Building from the ground up

28Feb07

There is plenty of debate about who won and who lost at the trade deadline, but lost in the shuffle is the fact that the St. Louis Blues actually took a number of assets and turned it around into something very substantial for the future. Let’s take a look at what came and went:

On the way out
Bill Guerin (RW)
Keith Tkachuk (LW)
Dennis Wideman (D)

In return
San Jose 2007 1st rounder
Atlanta 2007 1st rounder
Atlanta 2007 3rd rounder
Atlanta 2008 2nd rounder
Potential Atlanta 2008 1st rounder (if Tkachuk re-signs there)
Brad Boyes
Ville Nieminen
Glen Metropolit
Jay Barriball

Ville Nieminen and Glen Metropolit are, for better or worse, nothing but depth players and won’t fit into the big picture. Brad Boyes, however, was considered a cornerstone of the Bruins franchise just one season ago. Sure, he’s having a sophomore slump, but that’s not exactly unusual for any player. Boyes has great passing vision and should learn a ton from being around a classy veteran who plays a similar style like Doug Weight. If all goes right, Boyes could develop into the Blues long-term top-line center in two or three seasons. By then, TJ Oshie‘s flashy skills may have developed into NHL-caliber abilities, giving the Blues two effective and creative centers.

Jay Barriball is an unknown commodity. He’s only 5’9″ but Martin St. Louis proved that with enough speed and dedication, you can still be a leader in the league at that size. Barriball is currently leading his NCAA team in scoring. Will that translate into something more? Who knows, but it’s better than acquiring a prospect who is doing terribly, right?

Then there’s the draft picks. The Blues will have three 1st rounders in the 2007 draft. While it’s considered a weaker draft, that’s still a ton of assets that could be packaged off into, well, pretty much anything. The Blues can take a look down the pipeline, get some feelers out there to see who’s available, and offer up a dearth of assets for what they need. With unrestricted free agency getting lower and lower, it’s become pretty easy to grab a player in his prime a la Chicago and Martin Havlat.

By signing Eric Brewer to an extension (who played much better in the second half of the season), the Blues have a pretty good foundation at D with him, Barrett Jackman, and Erik Johnson. Obviously any sort of turnaround will take at least a season, but the blueline should be stable for the future. This kind of depth made Wideman expendable, and I still can’t understand why the Bruins gave up on Boyes so easily (other than the fact that the Bruins have a recent history of being pretty dumb).

The Blues management must have been listening to Morrissey singing “I know it’s going to happen someday” these past few weeks because the groundwork is in place for some optimism. Since they only really gave up expendable assets, it’s pretty easy to say that, it’s easy to say that in a roundabout way, the St. Louis Blues were a winner at the trade deadline. Sure, they won’t win the Cup this season or next season or maybe even five years from now, but what they’ve done is stockpiled potential in the form of quality young talent and picks. Of course, Andy Murray, John Davidson, and Larry Pleau still have to develop and manage those assets properly, but it’s much better to start from a solid foundation instead of aimless floundering (like a certain Original Six team out of Boston).

And if nothing else, Blues fans can be happy with the fact that the team cut ticket prices for next season. Now, if only they could put in a few more of those “All you can eat!” nights.

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