Hockey is the perfect olympic team sport for US fans. It combines a great balance of competitiveness, realistic expectations and interest level. Of the big four pro sports in the US, it is the only one that isn't "ours." Its clearly Canada's game. This allows us to maintain an underdog's attitude despite playing in 10 of the 22 gold medal games. We don't expect to win in international competition in the way we do with basketball or baseball. So winning gives a bigger ego boost and losing does not entail the feelings of failure that those sports engender. But it has an interest level outside of the olympics that sets it apart from other more minor sports that otherwise fit a similar bill -- volleyball and water polo for example.
And the olympics has helped ease my feelings of pessimism over the Blues. Not in any direct way; although listening to Hawks fans here in Chicago angst over having to root for the hated David Backes is more convincing of grudging Blues respect than any amount of statements to the effect that the Blues are the only team in the west that hawks fans have any fear of. No its the two week break from watching nightly 3rd period collapses leading to squandered points or wins achieved by "falling with style" that has given me some perspective.
This core's playoff disappointments over the past three years (counting the miss on the playoff guarantee) has used up all their mulligans. This season is to be judged by how deep they go in the playoffs, with anything short of a conference final appearance being unacceptable. And yet, there seems no way to get there that doesn't go through Chicago at least in the division finals; certainly no easy task. Imagine the disaster of the Aves winning the division and the Blues getting a first round matchup with the defending champs.
But, even if they fail, its not like we need to blow things up and start over. The defense in particular looks set, with 7 of the top 8 already under contract for next season. Colaiacovo could be back as well if we want. At forward, its clear who is penciled in for next year (Backes, Oshie, Steen, Schwartz, Tarasenko, Reeves -- Paajarvi, Sobotka and Jaskin are also likely to be back) and who is playing to not get voted off the island (Roy, Stewart, Berglund). Goal is in a similar situation with both goalies being potential UFAs. That represents a potential $5.5 Million coming off the books that could be used to resign a goalie, sign a new goalie or spend elsewhere. Add in the nearly $12 million those three forwards currently make and the Blues could have a fair amount of financial flexibility in addition to dealable assets.
So as sick as I am of winter, I'm ready to get back to hockey for the final stretch run and the playoffs