Eulogy: Remembering the 2016-17 St. Louis Blues

St. Louis Blues

(Ed. Note: As the Stanley Cup Playoffs continue, we’re bound to lose some friends along the journey. We’ve asked for these losers, gone but not forgotten, to be eulogized by the people who knew the teams best: The bloggers and fans who hated them the most. Here is Kung Fu Canuck, last year’s Dallas Stars eulogist, fondly recalling the 2016-17 St. Louis Blues.)

(Again, this was not written by us. Also: This is a roast and you will be offended by it, so don’t take it so seriously.)

By Kung Fu Canuck

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to bid farewell to the 2016-17 St. Louis Blues.

The team went tragically before well after their time, falling in six games to the Nashville Predators, who now finally assume the mantle of the NHL’s Most Relevant Flyover Country Team, at least until the Kansas City Scouts are restored to their rightful place.

And yes, I can hear all you Blues fans moaning right now about how you got stuck with the off-brand no-name eulogizer instead of someone cool like the Committed Indian or even someone from Hockey Wilderness.

Well, all I can say is rest assured I asked for the Blues directly.

 

Or, you know, indirectly.

Anyway, don’t take it too harshly that all the good bloggers forgot about you guys, it’s just that the Blues really didn’t matter at all this year. Hardly a change from tradition, if I’m being fair, but this year was a special kind of slog. At least in the past, the Blues’ boring, unwatchable style of play led to a team that we all had to worry might accidentally contend for a Stanley Cup – luckily Doug Armstrong put us all at ease by declaring this a wasted transition year and boy did he stick to that promise.

The result was a Blues team that was an afterthought to the Syracuse Crunch – in terms of relevancy, on a scale of 1 to 10, this team would get lost. It was one amazing Russian winger surrounded by a bunch of guys, like a knock-off Washington Capitals except without the likability or winning pedigree.

Maybe that’s fitting way to cap the 50th year of a franchise that was never supposed to be in the NHL in the first place in honour of a city that was only granted a team so that Arthur Wirtz could criminally own two franchises. The Blues have spent their first 50 years in the league graciously living up to these auspicious beginnings, both by achieving absolutely nothing of note outside of tripping Bobby Orr once, and by continuing to be owned by the Blackhawks.

And while Blues fans thankfully don’t have the audacity to copy their awful Cardinal’s brethren and call themselves “The Best Fans in Hockey”, there are only two bright spots in their entire fan base: Tony X, who taught us that hockey is indeed lit, and Jon Hamm, who only became successful because he managed to fulfill the ultimate St. Louis dream of fleeing the city for Los Angeles.

Although I’m probably not giving enough credit to the city of St. Louis —a beautiful and vibrant town that offers people all the thoroughly entrenched racism of the Deep South combined with the soul-crushing boredom of the Midwest. And as long as we’re embracing the history of the Blues here, I can’t think of anything that epitomizes the city of St. Louis better than the fact that the US government once used the city to test biological weapons, because it was the most similar town in the country to a Russian target city.

Mark that down as the only time anyone has ever chosen St. Louis for anything, and also as proof that the US government found a more beneficial use for the city than the NHL ever has.

It would also explain the city’s high tolerance for sources of toxic waste

So how did the St. Louis Blues franchise plan for its big 50th season celebration?

By honoring the team’s proud legacy of achieving peak mediocrity through a careful balance of shipping out their good players and overspending on their shitty ones. Gone were David Backes, Brian Elliot, and the guy TJ Oshie was traded for, and filling their spots were a bunch of human collar-tugs like Carter Hutton, David Perron, and Nail Yakupov, who was only brought in so the Blues could say they’ve had the two worst first overall picks in the cap era play for the team. At least the team managed to lock in it’s truly important ancillary players to terrible contracts. Beginning the season by spending a combined $5.4 million on Jori Lehtera and Magnus Paajarvi was a great start, and extending your oldest player for four years despite his not being that good anymore was a nice touch.

But the team didn’t truly hit its dumbass contract stride until the five-year Patrik Berglund extension. In fairness, when are you ever going to pay less than $19.25 million for a 30-point center who looks like a poster boy for adult illiteracy?

Actually, that was really mean. Patrik, if you’re reading this…color me shocked I guess?

Face it Blues fans, you knew this season was going to be rough when you looked at the roster and saw your center depth consisted of hopes and dreams.

You didn’t need Doug Armstrong to tell you the team wasn’t going to win a Cup this year when the entirety of the team’s success was riding on a goaltender whose legacy of failure could only be described as “Blues-esque.”

It should have been no surprise that by February the team was an absolute dumpster fire, and while flaming garbage usually means a nice hot meal for Kyle Brodziak, in this case it meant getting rid of your head coach, the Undertaker’s manager.

