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The pitiful Blues organization

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  • The pitiful Blues organization

    Ultimately, the Blues defeat at the hands of the Sharks wasn't just the end of a season but rather the end of an era. The end of an era that held such promise but ultimately was no different than any other failed era.

    Larry Pleau proved himself to be a small-time general manager. The only critical decisions he made were the sort of small decisions necessary to prevent himself from having to make a big decision. This year's trading deadline, in which he neither bought to make a legitimate Cup run or sold to prepare for the future, was just a microcosm of his work throughout this era. He was never a seller and only occassionally a buyer. Too often, his solution to problems was some low-risk move for a washed up veteran or journeyman minor leaguer who could temporarily fill in. The result was an era full of Brad Shaw, Dave Ellett, Terry Yake, Alexei Gusarov, Stephane Richer, Derek King, Brian Savage, Scott Pellerin, Blair Atcheynum, Ray Ferraro, and Marc Bergevin.

    General managers who build championships--in all sports--do so because they have guts. They aren't afraid to fail. They know that their moves are often high-risk, high-reward. But they know that in order for the reward to be high--a championship--they have to take a big risk. Pleau repeatedly failed to do this.

    Perhaps Pleau psyched himself out of making decisions because the one time he did make a bold move, he botched it so incredibly that the franchise was never able to recover from it. In one trading deadline, he traded away Michal Handzus, Ladislav Nagy, Jeff Taffe, Craig Conroy, and a No. 1 pick for Keith Tkachuk and Cory Stillman. This huge deal was poor on so many levels that I don't even know where to start. First of all, Pleau traded away his No. 2 and No. 3 centers and didn't get a center in return. Pleau apparently thought wastes like Marty Reasoner, Daniel Corso, and Sebastian Bordeleau could play center in the NHL at a high level. The Blues created a monstrous hole down the middle with this deal. Next, he gave up four valuable assets for an $8.3 million player. Less than two months later, the Penguins traded away the four-time defending scoring champion, Jaromir Jagr, for three marginal prospects. Why? Because Jagr made a lot of money and in order to get rid of his contract, Pittsburgh had no choice. Every high-priced player moved from that point forward fetched seemingly little in return...except Tkachuk. Pleau, apparently, was the only general manager in the league who failed to realize this economic shift was taking place. Furthermore, the Blues acquired Stillman, known for floating and taking shifts off; and Tkachuk, known for dumb penalties and playoff disappearances.

    Well, in hindsight, the deals look even worse. The Blues were never able to get much more than checking line production out of Conroy but I would argue that he has been the best player of all moved in those two big deals. He is one of the leaders and the No. 1 center of a Flames team that is on the verge of winning a playoff series for the first time in 15 years. In three full seasons with the Flames, Conroy has scored 75, 59, and 47 points. In almost five full seasons as a Blue, Conroy never scored as many as 45 points. This is an indication that the Blues somehow mishandled Conroy because he has proven since leaving that he was capable of far more than what the Blues were able to coax out of him. Nagy has scored 20 or more goals in all three of his seasons as a Coyote. Handzus has 43 goals over the past two seasons. Since the trade, the trio of Handzus, Conroy, and Nagy nearly equalled the production of Tkachuk and Stillman and did it for a fraction of the cost. Extrapolating the problem even more is that Stillman had a terrific season in 2003-04...with the Lightning. In fact, Stillman scored more points this season than any Blue did. What did the Lightning do to make Stillman such a force that the Blues were unable to do? What did the Flames do to make Conroy such a force that the Blues were unable to do?

    Meanwhile, Tkachuk earned big dollars to be a goal scorer for the Blues. He proved to be big-time in the relatively inconsequential regular season but, as Tkachuk always does, he proved what a small-time player he is in the playoffs. Tkachuk has eight goals in 37 playoff games as a Blue.

