Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Bad Times Now...Better Times Ahead?

You just can't look at the small picture.

That's the way I view the recent trades made by the Blues and the rumors swirling again about the impending sale of the team. Sure, it's hard to see players like Doug Weight and Mike Sillinger...arguably the team's two best this season...go elsewhere. But, at least in Weight's case, it looks like they got a substantial package of potential in return. The Sillinger deal for Russian Vladimir Shishkanov, is a little more questionable.

But, in my mind, no matter what they get for players who are going to become free agents at the end of the year, they are right to move them now if possible. Why? Because they can compete for the services of these players after the season if they really want them back. They will be unrestricted free agents. Meaning if they don't get something for them now...they won't get anything of value at season's end. And, any team, including the Blues, has the opportunity to sign them to a new contract after their current deal expires. I've also seen criticism of dealing these guys now, as opposed to after the Olympics and before the trade deadline when teams might be inclined to give up more out of desperation. I say, if there's a decent deal in place now, take it. Players go down right and left in hockey...and it's hard to deal an injured player...especially if it's a serious injury of some kind.

The Blues are saving a lot of money...I know that...and that usually irks fans....because fans want their team to be trying hard to win. But, trying hard to win now is essentially useless. Trying hard to win in the future might produce something the Blues and the fan base here have never had the pleasure of enjoying...a Stanley Cup. Saving the money now is understandable. The Lauries are getting out of hockey anyway. You can't expect them to open the pocket book and throw money down the toilet. Clearing the books for new owners to spend money the way they see fit is logical.

So, more of the veterans who aren't under contract for next season will go before the trade deadline. There is no doubt about that. What we as Blues fans have to hope for is that the team will be sold soon. And people will be put in place by the new ownership who will agressively pursue strong players in the off season....intelligently draft players for the future...and manage hockey operations better than the Laurie regime has. Instant gratification is not an option. Respectability for next season is certainly possible. The salary cap, and the salary floor, almost guarantees that. Superiority won't happen for probably 3 years, at the earliest.

Blues fans have been supportive for a long time without reaping much of a reward for their loyalty. We have had 25 consecutive years of hockey playoffs in St. Louis without the ultimate prize. We can be patient for a few more years if the new owners do the right things to turn around the current state of affairs.

Personally, I think cleaning house right now is a good thing. Sure, you can expect to get more in return, and maybe we should. But, the only way to get to the top is to shed some of the old baggage and start climbing.

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