When the season started, I think it’s safe to say I was content with my hometown Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues. After 52 years of getting my hopes up, only to have them dashed in every way imaginable, it felt nice going into this year not wondering about who might be moved because their contract was about to be up or what player they would trade away to get that missing piece of the puzzle.
At the same time, I actually missed talking with my friends and family about who the Blues might try to go after in the offseason. We all thought we knew who they might sign as a free agent. The player we thought would be one that would finally get them over the top. I think for a lot of us, it’s just fun.
Now of course with the Blues, it wasn’t always the players that we talked about during the offseason – for us, it could anyone from the top on down. God knows over the years, we had our fair share of owners, general managers and coaches, I could have done without. From owner Harry Ornest to general manager and coach Mike Keenan, we often felt like the hockey gods were against us.
Out of the Blocks
Going into this year though, things were looking as rosy as they ever have, with the team remaining pretty much intact. The only real offseason changes that occurred were that of hometown boy Pat Maroon signing with the Tamp Bay Lightning and his former junior coach Jon Cooper, with the only real trade being that of young defenseman Joel Edmundson to the Carolina Hurricanes for defenseman Justin Faulk.
The biggest question for many fans here in St. Louis going into the 2019-20 season was how would Jordan Binnington respond? Would he continue his play from last year or would he be a one-year wonder? As most people would agree however, it would be hard to top last year’s play.
Looking at his stats, the numbers that are usually focused on for goalies include save percentage, goals against, along with of course, wins. For Jordan, his SV% and GAA were not surprisingly off from the previous season but his win total was higher, in large part because he’d played a full season up to this point.
Also of concern for many Blues fans was, who will replace the aforementioned Pat Maroon? While his popularity here was due in large part to being a local boy, as the playoffs progressed last year his role became more prominent, with perhaps the apex being when he scored the Game 7 overtime winner in the second round versus the Dallas Stars.
With the Playoffs Approaching
So as this season was winding down, the Blues were in a place they had not been at this time last year, first in their division. They had also accomplished something they were unable to do the previous year and that was, take advantage of home ice. During the 2018-19 season, they won a total of 24 home games, while this year, they were already at 23. With only seven home losses this year (compared to 15 last year), the odds were good they would do better.
Now with the possibility of the 2019-20 season moving on to the playoffs, another factor has come into play and that is the contract of the Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo as he is due to a free agent at the end of this season. At this point, the team doesn’t have the money to sign him without trading someone else.
After a typical season, free agency would have started on the first of July but like much of this season as of now, that too is unclear as to how it will play out. Throw in the fact that the salary cap is uncertain as well and I guess you could say that Pietrangelo becomes the X-factor. That said, COVID-19 repercussions will affect a lot of teams, depending on who their free agents are and how the league decides to handle them.
Clear as Muddy Ice
Despite all this, I think Blues fans will just be happy to get the season going again, even if they’re not able to be there with the boys. Now that the Blues have a Cup, for many, it’s can they make it two in a row? Perhaps a dynasty, though my youngest son doesn’t think that will happen.
It feels strange not to be discussing the upcoming season now and who might get traded and even stranger not to have been talking about hockey at all for the last two-plus months – about the playoffs, the matchups, and more importantly, the 2019-20 Stanley Cup champs.
Whether they win another Cup or not this year, I’ll still be here, talking with my family and friends about who is going to be the player they might sign to replace Pietrangelo, if he does sign somewhere else and of course then, who will be the next captain? Just like the last 53 years, hockey will always be a part of my life. I can’t wait for them to get back to playing, whenever and wherever that might be.