Offseason of Discontent

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  1. Dr.Sens(e)

    Dr.Sens(e) Registered User

    Feb 27, 2002
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    Offseason of Discontent
    Blues unlikely to stand pat after latest postseason collapse

    The St. Louis Blues will have a team meeting tomorrow morning and then clean out their lockers, some for the last time.

    In the wake of their humiliating elimination by the Columbus Blue Jackets, there will be changes -- if not in management, then certainly among the players.

    The general manager and coach will have to answer for their joint strategy of promoting a defensive first approach, with a team that for some unknown reason, was never able to win their share of one goal games. Being a low scoring defensive minded team that has trouble winning tight games is a major problem and it was obviously a miscalculation.

    When the playoffs approached and it became time to ask the players to now win those tight checking affairs, it was too late. They hadn't been able to win their share of those games all year and weren't about to change now.

    In the end, the Blues were 10-20 in one-goal games during the regular season (31-12 in non-one goal games), so it’s not surprising that these stats were echoed in their playoff record: They lost two one-goal games to the Jackets and went down to the conference’s top team much too quickly given they consistently outshot Columbus, another characteristic that was all too common for the Blues through out the year.

    But to say they lost because the other team had better goal tending would be a cop out – Blues netminder Nikolai Khabibulin was solid all playoffs, albeit not equal to the task of outdueling hall of famer to be Martin Brodeur.

    In the end, these Blues were great when the other team let them play but only mediocre when the other team didn't.

    As the fans burned up Sports Radio talk show phone lines for hours following Sunday’s stunning 4-2 loss, the players had Monday off to deal with the shock.

    Tomorrow, they'll have a 10:30 a.m. team meeting and then go their separate ways after individual meetings with coach Marc Crawford and the staff.

    ‘Any time you lose, it's disappointing," said Crawford. "The changes we make will be up to management."

    The Blues already have $40 million committed in contracts for next season – pushing the cap before the off-season even begins. If the salary cap stays put, the team is going to have to make some potential adjustments before the year starts with those already under contract.

    With this ‘reality cap’ staring them in the face, it goes without saying that veterans Steve Yzerman and Darien Hatcher have played their last game in a Blues uniform, and for Yzerman, perhaps his last game period.

    That other players might be traded is also a possibility.

    Certainly center Joe Thornton has drawn criticism for his playoff performance, and his dubious role of being on the ice for so many decisive goals against. He and linemate Daniel Alfredsson needed to be the Blues best forwards in this series, and in the end, were on the team’s third best line for the majority of the post-season. They combined for only 3 goals in 10 post-season games, which might be what you expect of your fourth liners, not players on a scoring line and the top powerplay unit. Meanwhile, their line mate on the top powerplay unit, Dany Heatley, went scoreless in the playoffs.

    But it'd be shocking to think the Blues would make scapegoat of one of their core forwards. Thornton, Alfredsson and Heatley, along with Vincent Lecavalier (perhaps the Blues most effective forward through the playoffs), remain the foundation of this team and are seemingly etched in the team’s long-term identity.

    But after expectations were boosted through the roof going into this year, the Blues have lots of work to do to restore a sense of promise this fall.

    See you in September? Maybe, maybe not.

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