Monday, July 05, 2004


Pavol Demitra is Free while the Blues Continue into the Abyss.

Pavol Demitra is free!

In a cost-cutting measure, the top-heavy St. Louis Blues decided not to accept the $6.5mil option on Demitra�s contract, so he�ll be joining the likes of Glen Murray and Paul Kariya in the NHLPA�s version of a soup kitchen.

The Blues have had a good run of decent success over the years, as they have made the playoffs every year since 1980, and currently hold the longest running playoff streak in hockey.

Even so, the Blues have never been able to come really close to the big prize, and their payroll structure makes it somewhat hard for the Blues to acquire more quality players to supplement the superstars.

Out of their overall payroll of $61.2mil...

...$39.0mil (63%) of that was tied up in just 5 players.

Now, if the NHL is pushing for a cap of around $40mil, and other teams like Tampa Bay and Calgary were succeeding with payrolls around $35mil, then the Blues certainly aren�t getting their bang for their buck, and they are in a spot of trouble.

Sure, some would say that the stars of the game deserve the big bucks, but piling up most of your payroll into just a few players will make it hard for most franchises to succeed. (Though I�d question your sanity if you really thought Tkachuk was worth $10mil)

How can one succeed with a top-heavy structure?
If you are Anna Nicole Smith, you appear in Playboy, but if you are the Blues, you draft young and cheap players, and sign undervalued role players who do their jobs well.

Once upon a time, when the Blues were winning the Presidents� Trophy, the Blues had quite a few good and cheap players to supplement their stars: Ladislav Nagy, Michal Handzus, Lubos Bartecko, Jeff Finley, Jamal Mayers, Mike Eastwood, Scott Young, Craig Conroy, Scott Pellerin, and Alexander Khavanov to name a few.

So, what went wrong? Why didn�t they truly succeed?

Pleau knows that his team is only barely afloat above the 8th place playoff line, and that he will eventually need to lower costs and get a stronger overall roster if the Blues are going to be true contenders.

Since 4 of the 5 contracts couldn�t be offloaded elsewhere (unless MacInnis retires), Demitra was the (un)fortunate cast-off when the Blues couldn�t find any takes in a trade. Given the fact that even the Kings wouldn�t re-quality Palffy, it�s easy to see why the Blues couldn�t find anyone willing to take Demitra, even for free.


Now, I�m torn. Those who know me know that Demitra is, by far, my favourite hockey player.

I�m a Demitra fan.

I�m also a Blues that order.

I certainly have an attachment to the Blues, but that attachment has grown thin over the years as GM Pleau has basically tossed aside the strong Slovak contingent the Blues once had and tried to turn the Blues into his version of Team USA. It doesn�t help that Pleau traded one of my favourites (Handzus) for one of my least-favourites (Tkachuk), and that Pleau has constantly pissed away chances at the cup by making such heady deadline deals as acquiring Stephane Richer, Dave Ellett, Derek King, and Brian Savage. Even then, this divorce is not something I have looked forward to.

(And what do I do with my DEMITRA Blues sweater? Anyone want to buy it?)

Blues fans, especially those suffering from �childhood trauma�, have made the quiet Demitra a prime scapegoat. Demitra, Igor Kravchuk, Michal Handzus, and Sasha Khavanov have never been given the respect they deserve from Blues fans. It seems the American Midwest is still stuck in the cold war era, because their anti-Slavic sentiment has always shone through, for the most part. Either the Slavic players are derided (Check out for your fill of anti-Khavanov propaganda), or just not celebrated. Demitra has been one of the best offensive players in the NHL for years, but Blues fans have never embraced him nearly the same as their white-bread players like MacInnis, Weight, Plager, or even Kelly Chase. Most Blues fans I�ve talked to seem rather happy that Demitra is gone...�Just another soft European�.

Add to the fact that Demitra�s body language, injuries, and recent play suggest that he seems somewhat unhappy and frustrated with his current surroundings, and perhaps it is a good time for a change.

