Lists are the crutch of writers. When we can't think of ideas for a real column, we turn to the tried and true list format.
With the NHL offseason dragging on and on, there is really not a lot going on in the world of the Blues. All the players have signed and the front office has pretty much said the roster that they have now (the same one they had a month ago) is the same one that will be around once the season finally starts. Things are dull.
Like a kid on Christmas Eve, or the eve of one's birthday—something I know a little about today—I can't wait for the new season to begin. To stick with the winter theme, a new season is like a field after a snowfall. It's clear and untouched by the hoodlums (Red Wings). Want to know why I'm excited about the upcoming season? Here are my five reasons.
1. Jaroslav Halak
My favorite Blue growing up was Curtis Joseph. After he left, the Blues turned to Grant Fuhr. After that it was a cast of misfit goalies — career backups and former Wings. None of them were exciting, most were infuriating. Enter Jaro.
I first really saw Halak play during the Olympics, when the Slovaks beat the Russians. I watched that game because, at the time, I thought Russia was going to dominate everyone. Instead, Halak was awesome and Slovakia stole the game.
At only 25 years old, Halak is just starting to get the feel of this goalkeeping thing. Frankly, I'm excited to watch him wear the Blue Note. After the Olympics and his playoff run with the low-seeded Canadiens, I have high hopes for Halak. He seems to be the answer to the Blues' goaltending woes, which have dated back to those ugly fire-engine red road sweaters.
2. A full year of Davis Payne
The Jury of Joe may still be out on whether or not Payne is the right man for the job, but I sure did like what I saw last year. He used all four lines and refused to be a slave to matchups. Ask Brad and Gallagher over at Game Time and they'll tell you I love Jay McClement, but even I was tired of seeing him under Andy Murray.
Payne lets his best players play the most—not his best defensive players play the most. You can't win if you don't score, and Murray didn't seem to get that. Murray's style was pre-lockout, where defense wins nine times out of 10, but Payne is a more modern coach; he's young, and he gets that speed and offense win most of the time in today's game. I'm anxious to see what he does in his first real year as head coach.
3. Eric Brewer
Don't adjust your monitor, you read that right. I, a St. Louis Blues fan, am excited to watch Eric Brewer play hockey. Why? Simple: He's healthy and he's about to become a free agent.
He seems like he's been around forever, but Brewer only turned 31 in April. He's still youngish, which means he's playing for that last big contract. As a soon-to-be unrestricted free agent, I'm looking to see Brewer have a big season. I mean, a top-four defenseman with captain's experience could command quite a contract next summer. Brewer has every reason to come into camp in shape and ready to shine.
And, for the first time in a few years, Captain Roboto is healthy. All summer long we haven't once heard about his struggles to lift his kids. Instead, his back and body should allow him to get in great shape. Fearless prediction: He gets a Best Shape of His Career feature written about him in September.
4. Make or break year for the kids
Keith Tkachuk is gone. So too is Paul Kariya. For better or worse, this team belongs to David Backes, David Perron, T.J. Oshie, Erik Johnson, etc.
The young kids didn't like Murray, so he was tossed in favor of a more kid-friendly coach, and the focus will be on the kids now that most of the vets are gone. Really, there is no one left to blame now. If Patrik Berglund continues to struggle, it won't be because Murray was playing him with Brad Winchester. The pressure is on the kids, and frankly, that's a good thing.
It seemed as though a lot of the players thought two things last year: They were better than they were, and they could turn it on at any moment. We know now that neither of these things are true. This season they know how hard they have to work to get back to the playoffs. I'm looking forward to seeing who shines, and who doesn't.
5. The Cardinals are playing poorly
The last reason I want hockey to start now? The Cardinals. Have you seen these guys lately? Losing two of three to Pittsburgh? Really? Please. Oct. 9 can't come here fast enough.