Pictured: The firing of Ken Hitchcock, who has since risen again

But, somehow, the Blues succeeded in spite of themselves under the Usurper Mike Yeo and managed to scrape into not even the last playoff spot. Jake Allen turned in a great performance down the stretch, under the tutelage of Blues legend Martin Brodeur, who taught him the secret of how to let a good defensive system make him look at lot better than he actually is.

Naturally, Armstrong rewarded his team’s fine play with a show of confidence at the trade deadline by trading away their best defenseman for a first-round pick and a made-up guy named Zach Ranford. Despite all of this, the team plodded along towards the playoffs, and it was an exciting time to be a Blues as long as you blissfully ignored the shallow grave Armstrong was digging for the team the entire time.

Armstrong: “Uh, don’t worry it’s nothing. [Aside] Hmmm, wouldn’t it be easier if I just dig one mass grave for the next ten years or so?

This team was pulling in two directions at once so much it looked like Joel Edmundson trying to defend a two-on-one.

Most teams try to solidify an identity going into the playoffs, but the only identity the Blues had at the end of the regular season was a bunch of very confused guys in blue.

Doug Armstrong: “I’m afraid I just blue myself/traded away Shattenkirk.”

And so despite coming off a 100-point season and a Western Conference Final trip the previous year, the Blues found themselves tickled just to be in the playoffs, and wouldn’t you know they even won a round! Blues fans are probably very impressed that their team was able to somehow beat a Bruce Boudreau team in the playoffs, but come on people, beating Minnesota isn’t a noteworthy achievement — it’s barely even an achievement. If making people from Minnesota sad was anything spectacular, the greatest show on television wouldn’t be one dedicated to showing how shitty life in Minnesota is.

“Why is everyone underrating us? Surely, it’s just because they haven’t seen us play!” was the cries from Blues faithful after Game 1.

Sorry Blues fans, but it was exactly because we all watched the Wild launch a shot barrage that rivaled the Battle of Verdun that we concluded this Blues team probably wasn’t going to go much farther than stealing the opening round. The Blues had to rely on Jake Allen going 2012 Jonathan Quick to beat the Wild, which no doubt means that Blues fans will also spend the next five years whining that their goaltender is anything other than completely average.

By the way, while on the subject of guys who have ridden their 2012 performances like Paul Ryan, it was quite something to see Allen turn back into a pumpkin when he got outdueled by Pekka Rinne in the second round.

Despite the fact that Bridgestone Arena has to play deafening music just to drown out the sound of Rinne’s hips grinding like a cement mixer when he attempts to move side-to-side, the Blues couldn’t figure out how to score on the guy.

Hardly surprising, when you see the other easy problems the team couldn’t solve.

Jesus, okay here’s a hint: it’s one number higher than the most playoff series the Blues have ever won in a single year.

And so we say goodbye to another year of Blues mediocrity, another season of wasting the prime years of their best player. I’ll be the first to admit that I was shocked when Tarasenko decided to sign long term with the Blues — I was thinking he’d bolt at the first opportunity, indulging in the great St. Louis tradition of leaving the city for a better North American one or playing for one of the petro/mafia teams in the KHL. But instead he chose to stick it out for the long haul.

Still, you have to wonder if the team pissing away his best season, while planning for him to play the foreseeable future on Paul Stastny’s wing, is making him regret his choice to stay in St. Louis.

Even if it does remind him of home.

But Blues fans, you can take solace that this wasn’t just some meaningless season – it was a transition year! It was a year in which the team would slough off the legacy of the previous Backes-Oshie-Hitchcock futility. It was a year-long shower meant to get rid of the stench of failure of a core whose potential topped out at a forgettable Conference final loss.

Now the reins have been handed to a new group of players, and the team is transitioning from the old, slow, mediocre squad. Just don’t think too hard about what this team is transitioning into — a team with great wingers, a one great defenseman, one older, overrated defenseman, zero good options at center, a question mark in goal, and a bunch of overpaid bottom-six forwards. Don’t think too hard about the fact that this team is still missing key pieces to contend while Tarasenko is still a dominant force.

Don’t think about how badly Armstrong is going to overpay for 56 games of Tyler Johnson next year. And certainly don’t think too hard about the fact that this year marks a transition from one era of mediocrity into a new era of the exact same soul-crushing non-contention.

In other words, happy 50th birthday St. Louis Blues! I hope the next 50 years are just as successful!

 

St. Louis Blues 2017-2067 Seasons 

NHL EULOGIES 2017

Boston Bruins

Calgary Flames

Chicago Blackhawks

Columbus Blue Jackets

Minnesota Wild

Montreal Canadiens

San Jose Sharks

Toronto Maple Leafs

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