In this instance, I dare not dream that Demitra could ever land in Vancouver. The Canucks anti-Slovak organizational policy is now in full effect (0 Slovaks in the entire roster), and the Canucks aren�t a team that is going to open up to sign any free-agent player that will command over $3mil a season, with the exception of North Vancouver�s Paul Kariya (a money-grubbing shill who will go to the highest bidder, no doubt).

I fear that Demitra will end up with a team that I just cannot cheer for. When my former favourite player, John Vanbiesbrouck went from Florida to Philly (a team I used to hate with a passion due to Lindros and Clarke), it felt like a part of me died that day. I could just not cheer for Vanbiesbrouck with the same passion, and it never �felt the same� to see him wearing the pukey-orange of the Flyers.

If Demitra were to end up with the Leafs, Stars, Wings, or Avalanche, I would probably feel like throwing myself out of my 25th floor office window. I�m not sure if I could �follow� Demitra to those clubs.

At least I can take solace in the fact that Demitra won�t be a New York Ranger. According to the Hockey Rodent,
in a Slovak television interview Thursday, unrestricted free agent Pavol Demitra revealed that he had indeed received a "solid offer" from the Blueshirts - but that he would not go to New York "no matter what the price."

(In fact, it appears the Rangers, once a haven for the overpaid UFAs, have done their best to alienate potential candidates. The Hockey Rodent has some good stuff in that regard.)


If I had to guess where Demitra might end up...

1. Los Angeles - The Kings decided not to re-up Palffy, who apparently wants to live on the (l)East coast. The Kings also lost Deadmarsh to concussions and Allison as well. They will need some offense up front, and Demitra would be a good (and cheaper) replacement for Palffy. Demitra could join his Slovak buddy Visnovsky and enjoy some sunshine and plastic surgery.

2. Florida - I know the Panthers have a tighter wallet than Scrooge McDuck, but Keenan has the owners� ear, and will want to acquire some veteran talent to improve the Panthers playoff hopes. Keenan liked Pavol when he was coaching the Blues (even using him on PK), so there may be a chance�I own a Panthers sweater, which still needs some this would be a good fit :]

3. St. Louis - OK, it�s not likely, but it�s not impossible that Demitra could be back with the Blues at a lower salary. How would you like it if your boss fired you because of your salary, but asked you back at a lower wage? That�s just too much of an ego blow for most people, although most people don�t make $6.5mil a year. If Demitra is still happy in St. Louis, he may try and find a way back.

Certainly, it is too hard to predict the current NHL market right now, and I never thought of the day when Demitra would become �free�. If Demitra doesn�t end up in Vancouver or St. Louis, I just hope the evil hockey gods don�t have him sign with the Wings, or some other �evil� team.

I probably should feel some excitement about his current situation, but all I feel is fear and uncertainty�and a twinge of sadness. This is one divorce that occurred a little too early for me.

I need a hug :(

hmmm I should have gotten writting credits for the first half of the article instead of mearly an insertion (of sorts) lol. the second half of the article is just wrong.

seems a little antislovicdisestablisment fear is slipping it.

I'll deal with the russians first.

The Blues russian have sucked. first attempt was to trade for a "stud russian defensense man with offensive abilities." he sucks and lasts a year. we then draft three russians, 2 of them suck bad and are out of hockey wiuthin 3 years, one is moderaly ok, and after about 5 years in the nhl he is a respectable second/third line offensive player. by then he isnt a blues. Sasha sucks. It amazes me that people who don't watch 75 or more blues game a year over sasha's career somehow have a vastly better understanding of the man than those of us who love the blues and watch him everyday . what are you basing his "goodness" on? or his lack of deserving the bashing? he is an offensive one demential player. as his offensive numbers are so-so considering he can't check and is HISTORICALLY THE WORSE PLUS/MINUS d-man on the team. If he scored like coffey or duchene then his defense would be tolerable, since he scores typically as the 3rd best on our team, his lack of skills, his fear of the check, his turnovers, and his attitude are simply not tolerated.

