Friday, February 05, 2010

How Close the Cup?

-It was very interesting to me to learn that the Blues were apparently a strong player in the Ilya Kovalchuk trade discussions prior to him being dealt from Atlanta to New Jersey. Team President John Davidson is quoted by Jeremy Rutherford of the Post-Dispatch as saying The Note had "legitimate interest" and "had been working on it for the better part of a week". This got me, for the sake of full disclosure a part-time employee of the club, to thinking... What does this mean?...and where are we with the youth movement and rebuilding process which began several years ago? 

I'm not going to be critical of anyone here. I'm just asking the question I'm sure many other Blues fans must also be pondering. Actually there are many questions that go into it.--

-Do we have a legitimate superstar player anywhere in our organization?
-Do we have enough good to very good players to negate the need for a superstar?
-What assets (the term JD uses for players) were we willing to part with in order to land Kovalchuk?
-Which of our current core of young guns (Johnson, Berglund, Oshie, Perron, Polak, etc.) are seen as untouchable in trade discussions...if any?
-If you were willing to part with more than one of the above in a Kovalchuk deal, is the leading edge of the youth movement now seen as having acquired tradeable assets instead of long-term franchise cornerstones?
-Who, currently playing at Peoria, juniors, or in college, is ready to step into an NHL job next year to prove that the drafting and trading of the last 5 years has been done with aplomb? (Eller, Pietrangelo, Junland, Palushaj, Sonne, McRae, Hjalmarrson, Lehtera, Cole, Bishop, Allen?)
-If none of the above are ready, then who leaves the roster after this year...and who replaces them?
-There are some high-dollar, low-output veterans manning spots on the roster. Do we expect them to rebound to the level of their pay scale? Or do we cut bait?
-If few leave, do we have any near-term hope of turning the corner from being an entertaining, up-and-coming team to a legitimate Cup contender?
-What is a reasonable goal year for being a Cup contender? A few years ago it was 2010.
-Is the front office now forced to look outside the organization to build a truly exciting, elite-level roster? (Was that one answered with the Kovalchuk trade talks?)

All of these questions need answers. And the answers have to be rooted in common sense for the fans of the team to continue the level of excitement and resulting support they've shown during this season. The St. Louis hockey faithful have bought into the re-build with 22 sellouts so far this season. Can we expect that to continue if the pipeline is drying up, or was overrated? Is it drying up and/or overrated?

Do the Kovalchuk discussions, and the willingness of the front office to acknowledge the level of interest, send a signal to the fans that we have gone from the cute, little, soon-to-be-great one that's questioning the talent in our already drafted and signed players. Or is it that we just think that one piece of the puzzle that's missing happens to be somewhere else? It would be nice to think that we are still just one or two years behind Chicago in developing an elite on-ice product. It seems for that to be realistic the in-system kids need to keep, two, or three per season.

So many questions. I'm confident JD, Larry Pleau, Doug Armstrong, Al MacInnis and the rest of the team supervisors have answers. To keep things headed in the right direction, I'm pulling for them to have the right ones.

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