Intervention: Tough Love Guide to Improving Blues Fandom

St. Louis Blues fans are passionate, and like fans in every other city are quite opinionated. However, there are certain traits among those living in the shadow of the Arch that remain somewhat unique. From overvaluing players to pinning all the team’s ills on the goalie du jour, Blues fans might rest a little easier by learning to relax and enjoying the team for what it is from year to year.

Blues fans should remember the journey is as important as the destination

Source: Wikipedia
Source: Wikipedia

Step 1: Stop blaming everything on the goalie

Goaltender Jaroslav Halak (TSN Photography)
Upside to playing for the Islanders rather than the Blues: Not being the St. Louis whipping boy. (TSN Photography)

Goaltending is at once the most important function on any hockey team, and the one least understood. Sure, it’s easy to look at one poor goal and think that the entire game/series/season was lost as a result of that miscue, but looking at things that way masks other issues. For example, fans could wonder why Miller didn’t stop a Toewes breakaway, or Elliott couldn’t stop a blue line shot from Dustin Penner, but that doesn’t address why the team allowed that breakaway or threw 13 screens in front of their goal without anyone else stopping the shot either. If any team relies on one player to make that kind of difference, face it — the team is not a contender no matter how much you want it to be.

Step 2: Actually play the game

Paajarvi has been used in all scoring situations in St. Louis (Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports)
Things look very different from ice level. (Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports)

Admittedly, many die-hard fans played in high school years back, or even at a higher level — years back. Many never played at all, but they understand every nuance of every play (end sarcasm). It’s extremely helpful to be involved in the game to get over tough losses, put wins and losses in perspective, and to adjust reasonable expectations when the team does or doesn’t make a move you wanted. The reason is simple: the game doesn’t care what’s said on paper. Although advanced stats guys use those numbers to make educated predictions, the fate of a team can change in far less than a second — and one event, no matter how small, can impact outcomes in unimaginable ways. Picking up a hockey stick rather than a remote control might aid in getting a better grip on these realities, hopefully reducing angst in the process. If you’re a Blues fan, this is a wonderful tool.

Step 3: Understand that your favorite third-liner probably isn’t worth what you think he is

Vladimir Sobotka
Vladdy will earn what many fans think he’s worth, but isn’t.

We should henceforth call this the “Sobotka Syndrome,” because recent rending of clothing and gnashing of teeth from Blues fans regarding the departure of Sobi revealed precisely this malady. Look, we all appreciate hard workers and guys that punch above their weight, but the truth of the matter is Cups aren’t won and lost by guys winning 60 percent of draws in favorable matchups while scoring eight goals a year. If management won’t pay a grinder $3-4M a year and he decides to move on or is dealt, you too should deal and move on. He’s replaceable, and probably upgradable.

Step 4: Don’t assume the team should bend to your will because you went to four games last year

[photo: Misha Vaksman]
Great, you went to a few games. Now let the professionals do their jobs. [photo: Misha Vaksman]
 Of course, fans pay the bills through merchandise and ticket sales. That’s understood. However, that support doesn’t make them experts in player development, coaching strategy or really anything else. Harsh? Well, consider that head coaches and GMs often spend their entire lives immersed in the game from peewee players until they occupy their current positions. You probably have not, and should respect decisions that are made whether or not they jibe with your sensibilities. GMs have very real budgets and personnel meshing considerations to deal with, so dumping a few scraps for that top center or winger probably won’t happen. Coaches have to work with what they have, which can change from day to day, minute to minute. Respect these facts and make your lives easier.

5. Each season doesn’t represent the last chance the team has at winning

This one is hard for Blues fans. We’ve suffered, oh we’ve suffered. And we’re due. But remember that even teams can have small lulls prior to reasserting themselves. The 1995 Devils, Cup winners in that shortened campaign, went on to miss the playoffs the next season. They also went on to win two more times in 2000 and 2003. Heck, they even went to the Finals with an aged Martin Brodeur in 2012. So, despite the angst we all feel and that sneaking suspicion that every year we earn over 90 points is “the year,” remember that if it’s not, we’ll probably have numerous other chances down the road. The bright spot for Blues fans is, at this point we only want one Cup to be satisfied.

Oh, one more thing — stop yelling “SHOOOOOT” once a puck carrier crosses the blue line. Craig Janney left town years ago.