Now the blues turn two slovaks into KT (who is not beloved in st louis), That did however fill the power forward the team had (supposedly). how is that blues fans dumping on them? I did specifically report that the Zus love was over-rated, that once the league stopped chasing the slovacs into the corner their usefullness as a line combination was less than many thought. I additionally said that Handzus is a good two way center but nothing else. THat is not criticism, and it is prety accurate (zus was a 3rd/4th line center on a team deep at that position), however that does not indicate a bias by trading the player. Weight and KT both cost the blues young players with at least some talent. The Weight trade involved no slovacs, Weight was overpaid (like kt) and has done nothing int he playoffs and is berated for it. But that information doesnt fit a smug "st louis hates eurotrash" vision we are treated too.

the best arguements showing the professed hatred is inane are the follow two.

a) turgeon, stillman, hull, sean hill and steve duschene. what you say? PT is the perfect foil for this arguement. PT made LESS than demitra, POINTED BETTER in both playoffs and regular season, was contractually treated EXACTLY like pavol ( a string of minor contracts requiring pt pick up his game or he would eventually be dropped threats). PT did not get the team over the hump, was rather a one diminsional player, and was shit-canned (and blamed). if it was true that there was some bias, how do pt and demitra get the same treatment from the team and its fans? that doesnt even mention hull and steve and stillman, all not getting it done in the playoffs, all offense only based players, all with apparently decent overall playoff numbers. Yet all disappeared in the series (on in pt and pavol's cases serieS) where the blues needed to step up there game but did not.

b) the blues organizationa and the fans contuinue to welcome euros to the team when we get them. Backman is an excellant example. Here is a kid who bucked the desires of the organization for 2 seasons, refusing to go ahl. plays a handfull of games in the nhl last year, looking like a deer in the head lights when he suited up. Yet he vastly improved this season and many fans, and the team are now very excited about him. (although he too, needs to learn to take and give nhl checks to continue his journey) and the team has no problem relyting on currently lackluster cajanek and sejna. Strangely enough had Demtra been able to play with either of those two he might still have a job or the blues might have won more than one playoff game this season

ulitimately it makes me wonder about the state of slovakian/russian hockey that there is such teeth nashing whenever a team moves one of them. of how little blame there are allowed to bare for repeated team failures.

Zus is beloved because he knows where the defensive end is. he is the only one. but perhaps that makes sense now. no one else Jez defends that the fans dislike (and zus/nagy were not disliked, merely tradeable) actually play d. are sloviak games 12-10 affairs or do they merely stop playing d for the blues? and we are supposed to be ok with that?

and lets not even get into the facts that show demitra could have been traded or dropped many years in a row, but the blues did not do that.
I don't know where to start. hmmm

first off I should have been given by-line rights for the first half of the article (although i did get a mention, if anyone knows who i am). the second half is completely wrong about st louis, its fans, and its euros.

let me start by giving the strongest case. ANYONE who wants to jump a "st louis is trashing my favorite no western player arguement" needs to deal with pierre turgeon. Pierre was treated EXACTLY like pavol. he recieved several short term contracts, was often told his playoff performance needed to be improved, and ultimately was allowed to leave soley on his ineffectiveness to promote the team to the third round of the playoffs (and all those pt lovers then can see Dallas signed him at "market rate" treatened to waive him if pt didnt agree to a contract buyout adn were stuck with someone they could not use in a playoff run. hey maybe st louyis hates frogs too! dude we don't even know what FROGS ARE! seriously, the french candian bias the candians have is bizarre and needed explaination. "dude! they sound like frogs when they talk!" "what?!?!" "frogs they talk like frogs!!" "ummm. ok i'm fgoing to end this conversation....".

fine pt was a frog. yea that explains it. well, then explain Brett Hull (acesd after a playoff dissapearance in one of the blues most likely cup runs with steve duschense and others). Cory Stillman. Sean Hill. Steve Duschene. Martin Rucinsky. et al.

