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09-24-2008, 02:30 PM
Anything that can go wrong for Blues usually does

Columnist Jeff Gordon
(E-mail a "Letter to Gordo")By Jeff Gordon

Well, of course former first overall pick Erik Johnson will miss the upcoming season with a catastrophic knee injury. Of course he suffered that injury during a golf-cart mishap of some sort.

This is just par for the franchise’s course.

This is reminiscent of poor Doug Wickenheiser blowing out his knee during a snipe hunt. (Fortunately, this latest incident isn't a life-and-death matter, like Bob Gassoff’s fatal motorcycle wreck.)

Think of everything that has gone wrong for the Blues.

Remember Scott Campbell? The Blues drafted the big defenseman ninth overall in the 1977 draft, only to lose him to the Winnipeg Jets of the World Hockey Association. This team later traded Bryan Maxwell, Ed Staniowski and Paul MacLean to get him from the Jets after the merger . . . but Campbell retired almost immediately due to intense headaches and asthma.

The Blues later got MacLean back, but only AFTER he scored a zillion goals.

Remember the 1983 NHL Draft? No, you don’t, because the Blues sat it out with the ownership in limbo. This is what happens when an owner (Ralston-Purina) tries to sell a team to Saskatoon interests, gets blocked and then dumps the team on the league’s doorstep.

Remember Jacques Demers? The hugely popular and successful coach agreed to jump to the Detroit Red Wings WHILE HE WAS STILL COACHING THIS TEAM. In fairness to him, though, he did have to work for Harry Ornest, a true eccentric and avowed penny-pincher.

Remember Mike Liut and Joey Mullen? Of course you do, but they left prematurely in cost-saving deals ordered by Ornest. But at least Harry kept the Arena Cat on staff to keep the rodent population at The Arena under control.

Remember Scott Stevens? The Blues signed him with a bold, groundbreaking free-agent grab and surrendered five first-round picks to do so. Then the NHL took him away just one year later, sending him to the New Jersey Devils as compensation for the Brendan Shanahan free-agent signing.

That might have been the single most insane arbitration ruling in the history of sports. The fix was in. The Blues defied NHL protocol and the league punished the franchise severely.

Later, the Blues took another run at Stevens . . . only to get slapped with tampering sanctions. And Shanahan departed during the tumultuous Mike Keenan Era, when “Iron Mike” installed a revolving door in the Blues dressing room.

Remember Doug Gilmour’s Adventures in Babysitting? Unseemly allegations prompted the team to dump him in a fire sale, dealing him for affable (but useless) Mike Bullard.

Remember Wayne Gretzky? The Blues traded for him and prepared to lock him into a long-term deal. Then his relationship with Keenan soured, Jack Quinn developed second thoughts about paying him big money and The Great One fled to New York after his brief stop in Mound City.

We could go on and on. The team loved Joe Sakic in his draft year, but Ron Caron decided to “draft for need” instead. So the team got timid winger Keith Osborne instead. Oops!

The Garth Butcher Trade lives in infamy, since the aptly named defenseman cost the Note three capable scorers -– Geoff Courtnall, Cliff Ronning and Sergio Momesso -– plus Robert Dirk. That the Blues also got Dan Quinn in the deal did not make it better.

The Blues came THISCLOSE to getting goaltender Dominik Hasek in free agency, only to see him opt for the Red Wings in an 11th-hour decision. Imagine what The Dominator could have done for this franchise.

Former owner Bill Laurie spent aggressively while bidding for a Stanley Cup. He got a President’s Trophy and one trip to the Final Four, but then he soured on the sport and left the team to die while trying to sell the franchise.

That is how the team hit rock bottom, got the first overall pick and the chance to draft Johnson. And now the Blues don’t have their cornerstone defenseman, at least not for another season.

Sadly, some things never change.