Four days after Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong orchestrated a blockbuster trade with the Colorado Avalanche, the first head-to-head match-up between the two teams is tonight. Chapter one of “Who Made The Best Deal” begins, but it is not the major storyline tonight.
This was not a trade made because a team was up against the cap. It was not a trade made to dump salary of a rental player. It was an old-fashioned hockey trade. Except for Jay McClement, this was a trade of young players who have not hit their full stride in the NHL, and as most analysts have put it, a “Gutsy” move in hopes they fill their potential.
This was not a case of either team completely giving up on their own player. But it can be a case of those teams believing their player has not progressed as quickly as they would have liked. Looking at the current situation of both the Blues and the Avalanche, the case can be made that neither team could afford to wait any longer either.
Both teams had needs. The Blues need scoring depth. They don’t have it in the organization after the trade of Lars Eller this off-season, and the type of player to expect Phillip McRae to be is still unclear. Vladimir Tarasenko is in the wings, but there is always the uncertainty of when he will decide to play in North America. That’s why he dropped in the draft in the first place. The Blues had depth at defense, and the strong emergence of Alex Pietrangelo eased any anxiety in moving Erik Johnson. Plus the addition of Kevin Shattenkirk ensures the Blues don’t leave a hole on the defensive roster and he may develop into a real strong NHL player.
Colorado needed defense. They have some talented young players, but are missing size along the blue-line and with Adam Foote creeping closer to retirement, they needed a cornerstone D man. IN a 3-0 loss to San Jose in his first game with Colorado, Johnson played 26 plus minutes. They believe they got that cornerstone in Johnson, and they may have. It is some of the first non-injury related adversity Johnson has faced in his young career, and as the NHL has seen many times, a move like this can be quite a jump start. He is motivated, and as he put it, he wants to, “Make Doug Armstrong regret trading me.”
There are a lot more ancillary aspects to this trade, and it will be a long time before the true merits of this deal come to fruition. Both teams changed the make-up of their struggling franchises with the deal and it is a big story line in tonight’s game. But if it becomes the major story line, the Blues will have let an opportunity go.
The major storyline tonight is a win. Having squandered a big chance to gain two points in yesterday’s game against Chicago, the Blues must rebound and get two tonight. If the former player storyline becomes too much of a focus, the Blues could lose more ground in the playoff race. They can’t let it happen. Colorado has been a nearly unbeatable for the Blues the last two seasons but that has to change tonight. Ty Conklin will start in goal and has to rebound from being pulled against Anaheim. The penalty kill has to keep the puck out of the net, and the power play must continue it’s surge in the last 5 games. A win tonight for the Blues can move them to three points out with some help tonight, and that is critical to their playoff hopes with a Western Canadian trip looming.
There is no doubt the players traded at 1 am this past Saturday morning will play a big role in the game tonight, but the main storyline is the two points needed to keep the playoffs in sight for the Blues.