    Then there's Pavol Demitra, perhaps the biggest disgrace to ever wear the Bluenote. Despite Demitra's repeated disappearances against quality competition and annually rolling over in the playoffs, Pleau decided to build around him. This is a guy who, while in the AHL, walked out on his team during the playoffs so that he could compete for Slovakia in the Worlds. This is a guy who blamed his pathetic playoff performance in 2003 on a broken finger, then claimed his finger miraculously healed right after the playoffs ended, enabling him to play a week later for Slovakia in the Worlds (hence the nickname "Miracle Fingers"). Such behavior is an obvious reason why this guy should have been traded a long time ago. His talent is irrelevant because he has proven on more than one occassion that he has more allegiance and loyalty to his national team than he does to the team signing his paychecks. In his last 33 playoff games, Demitra has nine goals. Sadly, that is even better than Tkachuk.

    If Tkachuk and Demitra were traded yesterday, it wouldn't have been soon enough. Both are small-time players more concerned with selfish ideals than they are with doing what it takes to win. At this point, it isn't just a coincidence that both are shut down in the playoffs on such a consistent basis.

    Pleau came to St. Louis with the reputation as a good drafter and good at developing young talent. So far, this hasn't been the case. Instead, he's traded away the majority of his good young talent and a plethora of draft picks.

    Pleau managed to dismantle a team that looked like an eventual Stanley Cup contender. The Blues showed character in overcoming a 3-1 series deficit to beat Phoenix, then stretching the eventual champion Dallas Stars to six tough games in 1999. The Blues showed their ability in finishing first overall during the 2000 regular season. The Blues showed the results of their plan by reaching the conference finals in 2001. Rather than build on this success, as general managers in places like Detroit, Colorado, New Jersey, and Dallas have in recent years, Pleau decided to overturn. He dumped key players from that successful era of growth. The reason the Blues chemistry has lagged so much in recent years is because Pleau took a very good team with very good chemistry and overhauled it rather than added to it. When the Red Wings need an upgrade, they add Brett Hull. When the Blues need an upgrade, they replace Pierre Turgeon with Doug Weight. They don't add, they replace.

    And then there is the goaltending debacle. While franchises around the league were able to steal quality young goalies like Miikka Kiprusoff, Jean-Sebastian Giguere, and John Grahame from other franchises, Pleau attempted to win with rejects playing the most important position. Blues goaltenders didn't just lose to the likes of Patrick Roy and Dominik Hasek; they managed to lose to marginal goalies like Dan Cloutier and Steve Shields too. Pleau never adequately addressed the most important position on the ice. Compounding the issue, Pleau somehow managed to give up on a goalie who eventually would reach the conference finals behind a $20 million team (Dwayne Roloson) just two years later.

    It's pretty easy to see why this era was such a failure. Pleau was never able to secure competent goaltending; he gave up the moon to get an overpaid, underachieiving power forward with a knack for disappearing in the playoffs; he built his offense around two forwards who repeatedly fail when it matters most; he relied on washed up veterans to fill holes; he overhauled a good young team rather than build upon it; and he failed to consistently develop quality young players.

    This says nothing of his fostering a culture in which excuses were acceptable. Rather than working harder to get better, the Blues always had some excuse for their failure, as if their own inabilities and deficiencies played no role in their demise. Rather than hold his players accountable, Joel Quenneville would throw his arms up in the air and yell at the referees every time he didn't like a call. This, by extension, led to his players doing the same. The same attitude continued after Quenneville was fired. The Blues never dealt with adversity well because they used adversity as a crutch. It was always the referees fault or some player got injured and once these things happened, the Blues figured there was no way they could win so they just mailed it in. Losing organizations make excuses for their own inadequacies while winning organizations look for solutions for them.

    Larry Pleau probably will continue on as the general manager of the Blues. It's unfortunate because he not only should be fired now but should have been fired after last season's embarrassing playoff defeat. And here's the real kicker: for as much as Pleau and Mark Sauer like to claim that Mike Keenan and Jack Quinn had badly mismanaged the franchise by the time they were fired, Pleau and Sauer have mismanaged the franchise just as much.

  • #2
    IMO, that organization has been star crossed since the departure of Scotty Bowman.
    Make America Great For Once.


