Schenn disappeared. Jaden who? Injuries abound. Straight to the bottom of the standings. All the hope of the off-season was lost. Oh, except for the "Sunshine, Rainbows and Unicorn Farts" crowd. They never stopped believing in this team for one second. Liars.
Twitter was bitter. Statements were made by the more pessimistic among us (which will be later dug up by the unicorn fart crowd and jammed in our faces). Wait ‘til next year was pretty much the sane persons viewpoint.
Calls for players heads were frequent. Doug Armstrong was at least considering blowing the team up. Everyone, even Tarasenko, was an option to be moved. The team front office itself gave up. Evidence? They sent out season ticket renewals early with no price increase, desperately clinging to the All-Star game ticket availability that was announced just a few weeks earlier to entice renewals. It was bad. Bad even by the standards of a franchise that had seen bad before. So bad, they said "Fuck it, let’s start the escalator upgrade."
Then some things happened. Yeo was canned. Depth players abilities were discovered (Hello Oskar Sundqvist!) JBo and Tarasenko recovered from offseason surgeries and started contributing. Chief. Backup Johnson was waived opening the door for Jordan Fucking Binnington. 11 straight wins. Gloria hallelujah!
Suddenly, this team of underachievers started to look like the team everyone thought we had to start the year. Playoffs seemed like a remote possibility, given the basement dwelling. Magic. Folks started to sense it. All the way to the end of the season, when there was a very real possibility of first overall in the West. Ultimately, the Blues took third, but there they were in the playoffs. Remarkable.
By now, everyone knows by heart the exciting/stressful series of events throughout the playoffs. Jets game 5. Stars game 7 in double OT. "The Hand Pass" game. The "Suspension Series" with Boston. Twenty six games in all. That totals 10 losses but leaves 16 wins. Hey buddy, it’s the Stanley Cup!
Every Blues fan alive will remember and treasure the Heroes on this Blues team, the first ever to win the Stanley Cup in St. Louis, This was a season that even the most gifted of fiction writers could not have written. The story lines are varied and numerous, all culminating in the unlikeliest of outcomes imaginable.
I used the word earlier, but what this team had was a magical run. A once-in-a-lifetime coming together of circumstances that could never be duplicated. No amount of purposeful team architecture could ever construct a team of destiny like the one we witnessed in the 2018-19 season.
So bask in the short off-season, Blues fans, and rest in the knowledge that St. Louis now and forever is a Stanley Cup champion!
A season recap would not be complete without talking about tangential hockey things. Things like painting all of the character out of the building during phase 2 of the renovations. Castle Greyscale was coined by someone, and it’s an accurate representation of the gray paint now adorning the "Home of the Bluuuuues." New seats were added in the upper bowl, and more fancy theater seats were added to bring in all the corporate dollars. Concourse upgrades were made, but somehow they lack the same flair as outlined in the snazzy marketing documents. Whatevs, it’s not perfect, but I can’t argue the improvements aren’t, well, an improvement over what was there. The last of the upgrades will be performed this off-season. The remaining seats will be replaced, as will the escalators.
Ah, the escalator fiasco. As I stated earlier, management had pretty much given up on the team. So much so, they decided it would be a good idea to start the escalator upgrades early. Sounds solid. No one will be here after mid-April, let’s start early. Let’s shut down half of the barely functioning escalators, and then turn the remaining ones into stairs for when everyone exits. Except we needed them into June. Whoopsie. I may literally cry when the escalators are functioning at full capacity for the first time in probably 8 years. It will be the second greatest moment in Blues history, right behind winning the Cup.
One of the more egregious things the Entertainment Management has done was shitcan Angella Sharpe, the over 10 year voice of Blues games for human Howdy Doody doll James Bertles and X-tra perky X-Grizzlies cheerleader and sometimes comic Carlie Lawrence. I can’t blame those guys for having large shoes to fill, but I can blame management (I’m looking at you Jason Pippi) for letting Angella go for personal and not professional reasons. Nearly everyone loved Angella, and she did her job beyond capably and with an obvious love of the Blues. She was the face of the Blues, and they ripped the face off. Petty. Anyway she’s gone and we move on. For me, the jury is in on James. Please don’t come back. I think Carlie has some potential, and needs to settle into her persona and not overdo it.
