December 6, 2010

You Don’t Know what It’s like to Sing the Blues, but Saint Louis Does

Let me start off by saying that Edmonton Oiler Shawn Horcoff’s hit on Saint Louis Blue Andy McDonald on Saturday was about as dirty as a martini that’s really heavy on olive juice... it’s unfortunate and interesting to look at, maybe even leaves a bitter taste in your mouth if you’re a Blues fan, but illegal? No.

Really, after looking at the replay about five times, I’m still not exactly sure it can be labelled as a hit as much as an accidental collision after McDonald lost his footing entering the Oilers’ zone. That Taylor Hall scored the game-winner off the giveaway only added insult to injury, literally. The point isn’t that things were going so well for the Saint Louis Blues, because they weren’t, but that things were going so well for McDonald. Whichever way you look at it, neither he nor his team really needed this right now.

Of course, things like that tend to go without saying, and yet sometimes they bear repeating especially if the victim has suffered through concussions in the past, as McDonald has, most significantly in 2002-2003. He missed 50 games that year, his first full season with the Anaheim Ducks, including all 21 of Anaheim’s incredible playoff run to the Stanley Cup Finals against the New Jersey Devils.

At the time, McDonald was arguably a fringe NHLer, who at the age of 25 had yet to really solidify a spot as a top-six forward or team up with Teemu Selanne and Chris Kunitz to enjoy his greatest success. That really puts into perspective just how crushing these types of injuries can be, how much potential they can wipe away with a single split-second check. That isn’t to say McDonald is the greatest Saint Louis Blue that ever laced them up... that honour obviously belongs to goalie Marek Schwarz.

I mean, clearly McDonald was the beneficiary of Selanne’s superstar skill to the point that he was made into a point-per-game player from 2005-2007. It nonetheless can’t be denied that McDonald has become a legitimate secondary scoring threat since then. He was leading the Blues in points and goals when he got injured, with 17 (8) in 25 games. He was admittedly also held pointless in four games before then, but that really points more to the Blues’ woes than it does his own.

Prior to Sunday’s victory over the Vancouver Canucks (without McDonald), the Blues had lost five-straight and 10 of their last 13. The Blues are just one of those up-and-down teams, with which you never know what you’re going to get. Heading into this year, with the team’s acquisition of Halak, people were considering them realistic dark horses in the West. This after they were essentially duds last season, one year after being the hottest team in the entire league following the All-Star break en route to being ousted in four games by the Canucks in the first round that year.

"Stop as in 'make the bleeding', not a save."
Almost miraculously, the Blues are still holding down the seventh spot in the Western conference. Were it not for goalie Jaroslav Halak’s early-season heroics, people might very well be talking about the Blues in the same vein as the Islanders nowadays... up a river without a paddle.

As such, you have to feel sorry for Blues fans as well as for McDonald as each’s futures are about as cloudy as that very same dirty martini at this point. I’d suggest one to help calm the nerves, but with injuries also to David Perron (concussion), T.J. Oshie (ankle), and Roman Polak (wrist), one has to believe that Saint Louis’s collective blood-alcohol level, at least among hockey fans, is already well above the legal limit. When the phrase “what’s one more?” can just as easily refer to injuries or concussions as it can drinks, you’re in trouble. Here’s hoping the Blues and McDonald find their way out of it.

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