For a team who is going through a constant (it seems) re-build through a draft, losing their draft god is not exactly the best thing. Jarmo Kekalainen is leaving the organization after this June’s draft to become the GM of Jokerit in Finland, and understandably there are quite a few “what are we going to do?”s being bandied about by both Blues fans and Blues pundits – and probably by the organization itself.
As Bernie Miklasz rightfully points out in his editorial today, the Blues don’t have deep pockets. If we’re going to continue to judge our progress against that of the Chicago Blackhawks, money is going to become an issue. The Hawks were able to make a play for a big-name free agent in Marian Hossa. Davidson has all but said no to any sort of huge signings this summer. We poked around Kovalchuk at the deadline, realized that the price was too high, and went back to building from within.
That building has gotten the Blues some outstanding young talent, though while not stars yet (as Bernie says) are solid players. It could be said that the reason that theyr’e not superstars yet is because they’re on a team in building mode, and a team that doesn’t exactly get the national attention as the Hawks and their huge signings do. If the kids keep playing the way that they have been, they should be able to make their own stardom, and this includes prospects that will be getting a crack at the big club this season and next. The Blues require an inordinate amount of patience, to be sure, but all it takes would be a solid signing or two come July 1st, and this team’ll make the playoffs next season. The Blues would owe a huge amount of that success to Kekalainen.
Or would they? According to the Post Dispatch’s Hockey Guy Jeff Gordon, the past drafts weren’t exactly perfection. Well, duh. Is now the time to nitpick?
Gordon highlights all of the poor choices that Kekalainen has made in the draft. Poor choices are going to happen. Scouts might place one player too high or two low on the list. A player might have an unimpressive combine. Sometimes a reputation of a player goes too far. Whatever the causes are, fussing about Pieterangelo over Schenn and then basing it solely on games played since the 2008 draft is a bit much. Schenn is an excellent defenseman, but one could argue that the reason that he has played 149 games over the past two seasons is because Toronto really needed him to. The Blues didn’t have space and wanted to develop Petro properly. The Leafs just needed a decent defenseman in a bad way. I think saying that Erik Johnson’s knee injury is the reason that he shouldn’t've been drafted first overall in 2006 is just stretching it. Ok, Backstrom or Toews on the Blues would have been amazing. I won’t lie there. However, Johnson was scouted higher and the Blues needed an NHL ready defenseman for the upcoming season. You don’t draft based on a player’s level of “awesomeness,” you draft based upon franchise needs.
The only oops I agree with was passing over Paul Stastny for Scott Jackson in the 2nd round. Given this franchise’s propensity for drafting hometown guys, I would have assumed they would have gotten the elder Stastny. But all in all, if you look at who we did get (Petro, Oshie, Berglund, Eller, Junland, Perron) versus who the Blues passed on, there might be a moment or two of “awww, man!” involved. There is in any draft with any team. Honestly, though, there’s too much positive over the negative, and nitpicking mistakes on Kekalainen’s way out is probably a bit much. He’s not infallible, but he was still pretty damn good – and there are a lot of teams in the NHL who would kill to be in the same position as the Blues are now.