The Blues are now in uncharted territory.
For the first time in a long time, the Blues are drafting and developing their own talent, and we'll start seeing the fruits of their labor.
Prior to the lockout, the last legitimate Blues first rounder that stayed in the organization and developed with the team is Barrett Jackman, drafted in 2000. That was 8 years ago. While he’s a solid enough defenseman, Barrett Jackman isn’t a lot to show for in all of eight years.
Before Jackman, it's harder to find a Blues player that the Blues drafted and kept on their team. While Pronger grew into his own with St. Louis, he was originally drafted by Hartford. Likewise, in another Mike Keenan move, Pavol Demitra was acquired from Ottawa in exchange for Christer Olausson.
Arguably, you have to go as far back as Rod Brind'amour or Curtis Joseph to find a legitimate Blues pick, but they obviously didn’t stay with the team for very long.
All of the notable Blues players from the past 2 decades were acquired either through free agency or trade: Stevens, Hull, Shanahan, Oates, MacInnis, Pronger, Weight, Demitra…the list goes on. Even the current roster boasts the likes of Tkachuk, Kariya and Legace, not to mention Brad Boyes who was acquired in a trade.
Now, with the youth movement, the Blues will have a plethora of players drafted and developed within the organization on the roster this year, even without Erik Johnson. T.J. Oshie, Patrik Berglund, David Perron, and Lee Stempniak all figure to be on the team. Alex Petrangelo and Jonas Jungland also stand a chance of making the team. And there's still more to come in the Blues system.
Why is all of this homebred talent important? Consider the two Stanley Cup finalists.
Pittsburgh is easy enough for people to understand. They had Crosby, Malkin, Staal, Fleury, and Malone among others. Everyone sees how successful they’ve been in building a young core.
But perhaps more surprising are how many players on Detroit were drafted and kept in the system. Detroit had Zetterburg, Datsyuk and Lidstrom as their core, all of whom were drafted by the Wings. Filpula, Franzen, Holmstrom, Hudler, Kronwall, and Osgood (who left for a stint) all were originally drafted by Detroit.
Perhaps this leads credence to the theory that adding a big name player at deadline or even in the off season won't help much. You either have the core or you don't.
Gone are the days when you could make up for deficiencies just by spending money. But that makes the seasons exciting for a team like the Blues, who aren't expected to make the playoffs. Instead of fans lashing out at ownership for not spending money (or not spending it on the right players), they can come watch the kids play. (It's more hopeful than wondering if Roman Turek is really the answer.)
Now the question for Blues fans isn't who the Blues should sign to play goal or provide more scoring. The question is now which player is going to step up and fill the role.