Sharks, not Blues, top Cup drought

Old expansion club can trace their lineage

to 1967 expansion team, California Seals.

@Mound City Sports

WEBSTER GROVES, Mo. • The weary Blues took a much-needed day off Monday before they play again Tuesday at Scottrade Center vs. the Colorado Avalanche, to whom they lost 5-3 Sunday in Denver. So, as the extremely tired team rests, it’s time for New & Views.


News: Of the existing Original Six Expansion teams, the Blues are the only one without a Stanley Cup, at 44 seasons. Of the Original Six teams, only Toronto has gone as long without a Cup, also 44 seasons. The Maple Leafs won the Cup after 1966-67 season, the season before expansion, for four of six Cups before the NHL went to 12 teams from six.

Views: Officially, the Maple Leafs and Blues are at the top of the list for longest Cup droughts, perhaps with the Blues No. 1 because they have won none; Toronto has 14 Cups, second in the league history behind Montreal with 24 and three ahead of third-place Detroit with 11.

However, another team should be there with the Blues and Maple Leafs – the San Jose Sharks.


A 22-year old team?

Bear with me, and I’ll explain.

Officially, the Sharks are an expansion team; arriving in the 1991-92 season, with zero history before that season. However, the Sharks were owned by George III and Gordon Gund, the former owners of the California Golden Seals. That lineage traces to the Sharks.

The California Golden Seals entered the NHL with the Blues in the 1967 expansion as the California Seals (quickly becoming the Oakland Seals) and went through a number of ownership changes (including Oakland A’s owner Charles O. Finley) before the Gunds became minority owners late in the team’s tenure in Oakland.

An effort to build an arena in San Francisco failed, the team moved to the Gunds’ hometown to become the Cleveland Barons in 1976, and the Gunds became majority owners after the 1976-77 season. The Barons actually played down the road at Richfield (Ohio) Coliseum, where attendance lagged, and the team ceased operations after the 1977-78 season.

But rather than go out of business, the Barons merged with the likewise financially ailing Minnesota North Stars, with the Gunds as majority owners.

That arrangement continued until 1990, when the Gunds sold the team to a group headed by Howard Baldwin, with the stipulation that the Gunds would get an NHL expansion team (the Sharks) and half of the North Stars’ players. So, the Sharks were an expansion team but not really; no expansion team starts with half a roster. Like the Sharks, the North Stars also would take part in the league expansion draft.

So, though the Sharks officially were an expansion team, the deal basically undid the merger between the Barons and North Stars. The teams became one in 1978, then separated in 1991.

The North Stars moved to Dallas and won the Stanley Cup as the Dallas Stars in 1999. The Seals/Golden Seals/Barons essentially live on as the Sharks, who like the Blues have won no Cups. However, the Blues have appeared in three finals; the Sharks zero.

Hence, the Blues shouldn’t be at the top of the Cup-drought list. Nada. The distinction of being No. 1 should fall to the Seals/Golden Seals/ Barons/Sharks, with the Blues at No. 2 and Toronto at No. 3.

Several fun facts about the Seals/Barons franchise.

• Former Blues’ head scout Ted Hampson was the Seals skipper from 1968 until 1971 and finished fourth on the franchise scoring list with 184 points on 61 goals and 123 assists, with 37 penalty minutes, in 246 games.

• Former Blues coaches Garry Young and Bill McCreary were GMs of the team, Young before coaching the Blues and McCreary after.

• One of the team’s early general managers was Bill Torrey, who built four Stanley Cup winners with the New York Islanders. He’s in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

• Former Blues player Craig Patrick also played with the Seals. He later became architect of two Cup winners in Pittsburgh, where he also drafted Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury. He too is a Hall-of-Famer.


News: The Blues made one lineup change Sunday, inserting rookie Dmitrij Jaskin in place of Adam Cracknell on the fourth line.

Views: The Blues also have four other well-rested players: forwards Scott Nichol and Andy Murray, and defenseman Kris Russell and Ian Cole.