I still have some issues with lowering the bar with silly games, weird schtick and a constant call to "let’s make some noooize", as well as trying everything they can to force "organic moments". Case in point. Country Road. Not the first song they tried it with, but that, unfortunately, stuck. Called out on a national broadcast, the fate was sealed. A song that has nothing to do with St. Louis or hockey has somehow worked it’s way into "The Wave" status of obnoxious fan involvement. Sigh. Well, at least most of the "Woos" have stopped.
One thing I am enjoying is the continued growth of the video segment of the in-game experience. They are really finding ways to use the new video board to it's fullest. And the "Hey buddy, we're here" series of videos for the playoffs was off-the-charts good. Kudos for doing those up right.
Another chapter that will end this season is Charles Glenn singing the National Anthem. Illness is driving Charles to hang up his mic (unless you believe theories that the Blues are pushing him aside as well.) But whatever the reason, he is gone, singing the maximum number of games allowable this season. Goodbye, Charles, St. Louis loves you!
The last bit of news from this season was the announcement of the All-Star game coming to St. Louis in 2020. All of the upgrades performed over the last 3 years, along with the success of the Winter Classic got the Blues this game. The last one was in 1988. I attended some of the festivities but did not attend the game or skills competition themselves. I am looking forward to spending hundreds of dollars more to experience the mid-season classic first hand. Pretty wild to have a Cup win followed by the All Star game.
So, the team won the Cup, they have the All-Star game next year and the renovation will be complete. Several players and the coach are up for awards in a few days, with the draft (enjoy pick 31 Buffalo!) and free agency right behind. The off-season will be short, and things are lining up pretty well in Blues Land for the foreseeable future. Some of the question marks, however, are the Jordan Binnington and Pat Maroon contracts, and what to do with Jake Allen. Most of the other UFA/RFA players have predictable outcomes, so I’m not sweating them.
Binnington is an interesting case. Sure, he lead the Blues to the Cup. But that covered roughly 2/3 of a professional season. His slightly above average minor career is largely unremarkable, which is why he languished there so long. He shows stretches of greatness, had a great mental makeup, obviously is tha master at deadpan interview answers, but also has some pedestrian numbers occasionally. The last thing I want to do if I’m Doug Armstrong is throw another "Allenesque" contract at what is, statistically anyway, an unproven goalie (remember Andrew Hammond). Guys can go on once-in-a-lifetime runs, but is that the exception or the norm? Hard to tell. I’d be happy with a 1 yr, 2.75M contract and see what 2020 brings.
Maroon. The "hometown hero." Doug is in a real tight spot here. Local boy scores in game 7 2OT. T-shirt sales. Media narratives. Taking the "hometown discount" in 2019. There’s going to be pressure to overpay. I hope Armstrong takes a long look at the actual performance to comparable players and offers a reasonable contract. I think Maroon can add some value, but the reality is there are many other replacement options in his production range that there is no need to grossly overpay or give too much term. I’d be happy in the 2 X 2Mish range. I’m hoping Armstrong’s days of bad contracts are over.
Finally, a year-end recap needs to acknowledge you, my loyal followers. I’m just a guy with a Twitter account, yet 7,500 of you choose to spend some of your time looking at my content. In looking at the numbers, this account has grown by 1,000ish followers during the playoff run, and I’m getting tweets now with over 2,000 likes. Certainly, the success of the team has everyone in a good mood, but still, I think most of you enjoy the content and get the account for what it is. Sadly, not everyone does, but we simply exercise the block button and move on from that and keep providing the content you enjoy. Haters be damned!
Every year I get the opportunity to meet more and more of you. It’s humbling. Sometimes embarrassing. These interactions are sometimes in passing, sometimes joining me in #shots4goals at tailgates and sometimes those interactions grow into legitimate friendships. It’s truly rewarding all the love and positive feedback (and the occasional beer or t-shirt) you give me and that keeps me going. I haven’t monetized this account in any way, so ego stroking is the only payback I get, and I appreciate the time you all take to drop a little love with likes, retweets and comments.
So, in closing out the most exciting season in the history of the St. Louis Blues, again I thank you for your support. Even though the pace will slow a little over the summer, there will be Cup content to consume and we can talk a little hockey in the off-season with trades and whatnot. Enjoy your summer, and Let’s Go Blues!