Blues Sliding Out of the Race
With 69 games in the books, the Blues head to New York to square off against the Rangers, a team that is facing a similar fate that the Blues are. The Rangers are much closer to their competition in their hunt for an Eastern Conference playoff berth while the Blues sit in a distant 11th position, seven points behind 8th place Detroit. However, both squads have been unable to bring home a win when they need to most and have failed to bring their best game to the table when they face a tough opponent. The Blues have all but slid completely out of the hunt with their last loss against Colorado, and are mostly now skating for pride and looking ahead to the 2010-11 season.
This wasn’t how it was supposed to happen. Last year, the Blues clawed their way into the playoffs with a run that drew attention from around the NHL. The Blues played with urgency, consistency and intensity. With Erik Johnson and Paul Kariya not even in the lineup for the majority of last season, the return of them for this season raised expectations. The Blues’ marketing department did themselves no favors by breaking a cardinal rule in sports marketing: never build a message around a championship you haven’t won yet.
“You’re the last piece of the puzzle.”
Cue the cheesy animation of the puzzle pieces forming a Stanley Cup. As someone who works in marketing, I can not believe that silly idea even got off the ground as it would be a failure unless this St. Louis side won this season. Most fans knew that this team was likely still a few years away from being a legitimate contender, and would be happy if this team could just make the playoffs for two consecutive seasons.
As the Blues slide further and further behind and while we kill time until the Blues are officially eliminated, I can not help but think back to that Puzzle Piece marketing campaign and remember just how high expectations were coming into this season.
The youngsters were supposed to continue to grow and behind the return of Erik Johnson and Paul Kariya, this side was supposed to not only make the playoffs, but do it with much more ease than last season. Erik Johnson has played well at times and at other times he has looked very much like a young defender learning his way through things. He still has a very long road ahead of him and in all fairness, we likely all expected too much from him too soon.
Then there is Paul Kariya. Kariya’s performance this season looks especially awful stacked up against his $6,000,000 paycheck. It also fails to stack up to the near point-per-game pace some may have expected/hoped for. Kariya’s offensive output, along with the rest of the teams, has not only failed to carry this team consistently, but also failed to lift the missing goals from the Blues former offensive powerhouse Brad Boyes.
I was excited to see Ty Conklin brought in to make the situation in net more stable than it was last year. However, it disappoints me in how the goaltending situation has been handled in who starts which games. Colorado has definitely had Chris Mason‘s number this season. So why does he get the start when facing them as the Blues are in the thick of the hunt? Neither Mason nor Conklin are number one goaltenders by definition, but if you bring in a capable backup, shouldn’t he be used in situation such as the one I mentioned above? One would think so.
This season was one huge reality check for the Blues and fans alike, but also it should have been a HUGE one for the Blues’ marketing staff. Hopefully we see a new and improved effort, with some new faces next season, but also a message to fans that is at the very least realistic.