February 17, 2011
The promotion went like this: 300 upper and 300 lower-level season tickets were to be sold to fans with the promise that only half of the payment was due at the time of purchase. The remaining balance would be paid by the fans if the Blues clinched a playoff berth.
If St. Louis failed to finish in one of the top-eight seeds in the Western Conference, then those 600 fans would not have to pay the rest of the balance.
Sure it's only 600 tickets, but revenue is revenue; and, at the moment, it looks like the Blues are going to save 600 fans some money come April.
Currently, the Blues sit 13th in the West, nine points out of a playoff spot, and have won just five times in their past 18 games. And as radio man Chris Kerber pointed out, St. Louis was five points out of the eighth seed at the All-Star break and have gone 3-1-2 since, yet lost four points on the teams ahead of them in the standings.
That's the Western Conference for you.
News didn't get any better Thursday when it was announced that the team put goaltender Jaroslav Halak(notes) on the injured-reserved list with an "upper-body" injury that, according to Blues broadcaster Darren Pang, means the hand injury that kept him out two weeks most recently is not getting any better.
Ty Conklin(notes) has not put up similar numbers in his 15 appearances in St. Louis as he did backing up most recently in Detroit and Pittsburgh, and young Ben Bishop(notes) (recalled Thursday) hasn't played an NHL game in almost two years. Having already pointed out the tightness of the West, the Blues have dug themselves a hole that they likely won't be able to get out of, especially not without a lot of help from the teams ahead of them in the standings.
But even if the Blues find their way into the playoffs and bring in that extra ticket revenue from the "Every Game Counts" promo, there's a feeling that the organization is treading water and overall progress and development of the team is the same as it was when St. Louis was consistently playing postseason hockey.
The Blues hold the record for most consecutive playoff appearances in the NHL with 25. During that time they had colossal failures, like the President's Trophy team that went out in the first round, and overreaching teams that made it to the Conference Finals just twice (winning a total of three games in those two series). They were the worst kind of NHL mediocre -- just bad enough to never threaten for a championship and just good enough to never draft very high. This rebuilt team has apparently put us back on track for more of the same -- just good enough to get beat in the first round of the playoffs and not bad enough to get into the important part of the draft where you get to select a superstar.
Jarmo Kekalainen had the opportunity to use a lot of high draft picks to get impact players into the Blues pipeline. I'd argue that Erik Johnson is still finding his way and that Alex Pietrangelo looks to be the real deal-and possibly the only bona fide future perennial All-Star that he grabbed. The rest of his selections are on track to be excellent NHL second liners. Which is nice, but not quite what this franchise needed.
Now we have a situation where management has to somehow get another team to fall for the ol' quantity-for-quality trick (I'd gladly give you three second-tier players for a superstar scorer. What say you, good sir?) or they have to try to grab one on the free agent market which hasn't exactly been this team's forte lately (Jay McKee(notes) and Paul Kariya still give me night sweats).
That's what could make the upcoming trade deadline interesting for St. Louis.
With pending UFAs in defenseman/captain Eric Brewer(notes) and Conklin, along with a slew of young upcoming RFA's (T.J. Oshie(notes), Patrik Berglund(notes), B.J. Crombeen(notes) among others), the decisions GM Doug Armstrong will have to make before the Feb. 28 deadline and later in free agency period will ultimately decide if the Blues are to make that jump from "more of the same" or a legitimate contender over the next few seasons.