Tuesday, September 6, 2011

30 Fans in 30 Days: Ann & the St. Louis Blues

As a lead-up to the new season, here at HockeyBroad we'll both be reviewing How Teams Spent Their Summer Vacation, and also profiling one fan from each team's fandom, covering 30 Teams In 30 Days. The teams will be profiled in order determined by their points standing last season, highest to lowest, with the exception of Chicago, which will be profiled last to coincide with the date of their Training Camp Festival.

Team 19 of 30: the St. Louis Blues



HOW THE BLUES SPENT THEIR SUMMER VACATION

The Blues finished 11th in the West last season, once again missing the playoffs. The team that holds the honor of the 3rd-longest playoff appearance streak (1980-2004) has only appeared once in the post-season since the lockout - and they were swept out in the first round by the Vancouver Canucks. St. Louis has been in "rebuilding" mode for six years, but sometimes, it's a little hard to tell.

Last season, the team had acquired playoff sensation goalie Jaroslav Halák from Montréal. But, like their Central division rivals, the Chicago Blackhawks, the Blues were plagued by injuries to several of their top players. A good goalie can steal games for you, but he can't do it all by himself.

In one of the biggest surprises of late-season trades, in February, the Blues traded players with the imploding Colorado Avalanche, sending Erik Johnson and Jay McClement along with a conditional draft pick in return for up-and-coming Chris Stewart and standout rookie defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. The Blues weren't done dealing, and by the time they finished, they'd traded away several players, including their Captain.

But what they brought back was production and more importantly, playoff experience in the form of Jamie Langenbrunner and Jason Arnott. These two players should have significant impact in the locker room as well as on the ice.

Who will wear the "C" next? Chances are good for David Backes, who's been with the team for five years and has been a steady producer and leader.

The other question that hangs over the team's heads is ownership. In March, it was announced that the Blues were for sale. They've been a major presence in the St. Louis sports scene since their creation, but they've never won a Cup, they haven't been serious playoff contenders in years, and attendance has been suffering. This team needs a turn-around season in more ways than one.
New to team - listed on current roster/team acquired from: Jason Arnott (WSH), Brian Elliot (COL), Kent Huskins (SJ), Jamie Langenbrunner (DAL), Scott Nichol (SJ)
Players who appeared in games for the team during the 2010-11 season that have been traded or not re-signed/(team now signed with): Eric Brewer (TBL), Ty Conklin (DET), Cam Janssen (NJ), Erik Johnson (COL), Nathan Oystrick (PHX)
Can the Blues leap directly from floundering around the bottom half of the Western Conference to being a playoff contender? It's a possibility. The Blues play a hard, physical style that has been the bane of the Central division for years - but they can also score. (Just ask Detroit, who suffered a whopping 10-3 loss at St. Louis on March 30th) The Blues picked up some very good talent, both late in the season and over the summer, and in Halák, they have a goalie that is proven to be able to steal entire series in the post-season.

St. Louis is likely to be a dangerous dark horse in the Western Conference this year, assuming they can stay healthy, and once they've smoothed out the early season bumps from having so much turnover in and leadership changes the past few months.


* * * 

photo courtesy of Ann/@Annabelle151
For the Blues, we talked with Ann (found on Twitter at @annabelle151), who writes about the Blues at You’re My Boys, Blues on the Aerys Sports site.

Let’s talk a little about your fandom for the Blues.

I’ve been a fan for almost two years now, which is fairly short in the grand scheme of things.

One of my favorite memories was actually not even during a game. Though I’m not a season ticket holder (yet), a friend of mine was able to get ahold of tickets to get into the STH festival the Blues hold every year. The year I went, it was a giant carnival complete with blow up games, and players stationed all over Scottrade signing autographs and taking pictures. I was still a very new fan, and knew I liked watching these guys play, but meeting them and chit-chatting with a couple of them helped me make a personal connection with the team that I hadn’t had with any other sport. It was also fairly cool to see one of my pictures with Cam Janssen end up on the front of the STH booklet for this season.

Which player that your team signed/acquired this summer are you most excited to see take the ice this season?

It’s actually a combination of Langenbrunner and Arnott. Both signings were announced on the same day, and they both addressed serious needs the Blues had in both forward depth and veteran status. I can’t wait to see the affect they’ll have on the team both on and off the ice.

Taking into consideration your team's performance last year/recently, and any player/personnel (coaches, GMs, ownership) changes made in the past few months, talk about your team in 2011-2012: How do you think they've improved (or made worse)? What do they need to work on? If the team has lost their captain, who do you think will wear the "C" next?

photo courtesy of Ann/@Annabelle151
At this point the Blues have a lot of pretty looming questions. We don’t know who will get the “C,” we don’t know who will own the team, we don’t know when or if David Perron will come back, we don’t know how the new guys will fit in, and we don’t know if the team can stay healthy all season long.

That said, I am (cautiously) optimistic with the team. Armstrong has been able to acquire players that addressed needs while still taking into consideration the possibility that Perron wouldn’t be available (which it’s nearly certain he won’t be). They signed guys who are absolute work-horses, who are willing to put in some serious ice time as well as provide a veteran mentality that the team, which before the end of the season had an average age of 23, hasn’t had a lot of experience with.

They picked up goalie Brian Elliott, who is going to have to compete with Ben Bishop for the backup job, and given last season, both goalies should know just how quickly that backup job could be taken away.

The competition that they created within the team will motivate every single guy out there, new and old, because if they don’t work, they don’t play. Not to mention the many number of guys hanging out in Peoria, a measly couple hours away, just waiting to get in with the big club and prove they can stay. Along with all that, the contracts (or lack thereof) to the current roster made a huge statement. TJ Oshie only got a year-long extension, which sent an unmistakably clear message to him. Get your act together, or don’t get paid. I think he will finally show us the Oshie we’ve been waiting a couple years to see (for the full 82 games). The way the Blues started the 2010-11 season I think speaks volumes to what this team is capable of if they stay healthy. The key will be to push through and still win even if those injuries occur again.

Since we can’t predict the future about the health of the players on the ice though, it seems like Blues fans everywhere have pretty much one question on their mind. We’re not curious about who will own the team. We don’t pay to see the owners. We want to know who the Captain will be, and I’d be willing to put money on the fact that the LARGE majority of us would like to see David Backes take the honor. He’s been the leader in our eyes for ages, even before Brewer was traded to the Lightning. He was the man who received All-Star honors right on the coat tails of being able to play for the United States in the 2010 Olympics. He’s the player who was at the Blues table during the draft. He’s who’s mentioned first in Blues articles just about everywhere. He is my number one choice for Captain, hands down.

Though there are so many unanswered questions, they’re ones that we’ll only have to wait a little longer to get answers to. Hockey season is taking too long to get here.

Whether or not you think your team will make the playoffs, where do you predict your team will place within their conference? (1st-15th)

8th in the Western Conference

What was your favorite moment for your team last season?

Watching them beat Detroit 10-3, which included a Cam Janssen goal. It was a ridiculously fun game to watch.


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