Bernie On The Stanley Cup Champions: LGB. Let’s Go Blues. Let’s Go Back.


Your St. Louis Blues are the Stanley Cup champions. And if you need to see it to believe it all over again, they’ll raise a toast — or actually the championship banner — to the Enterprise Center rafters before the start of Wednesday night’s season-opener against visiting Washington.

The Blues are about to inaugurate a new campaign, and go on a familiar adventure: the pursuit of triumphs, hot streaks, and the grand prize of the most cherished trophy in sports.

Last summer, before the celebratory flood of champagne and beer had time to flow into the Mississippi River … emerging from the mist of the halcyon haze that set in after Game 7 in Boston …and soon after the jubilant parade down Market Street — the Miracle on Market, some would say — the natural curiosity kicked in:

Well, can the Blues do it again?

That became the No. 1 question among Blues fans, St.Louis sports media and the NHL pundits.

This beautiful inquiry — equal parts wondering, wishing, and hoping — is perfectly natural, understandable, and reasonable.

But I’m not sweating it, even if it is 93 degrees outside.

Here’s why:

Nine months ago, on the third day of January, the bumbling Blues had the fewest points by an NHL teams. When you’re ranked 31st in a 31-team league, the Cup was so out of reach, you couldn’t even hallucinate it into existence.

With the Jake Allen struggling mightily, the Blues had no goaltender to save them.

The Blues were being guided by an interim coach, some tough-looking dude named Craig Berube, who was temporarily in place to babysit the boys while president of hockey ops Doug Armstrong searched for the next coach.

Back then, the questions had nothing to do with the chase of the 2019 Stanley Cup.

Back then, the questions were about Joel Quenneville — hey, can the Blues entice him to return to St. Louis?

And the top amateur prospect, the wunderkind Jack Hughes … should the Blues tank, flush the season down the loo, and attempt to convert their hideous season into the first overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft?

What about Vladimir Tarasenko? Should the Blues trade him and collect assets for a rebuild?

And Alex Pietrangelo… was it time to move on, strip the “C” from his sweater, and make him available on the trade market?

Who the heck is this no-name goaltender with the skinny legs?  Jordan Who?  The guy that’s been renting apartments in the minor leagues for the last few years? Binnington? He’s the answer? What, was Jason Bacashihua unavailable?

And what about the boss who built this faulty contraption — should Armstrong be fired to clear the way for new hockey leadership?

Hah.

We can laugh about all of this now.

And here we on Oct. 2, talking about another question — a question about the possibility of winning a second Stanley Cup, having another championship parade, having another party that would last all summer.

In other words…

Life is good.

Damn good.

The very idea of the Blues winning a Stanley Cup was a fever dream … an impossible dream … a futile and frustrating endeavor that spanned 52 years overall, and 51 seasons on an ice surface that constantly cracked under their skates to swallow the team and another opportunity.

Except that it happened.

It really happened.

It happened 113 days ago, at TD Garden in Boston. Game 7. Blues 4, Bruins 1. The final hours of a passion play — the completion of a regular-season comeback that led to a ridiculous, sensory-overload postseason that just about fried everyone’s nerves.

And now the Blues will raise that banner, raise your emotions, raise your heartbeat, and make your eyes well up with tears.

This is an exceptional experience.

Savor every second.

And enjoy the ride, even if the Blues encounter some engine trouble, and run low on gas, and need to replace a couple of tires along the way this season.

Indeed: it is a very hard and treacherous road to travel. Doing it all over again — lifting the Cup at the end of two consecutive seasons — is an excruciating challenge conquered by only three teams in the past 30-year block of NHL competition.

As Blues center Brayden Schenn told reporters on Tuesday: “It’s not going to be easy for us this year. I think we’re really going to have to dig in and be tough. Everyone’s going to be gunning for us. We’ve got to expect that.”

Yes. But here’s the coolest part about that.

As the new season launches, only one team in the NHL has a chance to win the Stanley Cup for the second year in a row. Your Blues.

And isn’t that better — isn’t it wonderful — to have a chance to repeat and grab that second Cup instead of wandering through history, desperate to seize the Cup for the first time?

Answer: Hell, yeah.

After you’ve raised the Titanic,  raising another banner is a pleasant assignment.

“I think that’s a challenge any hockey player or any athlete would welcome,” Schenn said. “You know you’re gunning for the champs and I think to have that target on your back the whole year, or at least the first half of the year, we’re going to see a team for the first time, I think people are going to be up and excited and bring their best game against you.”

Let them bring it.

After generations of fans waited more than a half-century for their beloved team to bring the Stanley Cup to them, and to St. Louis, the Blues can handle being at the center of attention, and the object of envy, as the other 30 teams make a spirited run to take down the defending champs.

That doesn’t mean the Blues will win another Cup this season — frankly, I’d be stunned — but I’m saying this: if any group of front-office executives, coaches and players can put up a fierce defense and take their best shot at winning the grand prize again — it’s this one.

It’s this one because they’ve returned virtually intact, after having mastered a greater and more arduous assignment. They went from worst to first. They went from being a flop to reaching the top. They displayed championship character to pull the 2018-2019 season out of an incinerator — and proceeded to actually WIN the championship.

And this question — can they do it again? — is the greatest question in the history of St. Louis sports. I say that for a simple reason: we finally have the chance to ask it.

“LGB!” has two meanings now.

Let’s Go Blues.

Let’s Go Back.

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie