The St. Louis Blues fans have been through a lot these last two years since the lockout. They experienced having the worst team in the league two years ago, injuries, and big-name salary dumps of Bill Guerin, Keith Tkachuk, Doug Weight, Mike Sillinger, and of course by far the biggest name on the list, Chris Pronger. While it all seemed to be heading downhill for the Blues, there came new owner Dave Checketts and new president John Davidson to provide relief. And now for the first time in a long time, they have the Blues fans once again raving about the team that will take the ice for the 2007-2008 NHL season.
Defenseman Erik Johnson, the Blues first overall pick in 2006, is finally ready to put on a Bluenote. Lee Stempniak has emerged as the team's young gun scorer, netting 27 goals last season. The pieces of the puzzle are falling into place, Manny Legace seems locked into the number one goalie position and should provide stability. The Blues are rich in defenseman that Johnson will play beside: Calder trophy winner Barret Jackman, Bryce Salvador, Eric Brewer, who has seen a ressurrection in his game since new coach Andy Murray took over, Christian Backman, Jay McKee (if he stays healthy), and young guys like Roman Polak.
Checketts and Davidson are doing exactly what they said they would do with the franchise, which is slowly turn them back into a winner. The key word to get down from their promise is "slowly," because although it has been two years now out of the playoffs after making the postseason 28 consecutive years, the Blues have no Stanley Cups to show for it. So while teams may go on a spending spree for highly coveted free-agents such as Scott Gomez, Daniel Briere, Chris Drury, Paul Kariya, and Ryan Smyth, the Blues should wait out the initial spree of signings until the dust settles, because the Blues showed last year with the signing of Guerin that quality free agent help is available later in the free agent period.
In a town where the fans embrace baseball and their 2006 World Series Championship, St. Louis has always quietly been a lover of hockey as well, and the excitement that was there for the Blues in their glory days of winning the President's Trophy in 2000, the days of Pronger and MacInnis creating a brick wall on the blueline, and even back to the glory days of Brett Hull scoring 500 goals in a Bluenote, the excitement for hockey is back in St. Louis thanks to the new ownership.