The Checking Line</a>
Thanks to a couple bad seasons and a little assistance from the lockout, it’s now been over 1,100 days since the St. Louis Blues have been part of a <a href="http://www.cbc.ca/sports/...san-stl/">playoff
series</a>. So what are the chances of my beloved Note getting in the dance in 2008? Let’s just say that it’s a good thing that John Davidson and Co. have months to work their magic because as of today it isn’t looking pretty.
<strong>I love Andy Murray</strong><img id="image1220" src="http://www.checkingline.c.../2007/05/murray.jpg"
alt="murray.jpg" class="alignright" />
The best thing that John Davidson has done in his first 10 months on the job is hire Andy Murray. That might sound like praise, but when your best move is a coaching change (that was far too late into the season) then some other things were drastically flawed. Let’s just say that the list of organizational changes under Davidson’s watch that made me throw up a little bit in my mouth is longer than the list of moves that <a href="http://www.stlouisblues.c...70227a.html">made
me do cartwheels down my driveway</a>. Here’s how JD’s team looks as we sit here in early May…
<strong>No bad Legace puns from me</strong>
Despite the fact that Manny Legace was a scapegoat in Detroit, he’s a pretty darn good starter in this league. I’ll give JD a little credit here because I was unhappy when the Blues signed him last summer, but my unhappiness didn’t have anything to do with Legace’s abilities. I felt they should have gone into the season with Curtis Sanford and Jason Bacashihua. Management wasn’t so keen on that idea because Sanford just couldn’t stay healthy and as it turned out, it was <a href="http://rototimes.com/nhl/...yer/1998/notes">a
good thing they didn’t rely on him</a>. Unless the Blues decide to go a completely different direction, Sanford and Bacashihua will again battle it out of for the backup job in September while Legace builds a legacy as the Blues starter. Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.
<strong>Depth would be an understatement</strong>
The Blues might not feature Chris Pronger and Al MacInnis anymore, but you’d have a hard time convincing me that another team has a deeper blueline than the Blues right now. As we sit here in early May, the Blues have nine legitimate NHL defensemen: Jay McKee, Eric Brewer, Barret Jackman, Christian Backman, Bryce Salvador, Erik Johnson, Roman Polak, Matt Walker, and Jeff Woywitka.
So, what the hell do we do with all of these guys? Unfortunately for Polak, who has proven he’s ready for this level of hockey, he’ll probably be headed to Peoria because he’s young, doesn’t have to clear waivers and wasn’t the <a href="http://www.sportsnet.ca/i...ersey_hor.jpg">#1
overall pick in a draft</a>. Beyond that, who the hell knows. There’s a chance the Blues use one of these defensemen as trade bait to fill one of their holes up front (we’ll get to those shortly). If I had to guess which one, I’d guess Christian Backman who is due $2.2M next season and $3.4M in 2008-09 (Cap hit: 2.3M).
<strong>Now it’s time for JD to work his magic</strong>
<img id="image1222" src="http://www.checkingline.c...oads/2007/05/jd.jpg"
alt="jd.jpg" class="alignleft"/>Not counting the anticipated raises for Barret Jackman and <a href="http://www.degroat.net/pi...mpniaked.jpg">Lee
Stempniak</a>, the Blues have <a href="http://spreadsheets.googl...Ch9gm11fFA">about
$33M tied up</a>. That might not seem like much to you Maple Leafs fans out there, but the salary cap couldn’t be more irrelevant to the Blues. According to a report a couple months ago, Blues chairman David Checketts said that “it’s not out of the question” for the Blues to spend $36-40M. I certainly am not privy to any of the behind the door meetings that the Blues have held, but that sure sounds to me like if season ticket sales go well before July 1st, then they <b>might</b> be spending $40M.
<strong>So, about those forwards</strong>
This looks so ugly that I’m struggling with how to put it in words. I guess we’ll start with up the middle. Here’s what we know…
Doug Weight will center one of the top two lines. I’m not sure he should, but he will. Jay McClement is penciled in as the third line center and Ryan Johnson will probably be filling that spot on the fourth line. I’d rather bring back Glen Metropolit to fill that role, but Johnson is signed for next season and the Blues value his penalty killing. Also under contract is Petr Cajanek, who isn’t cut out to be a scoring line center and played better on the wing near the end of the season so we’re going to assume he’ll be back there next year. That brings us to our first need: <strong>Scoring line Center</strong>.
You thought those pivots looked bad? Let’s start at the bottom for the wingers. Captain Dallas Drake (who I affectionately call Grandpa) is still (unfortunately) under contract next season, as are Dan Hinote and Jamal Mayers. None of these three should be on anything other than the 4th line. That poses a logistical problem for that line, but we’ll let Andy Murray deal with which one sits in the press box.
Of the six remaining spots on the flank, five of them are accounted for: Brad Boyes, Lee Stempniak, David Backes, Martin Rucinsky, and Peter Cajanek. This group won’t be hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup any time soon, but that’s what we’re looking at, which brings us to need #2: Scoring Line Winger
<strong>What does it all mean?</strong>
The Blues have about $5-7M to spend. Raises to Barret Jackman and Lee Stempniak will probably account for $3M of that. That means the two gaping holes up front need to be filled with only a few million to work with. Trading Backman could open up another $2M and could potentially bring back a player to fill one of those voids.
The best case scenario for Blues fans is <a href="http://hockeydb.com/ihdb/...5B%5D=76090">Carl
Soderberg</a> living up to his potential and doing it fast. Last season in the SEL he scored nearly a point per game, but he might not even be ready to start the season because of a nasty eye injury. If he could fill that scoring line center spot (which, by no means, am counting on) then the Blues might be able to target a <a href="http://www.classicbuffalo...;>legitimate</a>
forward to fill the other hole.
Now you know why I’m not very optimistic about 2007-08. But that didn’t stop me from renewing my season tickets…