For the fifth time in six seasons, the St. Louis Blues failed to make the NHL playoffs. With that kind of mark, it may be tough for fans to see the positives that stem from their beloved team. This is where I come in.
The Blues finished the 2010-11 season Saturday night with a 2-0 win over the Nashville Predators. Going 38-33-11, the Blues amassed 87 points which placed them in eleventh place in the Western Conference standings. The Blues do finish with three fewer points than last season; however, there were some bright spots.
The number one question heading into this season was how the Blues would find a way to score goals. Paul Kariya and Keith Tkachuk left the roster and management did little to fill their spots. It seems that they did not need to.
Brought in at the trade deadline last season, Matt D’Agostini was the biggest surprise on the roster. D’Agostini, who’s career-high in goals was 12 in 2008-09 with the Montreal Canadiens, shattered his old mark and put up 21 goals this season. D’Agostini found himself on the top line many games this season, showcasing his strength and fancy puck work. D’Agostini was also the workhorse of the team, joining David Backes as the only two Blues who played in all 82 games this season.
The Blues welcomed back three players who have been out of the lineup for multiple games. Fan-favorite T.J. Oshie was returning from a team suspension (2 games), and forward Alex Steen (10 games) and defenseman Barret Jackman (10 games) were returning from injuries. The Blues also saw a big milestone reached by David Backes.
Backes scored at 14:27 of the second period, which was his 100th career NHL goal after a nice pass from Kevin Shattenkirk. The goal was Backes’ 29th of the season.
The Blues added a goal from Matt D’Agostini, who had the first goal of the game and broke Flames goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff’s Blues shutout streak of 144:41. The power-play goal was assisted by Backes and Shattenkirk and was D’Agostini’s 21st goal of the season.
But it was not enough as the Blues could not hold their lead and fell to the Flames 3-2 in regulation.
Blues young star T.J. Oshie was MIA at practice Monday morning and Head Coach Davis Payne did not seem to be okay with his absence.
Payne called Oshie’s absence “unexcused” and is meeting with GM Doug Armstrong tomorrow to discuss an appropriate punishment.
Oshie’s teammate Patrik Berglund slept in once last season, causing him to miss a team practice. His punishment was being a healthy scratch for the Blues’ next game. A similar punishment is expected for Oshie.
Oshie has posted 10 goals, 20 assists and 30 points in 44 games this season. He missed 31 games earlier this season with a fractured ankle.
Shootouts are making a difference in the game. Was that the original intent?
The shootout debate has been a crutch in NHL conversations for quite some time. The extra shots were brought in as a new way to break ties after overtime concluded just after the lockout in 2004-05. NHL executives determined that shootouts were exciting and that it will add an extra spark in regular season play.
Is that still the case?
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman stated recently that “70% of our fans in the United States and Canada want a decision” instead of a tie after overtime play. Despite this report, there have not been any additional statistics released to back up his words.
While the excitement may remain in the fans, it is very apparent that shootouts are happening way too often in the regular season. Certain players are very close to 60 shot attempts in the shootout. That is an average of 10 attempts per season! Carolina’s Jussi Jokinen has 59 attempts (28 goals), Brad Richards of Dallas has 58 attempts (25 goals) and Blue Jacket Rick Nash has 57 attempts (22 goals). Having that many chances means one thing; teams are getting to the shootout way too often.
Dave Checketts confirmed Wednesday afternoon that he is currently looking to sell his share, as well as TowerBrook Capital Partners’s share, of the St. Louis Blues to another buyer.
The sale would include ownership of the Scottrade Center and the AHL’s Peoria Rivermen.
The financial woes of the Blues started last May, when TowerBrook Capital Partners announced that they wanted to sell their share of the Blues, which equaled approximately 70 percent of the ownership. Checketts searched far and wide for a new financial backer, but it seems that his efforts have gone to the waste side. Checketts announced that he and TowerBrook could not agree on a value of the shares. In turn, Checketts has agreed to put his shares up for sale but will still maintain control until a new owner is found. It will be more attractive to a potential buyer to have near-full ownership. Reportedly, ten percent of ownership will still belong to St. Louis businessman Tom Stillman and other minority partners.
"The bottom line is I've been unable to make a deal with them. As a result, I've got to turn from being a buyer to a seller," Checketts said in a conference call late Wednesday afternoon.
"It's not what I wanted to have happened. But I can't make a deal with [TowerBrook] and we agreed a long time ago that if we got to this spot, then I would have to take this step. And now I have to take this step."