Rainbows over the St. Louis Blues

by | Jun 20, 2019

Rainbows over the St. Louis Blues

by | Jun 20, 2019

The St. Blues’ Stanley Cup triumph was a long overdue joy for a team that suffered so many ups and down throughout its star-crossed 52 years of existence. When the puck first dropped on the Blues, Lyndon Johnson was still President, America was embroiled in Vietnam and there were only 12 NHL teams in existence. St. Louis endured three consecutive Stanley Cup finals defeats (the second team in Stanley Cup finals history to do so—the first was Toronto from 1938 to 1940); then near bankruptcy and the annual fear (which lasted for decades) that the Blues might have to shut down or move to another city.

The Blues drafted and/or traded for great players or else signed as free agents: Red Berenson, the Plager Brothers, Gary Unger; Brian Sutter and Bernie Federko; Brett Hull and Adam Oates; Curtis Joseph; or Wayne Gretzky.

They hired great coaching talent like Scotty Bowman, Al Arbour, Emile Francis, Jacques Martin, Mike Keenan, Joel Quennevile, and Ken Hitchcock. They even had great managerial talents like Bowman, Cliff Fletcher, Jim Devellano, Emile Francis, and Ron Caron (all top 50 managers featured in my book The Art of the Dealers: the NHL’s Greatest General Managers) and yet the Cup was always elusive; always just out of reach.

It was long, long time of waiting for the Blues Stanley Cup dreams to come true until finally despite encountering all obstacles; sometimes against their own self-destructive acts; the Blues persevered and triumphed.

For the Blues head coach Craig Berube he was able to do what Scotty Bowman, Al Arbour, Emile Francis, Jacques Martin, Mike Keenan, Joel Quenneville, and Ken Hitchcock couldn’t do: lead the Blues to the Stanley Cup championship (incidentally all of those coaches are top 50 coaches as revealed in this writer’s book Bench Bosses: the NHL’s Coaching Elite).

Berube got his players to move on from poor performances and play with audacity in game seven: forcing turnovers with aggressive fore-checking; pressuring the Bruins in the neutral zone and disrupting their passing; playing team defense and providing goal-tending wunderkind Jordan Binnington with the help needed to stifle Boston’s offense. The Blues sacrificed their bodies: blocking shots and repeatedly ruining potential Bruins scoring chances.

St. Louis needed Jordan Binnington to play the greatest game of his life if they were to win—and he did just that. Playing like Glenn Hall did during the 1967/68 Stanley Cup playoffs (where he won the Conn Smythe trophy) Binnington made the key saves time and time again: seeing the puck well and interposing his body in the puck’s path.

Conn Smythe trophy winner Ryan O’Reilly played his part as well as the piston driving the heart of the Blues offense. Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko complemented O’Reilly perfectly leading the Blues 1-2 in goals scored. Blue-liners Alex Pietrangelo, Colton Parayko, and Carl Gunnarsson were redoubtable on defense (with Pietrangelo helping out offensively as well—leading the Blues in assists throughout the playoffs).

For Blues GM Doug Armstrong his acquisition of O’Reilly will go down as one of the most brilliant trades in Blues history; quite possibly ranking alongside the acquisition of Brett Hull from Calgary in 1988. Winning the Cup was a double blessing for Doug Armstrong. Weeks before he had buried his heartbreak managing streak; now he will see his name etched for the second time in his NHL career on the Stanley Cup (the first time came in 1998/99 when the Dallas Stars won the Cup and Armstrong was the assistant GM of the Stars at the time).

The number of NHL teams which have never won a Stanley Cup has now decreased from 12 to 11. Before they won the Cup St. Louis had the second longest Stanley Cup drought in the NHL (second, again, to Toronto). Now the second longest Stanley Cup drought belongs to Vancouver and the Buffalo Sabres (neither team has never ever won the Cup since their franchise debuts in 1970/71) with the Philadelphia Flyers in fourth place (ouch!)

The 2010s were the decade for ending Stanley Cup droughts (a blessing for competitive balance for the NHL) as the NHL will enter a new decade next season let us hope that trend continues and new teams get to share in the ecstasy of hoisting the Stanley Cup and allow fans in new vistas the unalloyed joy of savoring a Stanley Cup triumph.

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