Friday, March 07, 2008

Collapsed In The Stretch Run

The St Louis Blues looked like a much improved team at the end of 2007. They were in 14th place in the league with a 19-18 record (with four losses counted as regulation ties). They looked likely to make playoffs and Andy Murray looked like a likely coach of the year (selected as coach of the most improved team). Things no longer look so good in St Louis. Since the beginning of 2008, their 10-20 record (with six regulation ties) is the worst in the NHL. It now looks that St Louis will likely miss the playoffs and there is a movement to have Andy Murray fired as coach.

The biggest change has been goaltending. Manny Legace had a very good start to the season in goal an even appeared in the All Star Game. He has not been able to keep up his top level play. More recent games have made Legace look like the journeyman goalie we expect him to be.

St Louis is exposed as a team with no real strength. They lack any gamebreaking scorers. Paul Kariya leads the team with 52 points in 67 games played. This makes him the second lowest scorer to be his team scoring leader (Mike Comrie of the New York Islanders has only 47 points). St Louis has few other offensive threats. Only Brad Boyes, Keith Tkachuk and Andy McDonald have more than 40 points. Their defence is also lacking in any elite threats. Rookie Erik Johnson may be one someday, but not yet. Eric Brewer, Barret Jackman and Jay McKee would all be solid second line defencemen, but none have played like frontline stars. When Manny Legace is no longer providing top goaltending, St Louis becomes a team with no strengths and a team with no strength is a bad team (usually worse than a team with strengths but clear weaknesses as well).

It is amazing how big the value of goaltending is in the NHL today. If a team's goaltending goes sour, they are instantly a much worse team than when the goaltending was good. Further, it is amazing how often good goaltending is interpreted as good coaching. Alain Vignealt won coach of the year last year largely because Vancouver traded for Roberto Luongo. Andy Murray looked like a coach of the year as long as Manny Legace played like an all star and as soon as that stopped some people decided Murray is the problem and should be fired. Murray is neither a coach of the year nor a coach who should be fired. Both are overreactions to goaltending.

When St Louis was sold to Dave Checketts in 2006 the previous owners had moved to reduce payroll by getting rid of their expensive stars (most prominently Chris Pronger and Pavol Demitra). They have yet to recover. In three seasons after getting rid of these players they have yet to make playoffs and don't look particularly close right now. This should be a lesson to potential owners. If you buy a team that has been gutted for financial reasons expect it to take several years before you can turn things around. It is far better to buy into a team that has not chosen to play with a minimum payroll until their sale if you have the choice.

The St Louis Blues had a solid start this season when Manny Legace's all star calibre goaltending was carrying them. Legace has regressed in goal to his more established journeyman level and St Louis has fallen in the standings. They are a team with no clear strength right now and have had the worst record in the NHL since 2008 began. This is a team that had been gutted in preparation for its sale in 2006. They have yet to recover.

This article is complete trash. Not only is this masked moron COMPLETELY wrong about almost everything, he contradicts his own points and provides no insight. It's one thing to write a column stating the obvious, but when your article does nothing but state the obviously wrong, you have no business being published. Legace's play has "not been able to keep up his top level play" -- you're kidding, right? The Blues looked "likely" to make the playoffs after 2007? There is a movement to have Murray fired? This is some seriously hilarious stuff. The blogger doesn't give his real name. Is that because he is some 13-yr. old middle school dropout? I doubt it. Droupouts have time to go to hockey games, and this guy has obviously not seen the Blues play this year. And based on his analysis, I suspect he has seen maybe 8 hockey games in his life, tops. The thing that really blows my mind here is that this clown essentially blames the Blues' struggles on Legace, who has EASILY been the best player on the team ALL YEAR! What the heck could this guy be watching? Get a fucking clue.
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