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Blues Thought of the Day: 05-24-09 May 25, 2009

Posted by bluesfan45 in Thought of the Day.
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Been a while, work is crazy and the baby is becoming more mobile and too smart for my own good.

As always JR at the St. Louis Post Dispatch had a good Thursday afternoon Hockey Chat a couple weeks ago. Several fans questioned Eric Brewer and his potential return to the Blues line up for the 09-10 season.

With the Blues Playoff push and appearance to cap off the 08-09 Season, expectations are sure to ramp up for the 09-10 campaign. There are obvious and serious questions surrounding the Blues blue line patrol. The 08-09 group was one of the least effective in terms offensive production in the league, not just of the 16 playoff teams. With so much of the NHL game revolving around mobility, transition, and the 5 man offense, can expectations realistically raise when there are issues with the defensemen?

Eric Brewer and his $4mil plus contract factor deeply in to this situation. With the return of Erik Johnson and the potential ascension of Alex Pietrangelo to the big show, the offensive effectiveness looks to turn around. However, at the same time how much can the Blues count on one kid returning from a major knee injury and another kid just really getting his feet wet? Without the addition of Johnson, Pietrangelo, and Brewer, the Blues defensemen figure to be lack luster in terms of offensive production.

Is Eric Brewer the “x-factor”?  Is he the cog that will make this wheel turn? Will he return from a very serious and potentially career threatening back injury and be as good or better than before?

For the Blues, who are still financially unsettled, the simple answer is “yes, he has to”…but why?

1. Money
While fans (this one included) would love to dabble in the Bouwmeester sweepstakes, that is just not a good business move at this point. It really pains me to say this, being on the Bouwmeester bandwagon for a quite a while. However, the Blues do not have the money…right now…to play the FA game. They gambled with Kariya which has worked, but no where to the degree hoped for. Right now the Blues just cannot afford the gamble.

Could the Blues make the play for the second tier type? Someone like Bergeron, Siedenberg, Leopold, Oduya, or Komisarek? There is that possibility, except that to make it feasible the Blues likely have to move out  Jay McKee’s $4mil contract. Not the easiest task when another team could get the afore mentioned Free Agents for likely less than McKee’s $4mil tag.

2. Lack of Replacement
The Blues blue line depth, or lack there of, was exposed. The loss of Johnson and Brewer, the lack of development of Steve Wagner, and the inability of 4th Overall pick Alex Pietrangelo to stick to the NHL roster opened up this glaring hole. A hole filled in by “fillers” like Mike Weaver, Tyson Strachan, Jeff Woywitka, and Wagner. Those four combined to produce 31 points (3 goals) in 175 games, which is roughly a 15 (14.5) point pace per 82 games. Not exactly what you would expect from a playoff team. I will give Woywitka some credit, he had 18 of the 31 points.

What do all the numbers mean? It means that beyond Colaiacovo and to a lesser extent Polak, there was little offensive production from the blue liners. While Brewer might have only been good for 5 or so goals and 25ish points, that’s still an improvement over the numbers put up by the likes of Weaver.

3. Who He Replaced
Yes, Eric Brewer was the principal return in the Pronger to Oilers trade. As many times as that horse has been beat (rest his soul), he is still holding some water. No matter how many fans say “it doesn’t matter”, it still does. Brewer is replacing a lot of production and a big name. Could Blues fan really expect Brewer to play anything close to the Hall of Fame level Pronger has? Not while being fair. However, Brewer has to be expected to contribute. Like it or not, he has been the #1 blue line patroller since the trade and the Blues need him to be as close to that level as possible.

I am pulling for Brewer. I hope his back is as close to 100% as possible and he can be a capable top 4 defensemen. For that matter, the Blues are pulling for him too. They really don’t have a choice.