Nichol, who had been sidelined by what the team called “general body soreness,” has missed 11 games, playing last on April 1 at Minnesota. Murray was called up from Peoria on Wednesday and hasn’t played a game since last Tuesday.

Russell last played, out of position at forward, April 7 at Detroit, missing the past eight games and 10 of the past 11 as a healthy scratch. Cole has been a healthy scratch for 17 consecutive games since playing March 17 vs. Anaheim and for 24 of 26 games in March and April.

So, if the Blues are as tired as coach Ken Hitchcock indicated Friday when they beat Dallas 2-1 in their second game on consecutive nights and third in four nights, the Blues have the bodies to make wholesale changes and give tired legs a rest.

Hitch probably is waiting to rest guys until the Blues clinch a playoff spot; they could have done so Sunday but lost at Colorado. When the Blues clinch a spot, the temptation is for them to battle for fourth place. They are in sixth at the moment with 54 points, only one point behind fourth-place LA and fifth-place San Jose.

Finishing fourth would give the Blues home-ice advantage in the first round. Though an extra home gate would be a financial boon for the team, the Blues have struggled on home ice this season, ranking 19th in the NHL with a record of 12-8-1. They are the NHL’s fourth-best road team at 14-9-1. So, they’re a bit better on the road than at home at this point – a .604 winning percentage vs. .591.

But other than the gate, home team/road team matters little in the playoffs. As far as draws, any opponent would be tough – Vancouver, LA or San Jose. This season, the Blues are 2-1 vs. Van (1-0-2 in the Canucks’ view), 0-3 vs LA and 2-1 vs. San Jose (1-1-1 from the Sharks’ angle). If they slip to seventh, they’re 1-1-1 vs. Anaheim (2-1 for the Ducks), or to eighth, they’re 1-2-0 vs. Chicago (2-0-1 for the B-hawks).

Any opponent at any spot, it really doesn’t matter where the Blues finish, as long as they qualify for the show.


News: In the past three games, the Blues’ David Perron, Chris Stewart, David Backes and Jaden Schwartz have broken scoring droughts (Ryan Reaves has as well, but he isn’t supposed to score). The Blues also have scored five goals in the past two games.

Views: The Blues are burning it up compared to a recent stretch of seven goals in seven games.

The good news is the Blues have been playing lockdown D since the arrival of Jordan Leopold and Jay Bouwmeester, and goaler Brian Elliott has been playing out of his mind. (Throw out the defensive lapses in the loss Sunday, because the Blues are gassed, no legs, kaput.)

With Perron, Stewart, Backes and Schwartz scoring … that’s a good sign, as Hitchcock often says. Perron hadn’t scored in 16 games, Stewart seven, Backes eight and Schwartz 10.

Now if only the Blues could get their power play going. They broke a seven-game and 18 PP drought by scoring on the man-advantage Friday vs. Dallas, but they haven’t scored on the past five. They have scored only seven power-play goals on 84 chances (8.3 percent) in the past 31 games since scoring on 19 of the first 53 (35.9 percent) through 14 games this season.

The Blues struggles on the PP started a few games before injuries sidelined Vladimir Tarasenko (brain), Alexander Steen (shoulder) and Andy McDonald (leg), but it has subsisted after their returns

The difference is that previously Steen, T.J. Oshie (now injured) or Perron manned the points, with point D-men Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk on separate units. Petro and Shattie now play together on one unit, with Leopold and Bouwmeester on the second.

The trouble with a forward on the point was the Blues’ penchant for taking penalties for having too many men on the ice, prompting Hitch to joke that the Blues were excelling at that part of the game. (He was kidding). But with the PP lagging, why not try Steen and/or Perron on the points? Maybe the PP still would struggle, but what the heck? Try something different. It’s worth a shot.

But please, make the playoffs first. Then, insert new guys in the lineup and experiment to your hearts content.

Leave a Reply