St. Louis Blues Fans Need To Refocus Expectations

ST. LOUIS MO - DECEMBER 01: Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals is checked to the ice by Jay McClement #18 of the St. Louis Blues at the Scottrade Center on December 1 2010 in St. Louis Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

The St. Louis Blues' fast start is a thing of the past. Being the top team in the league is no longer an option; at this point fans should just worry about getting the 8th spot in the West.

Want to know what October was? The answer is simple: A month of false hope. The St. Louis Blues burst out of the gate full of fire and dominance. Thanks to a light schedule, breathtaking goaltending, and timely goals, the Blues emerged as the best team in the league. Power rankings, those meaningless lists, put the Blues atop the NHL. After lean years, it looked like St. Louis was ready to pull a chair up to the big boys' table.

Not quite.

Injuries came and exposed the Blues. Flaws that were hiding in the background during the hot start have become full-blown problems. The offense that was having trouble scoring even when the Blues were winning is still having trouble scoring. The goalie that couldn't be beat is being beat.

Right now that team is 12-9-3 and eighth in the Western Conference. Following the 9-1-2 start, there is a lot of hand-wringing among the Blues faithful. The common questiona are about what's wrong and what it will take to right the ship.

The fans got a sip of success and want to drink some more. It doesn't work like that.

First off, the Blues were never really that good, at least offensively. David Perron has missed 14 games and he is still fifth in goals on the team. If he comes back today and pots a goal, he'll be tied for second. The offense lost Keith Tkachuk and Paul Kariya and the grand plan to replace them was to hope everyone else got better. It hasn't happened.

Perron and T.J. Oshie were having fine seasons, but they weren't exactly lighting the league on fire. Some Blues fans, and apparently Blues management as well, have this image of Perron and Oshie as the Blues' Dynamic Duo—a poor man's Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. And frankly, that's true, since Perron and Oshie are the two best forwards wearing the Blue Note; the only problem is they aren't in the same league as the Red Wings' stars.

Like I said, both are good players, but they are, at best, 70-point guys. As fans, we see them as the most talented Blues and think of 40-goal seasons. The fact is, that will probably never happen.

Oshie and Perron made up two-thirds of the Blues' top line, and both have been on the shelf for some time now. But really, that first line was as good as a top team's second line. The Blues don't have a single game-changing player. They don't have a top-line guy.

The guys who are playing the role of top-line guys—David Backes, Brad Boyes and Andy McDonald—aren't. They are all good, important players, but I don't think you can win with Andy McDonald as a first-line center. Second line? Sure.

And besides, none of those guys is really having a great season. The trio has combined for 18 goals in 24 games. That's replacing Kariya's production, but they still need 55 more goals to match last year's production. Without the top-end talent, the Blues were never going to make a run at the Cup or the President's Trophy. With injuries? Guh... making the playoffs will be a treat.

When the Blues started off so well, some of us pessimistic fans saw the writing on the wall that this run might be unsustainable. Jaroslav Halak is rock-solid in net, but he's not the greatest goalie in NHL history. His numbers were mind-boggingly awesome. But they had to go down (or up—whatever.) He was due for a let-down, and with the offense unable to answer the call, the loses were likely to mount.

It's time for fans to recalibrate their expectations. Those dreaming of a parade down Market need to wake up and smell the cellar. The goal now, as it really was all along, is just to make the dance.

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