To begin, yes I realize the Blues have some issues on the offensive end. Even if those issues are frustratingly named Pekka Rinne, Nikolai Khabibulin, Josh Harding and Kari Lehtonen. If you’re a Blues fan you know the Note out-shoots virtually every opponent but has had their fair share of issues putting the puck in the back of the net. And yes they need some help with a scoring forward. But this is my personal plea to Doug Armstrong and the rest of the front office at the Scottrade Center to PLEASE not doing anything drastic that will mortgage the future.
Too many times in Blues history they have made a trade (or free-agent signing requiring compensation) that has made them marginally better in the now, but at the expense of some players who turned out to be pretty damn good. And this group of young Blues are too promising for the next 5-8 seasons to rid the potential for a run at a Stanley Cup this year.
Despite the lack of a dominant goal scorer, St. Louis still sits in 5th in the West, with at least one game in hand on all but one of the teams ahead of them. They are near unbeatable at home and their defense and goal-tending will keep them in every game they play in. And they are not that far away from getting some free help.
Both Alex Steen and Andy McDonald are skating and cleared for contact following lengthy absences with concussions. That, right there, is a lot of firepower. Despite missing 15 games Steen is still 3rd on the team with 13 goals. His shooting percentage of 11.5% is 2nd on the team, only behind T.J. Oshie at 11.7%. Steen’s absence has been critical to even strength lines, but also to both special teams units. His return instantly makes this roster at least 10% better. At least.
Then there is Andy Mac who regrettably has only played in three games this season because of his concussion. What kind of player will he be after so much time off? Unfortunately we don’t know. But even if he is 75% of his usual self, an 80-point forward if he could just stay healthy, that’s a significant offensive addition.
So take it and run with it Armstrong. Your team is creating. Your team is defending at a better clip than any team in the NHL. And most importantly, there is incredible chemistry with this group. As much as I’d love to see Bobby Ryan or Jerome Iginla wearing The Note, I don’t want it to come at the expense of T.J. Oshie and Chris Stewart, which is what the rumored price would be.
After only David Backes, Oshie is the heart and soul of this team. He creates for himself and others, he defends, he is on track for a 25-30 goal year. To lose him would risk sucking the life out of a team that has relied on that chemistry and togetherness to rally from 14th in the West to an all-but lock for the playoffs. To lose Oshie would risk sacrificing a franchise player who could be the face of the franchise for another decade. Not only does he help lead the team, the fans identify with and love him. From his goals to his personal dominance of Rick Nash.
I’m not as adverse to trading Chris Stewart, but I still think the key piece in the Erik Johnson has plenty left to offer. He has struggled for the majority of the year, but still has himself 10 goals. And as we learned last year, he is more than capable of going on a scoring tear. He is the best hope the Blues have for a good power play. He too is young and has a chance to rebound and rediscover the form that could allow him to score 40 goals in a future year.
There is too much to like about this team and its future to go for it now. If the franchise falls in the first round of the playoffs this year because of a lack of goals and is in the same predicament next year, then its time to talk about a big-time acquisition. But now is not the time. Not in the middle of a remarkable season that is based so much on chemistry and a team that knows how to defend as a unit.
Have faith management. With Steen and McDonald coming back you get an instant, free upgrade. Don’t break up a great thing and a bright future for one run at it. Do the right thing.