By Craig Phelps
ST. Louis, MO- The St. Louis Blues are sitting in at the back of the playoff bus right now. Most teams that are 14 points out of the playoffs would give up with the end of the season approaching. Most teams would take their bags and go home. Most 25 year old kids would give a call to mom and dad complaining about a rough day of work. Most teams are not the St. Louis Blues though.
It has been a long and confusing season for Blues fans, there is no doubt against that. How often, in any sport, do you see a team trade their number one overall draft pick? Not often, that is for sure. What about a team that is struggling to find their groove? Most number one overall draft picks are looked at as more of an answer to the problem, not as trade bait. That was not the case for Eric Johnson this year. Johnson and Jay McClement were instead sent to Colorado in favor of Chris Stewart and Kevin Shattenkirk. The Blues and Avalanches also exchanged a conditional first and second round pick.
One of the ‘Notes top offensive threats, Brad Boyes, was sent over to Buffalo in exchange for a second round pick. The teams captain, Eric Brewer was also shipped to Tampa Bay for a defensive prospect and third round pick.
It seems like nearly every member of the Blues organization has been hurt this season. T.J. Oshie went down earlier this season, David Perron is not expected to make a return, Alex Steen is out on right now, Johnson spent time on the injury list, Roman Polak was out for a while, and, well, you get the point. There is not a team in the National Hockey League that can face the injury bug like the Blues have this season and come out victorious.
Now, these two mentioned items go hand in hand. If the injury bug does not take a bite out of the Blues then General Manager Doug Armstrong probably does not trade Johnson and the rest of the aforementioned former Blues. If the Blues stay healthy, they are probably in the playoff race right now and we are praising them for great play instead of asking what the Blues need to fix for next year. If that 50 foot, 12 eyed, 10 legged monster of an injury bug decides that he does not like the color Blue, then the ‘Notes are probably one of the best teams in the league; they were, after all, among the top three teams in the NHL at the beginning of the year when they were healthy.
That does not matter right now though. The Blues were injured and they made the moves to fix what they felt was broken. Who can really blame them for the moves they did make? Brewer was out of position too many times this season. Brad Boyes is not the same 30 goal scorer that signed his last contract. Jay McClemet, while a nice guy and decent player, was really an impact man on the ice. Eric Johnson, to be honest, has not produced like a first overall draft pick and found himself falling a step short defensively.
The host of draft picks that the ‘Notes have acquired will probably be used to bring a much needed veteran presence to an otherwise very youthful hockey team. Kevin Shattenkirk has helped the Blues power play turn into one of the best in the league since arriving in St. Louis. Chris Stewart has quickly become a fan favorite.
Has this season been a waste? Not really, the Blues have built a solid foundation for their future. They have simply reloaded in preparation for the games that have yet to be scheduled. If the Blues use their draft picks wisely and trade them for an impact veteran or two, then the Blues will be a force to be reckoned with for years to come. While it is tough to see your team of choice miss the playoffs, Blues fans should have confidence in their team moving forward as the 2010-2011 season comes to a close.