Every man that is in charge of a professional team’s personnel reaches a defining moment…that point in time when fans know whether or not he’s up for the job.
For example, we knew that Steve Ortmayer was overmatched as the Rams General Manager when Lawrence Phillips turned out to be what everyone expected. As Eddie George was running toward a great career and a Super Bowl, Phillips was running from the police. Eddie Kennison. Tony Banks. Dwayne White. There was plenty of evidence that Ortmayer couldn’t do the job.
On the flip side, when Dick Vermeil reached his defining time in 1999, the Rams signed Adam Timmerman and Trent Green, drafted Torry Holt, and…with the help of John Shaw…brought in Mike Martz and Marshall Faulk. Vermeil signed off on those moves, and the Rams won the Super Bowl.
Walt Jocketty had a similar situation after the Cardinals 1999 season. The club had tried to win with Mark McGwire’s power, but he recognized the need for pitching. That off-season, he replaced starters Darren Oliver, Kent Bottenfield, Jose Jiminez and Kent Mercker with Darryl Kile, Andy Benes, Pat Hentgen and Rick Ankiel. That was a defining off-season for Jocketty, whose Cardinals made the playoffs in 2000 and in six of the final eight years he was in St. Louis.
John Mozeliak made his mark last summer, with the acquisitions of Mark DeRosa, Matt Holliday, Julio Lugo and John Smoltz, and perhaps as importantly the trade of Chris Duncan to Boston. He made big moves at crucial times and fans said “OK, he can handle this,” as the Cardinals won their division.
That important time, that defining moment, awaits Rams GM Billy Devaney and Blues President John Davidson this off-season.
Devaney’s first year as a GM gave him a grace period…to hire a new coach and try to infuse SOME talent into a depleted roster. Now, Devaney has the first pick in the draft. He needs to hit a home run with what we anticipate with be Sam Bradford, but also needs to fill holes with productive players at linebacker, defensive end, offensive tackle, running back and tight end. It’s a tough job, but it’s the one he signed up for. After a league record worst (since the AFL-NFL merger) six wins in three seasons, the heat is on Devaney to transform the Rams into an ascending club in 2010. Another season of fewer than five wins will tell us a lot about the franchise’s direction on the field.
Davidson faces a different task. He took over a moribund franchise, and led it to the playoffs in his third season. This year, the club regressed and J.D. fired coach Andy Murray. It would appear that, after two horrendous first halves of seasons, Blues players and the guy that brought them in need to be held accountable.
The Blues missed the playoffs for three straight years coming out of the lockout before making them last year. As a comparison, the Pittsburgh Penguins missed the playoffs for three years before drafting Sidney Crosby, then missed them in his rookie year before starting a run that culminated in a Stanley Cup in his fourth year.
The Blues have preached patience with their young players, and Blues Nation has been extremely patient. Missing the playoffs this year is unacceptable…especially for a team and a town that enjoyed playoff hockey for 25 straight years. It’s time for first-overall pick Erik Johnson to become a superstar, and for first rounders David Perron, Patrik Berglund and T.J. Oshie to rise to the level of NHL stalwarts.
This is the off-season where the Blues need their kids to grow into legitimate, big time players, and where Davidson needs to make the moves to turn the Blues into a power. We can only wait for kids to develop for so long.
Those defining moments, for better or for worse, are at hand for Devaney and Davidson.