Hot August Nights: St. Louis Blues

by J.R.

neilstlThis week, III Communication presents “Hot August Nights.” At one minute past sundown local time we’ll be reviewing the off-seasons of each Conference III team using the songs of American legend Neil Diamond.

Tonight, it’s off to the real Arch City and the St. Louis Blues.

Our good buddy Dave suggested “Done Too Soon,” which, as he noted, on title alone makes sense, but that song is just a litany of people who died young and it would have been awful hard to frame commentary around that, so instead it’s Neil’s signature song (and yes, this is his signature, not this) “I Am…I Said.”

L.A.’s fine, the sun shines most the time and the feeling is “lay back”

After getting bounced by the Kings in a predictably entertaining series, the Blues front office gandered at the roster and thought, eh, things are probably pretty much A-OK here. They found themselves still a step behind Chicago, perhaps, but it’s fair to say they are the second best team in Conference III as they were built at the end of the 2013 season.

But you know I keep thinkin’ about making my way back

The Blues re-upped with Chris Stewart and Jay Bouwmeester, the latter of whom liked the playoffs so much he signed an extension a year early. Neither of those are shock-the-world kind of deals, but in a broad sense, it encapsulates what the Blues are trying to do in keeping a roster that was good-enough last season.

I’m lost between two shores

You know what’s between two shores? The center. And St. Louis is in the center. And since Dallas and Nashville seemed so committed to loading up on centers, St. Louis built their middle, too. The Blues added Keith Aucoin, Derek Roy and Maxim Lapierre, all of which makes sense in light of Jesse Spector’s great assessment of the Blues’ strategy: “annoy you until you do something dumb.”

Did you ever read about a frog who dreamed of bein’ a king and then became one?

No real surprise as secret Quebecois David Perron was traded to Edmonton for Magnus Paajarvi and a conditional second. Perron was allegedly dingle-dangled at the draft and the Blues needed to salary dump. Paajarvi could be useful and opens up some different opportunities for the flashy Vladimir Tarasenko.

But I got an emptiness deep inside

The Blues weren’t primed to do much at the draft with just four picks and none until the 47th. They picked up a Minnesota school boy, a skillful guy from the Q (aren’t they all? — nope), a St. Louis native and a Finnish offensive blueliner.

But it won’t let me go

There’s one thing the Blues still haven’t done and when they do it, it’ll be the most important move of the year for them. The team has yet to get top-flight young defenseman Alex Pietrangelo signed to a new deal. He’s being publicly optimistic and says he has no plans to hold out, but as yet, the deal isn’t done. He’s a restricted free agent and if no one is coming at him with a huge deal to force the Blues’ hand, then what’s the damn point of RFA status anyway?

“I am”… I cried. “I am”… said I

So what to think? If the Blues are happy to wear the silver to Chicago’s gold, they did just fine. They beefed a bit up the middle, dumped Perron, re-signed J-Bo (with whom they were well-pleased) and didn’t shake-up a roster too much from a team that was just fine last year. With Ken Hitchcock, the team is well-coached and they have an identity they don’t need to figure out. Each of the added pieces fit that identity. Injuries notwithstanding of course, this is a team that will finish safely in second, easily ahead of whomever clings to third, but won’t really offer a sustained threat to the Hawks.

Check back tomorrow at 8:15 Central as we review Winnipeg in the final edition of Hot August Nights