    • #3

      Well done.

      E-Mail it to Bernie and watch him piss in his pants.

      That's what he should be writing in Sunday's column.
      And, frankly, it has never occured to me that "winning" a debate is important, or that I should be hurt when someone like Airshark or kah, among others (for whom winning a pseudo debate or declaring intellectual superiority over invisible others is obviously very important) ridicule me.

      -The Artist formerly known as King in KC


      • #4
        Couldn't agree more. I've said it before numerous times, but I'll say it again. For me, the saddest thing this year was that I just didn't give a damn about the Blues this year. That organization has just completely turned me off in the way it's run, and the way most of the players play from an effort standpoint. I got more excited watching the Boston/Montreal series than I did watching the few games of 'my' team this year. And I'm someone that has destroyed numerous hats after Blues playoff losses over the past decade or so.

        With Sauer and Pleau somehow able to survive, I wonder if one/both of them have some compromising pictures of Laurie or something......
        Official sponsor of: Pepsi Zero Sugar and Jordan Almonds.


        • #5

          I seen several ownership groups, numerous GM's, different coaches, and a slough of different players come through the pike. Throughout all that change, the constant has been the lack of playoff success. IMO, this goes beyond the current regime.
          Make America Great For Once.


          • #6
            Hell of a summary Dev.

            Take JD's advice and send it to Bern. It would be the best hockey column he writes this year.
            Sponsor of Alex Pieterangelo.

            ..."I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered." George Best


            • #7
              Good job, Dev.
              When you say to your neighbor, "We're having a loud party on Saturday night if that's alright with you," what you really mean is, "We're having a loud party on Saturday night."


              • #8
                Well spoken, Dev.


                • #9
                  I agree with Dev.

                  Where should they go from here?

                  I'm for getting rid of as much high salaried talent as possible, and restart with young prospects. Who cares about missing post season for a couple of years, especially when they always bow out before the finals, anyway?
                  Make America Great For Once.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Damtoft@Apr 16 2004, 07:27 AM

                    Well done.

                    E-Mail it to Bernie and watch him piss in his pants.

                    That's what he should be writing in Sunday's column.
                    nah - bernie'll recommend this to be passed on to the Sound Off.

                    Bernie is still in with the company boys despite his proclamations.

                    han solo


                    • #11
                      Great analysis, Dev.

                      I thought they could rise up and beat the Sharks, but the Cup is as far away as it's ever been.

                      I think Laurie shares a lot of blame. If he really cared, things would be different - which demonstrates just how wealthy he is (no worries about pissing away tens of millions/year).

                      The Dude abides.


                      • #12
                        Nice dev.

                        My favorite Pavolina story was during a series with the Red Wings back when Osgood was playing for them. I think it was the year Pronger went down after the puck hit him on the chest. Pavol was stoned constantly by Ozzie and Pavol said afterwards something like, "He's just lucky. The puck just hits him in the chest. He's not that great."


                        Dude. Can. Fly.


                        • #13
                          Anyone got an email address they KNOW will reach a Blues executive? I don't want to send one to a "customer service" person- I want to tell someone who's position means something exactly how I feel. Nice summary btw Dev


                          • #14
                            They are untouchable.

                            Only message those people get is a financial message.

                            And there are so many "yuppies" in STL that'll go no matter what because its "the thing to do."
                            When you say to your neighbor, "We're having a loud party on Saturday night if that's alright with you," what you really mean is, "We're having a loud party on Saturday night."


                            • #15

                              I think there's something else important to note. The style of play the blues play, i.e. highly restrictive, does not play to the modern NHL player. Tampa, Detroit, Colorado all play more open styles that utilize the speed and skill of todays players. Quenneville and Kitchen's current system create slow paced, muck and grind play. It is painful to watch the Blues attempt and fail to gain each of the three zones time and time again. The Blues need a coach that opens up the game if the current players aren't so held back by their current responsibilities. If the current team is kept in tact, then a new coach and system is required. If not, trade them all and let the cheaper, young guys we get try to live up to their potential.