Why should Pavol be treated any better than any of them? witht he possible except of stillman (a slacker with a streaky scoring touch) he brought nothign more substaincial to the team, he produced nothing more spectacular for the fans, and ultmately he made more than most of the list.

the other point is that we traded a few slovacks to gain a "premiere" power forward? hardly evidence of hate. the trade was mixed but generally agreed to by the fans at the time. It is not loved anymore. Kt (and even doug wight) are not fan favorites anymore and have the same stigma as Pavol has. If i had to guess, I'd say more knowledgable fans hate kt more than Pavol. life is life. and kt was hated by lots of people in p-nix, and despised by quite a collection of people in quebec when he was there. I also pointed out WHEN THE TRADE WAS MADE that the slovacs were figured out by the nhl to some extent making them less powerful a unit and certianly tradable. I also mentioned that Zus was a solid two way center but no more. solid 2 way center is ripping on him?!?! i think not. solid two way centers are... well solid two way centers they have nhl jobs for life. Zus was the 3rd/4th center this last season on a deep team at that position. that indicates i was correct. nagy was underdeveloped when we had him, took 4 years after the trade to mature, and in print the yotes organization has reported that playing with his fellow slovaxcs made nagy a follower and not a leader, that removing him from zus (and demitra by extension) finally got the kid ot turn on his own style and odminate. I'd also poitn out he has done nothing of value when it counted, and nothing of value when expected. if he still is pumping out stats like this down the road AND winnign playoff series we can talk.

ok lets now deal with the russians. the blues import a "stud offensive russian" to the team and he flat out sucks. plays for the blues for a single year. is out of hockey. They then draft 3 of them together. 2 of them are complete crap and out of hockey soon. one is eventualyl a usable second line offense only minded player. byt then he is rightfully traded. BLues pick up "stud" offensive d-man in igor. his blues years are the worse of his career. he is UPGRADED in the offseason to stevie d (later to be cut for playoff failures after a monster season). is jes claiming stevie d wasn't an IMPRESSIVE upgrade over igor? Nope. is he crying that the blues organization (and in some respects its fans) short shafted a WELL PERFORMING Stevie D (nope) hmmm must be a jes bias. Stevie d ain't no russian!

now we come to Sasha. A complete bum. I'd like to know what his supporters are going to use to lift him up as someone those of us who have seen him play livce and on tv a few hundred times are missing the boat on. He can't check. he fears contact, he turns over the puck in key situations deep in his own end. he is almost always the blues worse plus/minus d-man, he eats ice time better served for bachman, salvadore, hell even slug finley (in non playoff situations) generally provides better postional results. Are we to overlook all those flaws because he is "offensive minded"? HA! had he ever had a paul coffey season, or even a stevie d season, maybe we would accept his flaws, but his offensive output is adequate at best in its own rights and never allows his flaws to be acceptable.

but lets shit can sasha and get it over with.

so that makes the blues or the fans anti russian, or euro? hardly.

first off had pavol been able to play with either sena or cajaneck he MIGHT have a job, the blues certianly would have performed better and won more than one playoff game this year. in addition, not only are the blues and its fans reling on young euros, but a vast contingent of us love backman already. he is, perhaps the real thing. this is desite him NOT listening to the blues organization and playing more in the ahl. this is despite him being a deer in the headlights during his brief nhl call ups last year. Backman does need to leearn to take a check and give one, but even should he fail, at least his promise of true offense might get him some slack in those areas, and deservedly so UNLIKE SASHA. In addition, the team drafted euros adn russian d-men yet again.

so in the end, if anyone can support the following WITH ACTUAL FACTUAL CASES they are welcome to pat jes on the back.

a) the organization has given up on euros due to past failures. they don't draft, keep, or play youngster form that region

b) weight and kt have sucked as bad as the euro demitra but they are beloved in st louis (bahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. yea find their love donw here!)

c) pavol was treated worse than p.t. while occuping the same money position, and slot (offensive forward)

d) teams are lining up offering the blues studs in return for the obviously gifted "next paul coffee" sasha k.

and to quote a great blues fan, writting an imaginitive goodbye form our beloved turek (hey we were right about him too eh!! and AMERICAN brent johnson as well by the by)

I go now!
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