Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

0 FOR 30 BLUES HAVE YET TO SUP FROM STANLEY CUP Series: BLUES HOCKEY: PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE ST. LOUIS BLUES FIRST OF THREE PARTS

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

0 FOR 30 BLUES HAVE YET TO SUP FROM STANLEY CUP Series: BLUES HOCKEY: PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE ST. LOUIS BLUES FIRST OF THREE PARTS

Article excerpt

Upon becoming the Blues general manager and coach in 1994, Mike Keenan noted that, historically, The Note had no tradition of winning.

He was right.

In 30 seasons of mediocrity, the Blues have never won a Stanley Cup. They haven't even been to the finals since their first three seasons, when the National Hockey League lumped all the expansion teams into one division to assure one of the six a spot in the finals. In 30 seasons, the Blues are 22 games below .500, a symmetrical 11 wins short of 1,000 and 11 losses over 1,000, with 358 ties thrown in. It's a fittingly mediocre mark for a team that played to a 2-2 tie in its very first game. Except for a few spikes up and down, a graph of the Blues' year-by-year record never strays too far above or below .500. The Blues were 36-35-11 in their just-completed 30th season. So Keenan gets high marks for his historical analysis of St. Louis Blues hockey, but the former GM/coach, who was fired Dec. 19, was wrong in preaching that the team and its fans had to "embrace change" in order to achieve success. Over the Blues' 30 seasons, change has been the only constant, and that constant change has been the root of the Blues' mediocrity. The revolving door at all levels - players, coaches, general managers and owners - has negated any progress the Blues have ever made. It all starts at the top. The Blues have had four distinct ownership groups, both private and corporate, not counting the various incarnations of the current owners - Clark Avenue Partnership, nee Kiel Center Partners, nee Civic Progress backing Mike Shanahan's general partnership, which bought the team from owner No. 3 Harry Ornest in December 1986. "There's no long-term continuity," said former Blues goalie Mike Liut, an executive with the NHL Players' Association. "You can't continually have breaks in ownership and management. You're always going in a new direction and starting over. "You can't keep switching tracks like that." The changes have been wide and sweeping, occurring with disturbing frequency going back to original owners Sid Salomon Jr. and his son, Sid Salomon III. "When you look at the Blues over 30 years, you have to look at it in segments," said Bernie Federko, the Blues' career scoring leader. "There's never been the continuity, never a chance for the roots of an organization to grow. It's always been a different organization. That's why we haven't won a Cup." The die may have been cast for 30 years of mediocrity just after the Blues' run of three consecutive appearances in the finals. Sid Salomon Jr. handed control of the team to his son, precipitating a dizzying stretch of coaching and GM changes that decimated what had been the model expansion team. "That's what really started the ball rolling," said Jimmy Roberts, an original Blue and now an associate coach. "Sid III started to think he knew more than the hockey people and mistakes started to happen. We lost a lot of good managerial people." In the five seasons after coach Scotty Bowman left in a huff after the 1970-71 season, Salomon made a whopping seven coaching changes and employed five general managers, changing GMs after every season. In the process, Bowman, Al Arbour, Cliff Fletcher and Jim Devellano moved on to have success elsewhere. "They're Hall of Famers," said Caron, the Blues' longest-tenured GM. "They've been making money ever since." After the Salomons hit the financial skids, Ralston Purina under R. Hal Dean bought the Blues, changed the name of The Arena to the Checkerdome and hired Emile Francis to rebuild the team. …

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