Wow, what a great time on the St. Louis sports scene. The Blues are in the playoffs, the NFL draft is coming up, the Cardinals are hot and Frank Haith is gone! It really doesn’t get much better.
Listeners of “The Fast Lane” know I’m all in on the Blues. I’m more than happy to ride the roller coaster. You know that I get emotionally invested in playoff hockey, and this year is no different. I’m even participating in the beard-a-thon. I’ll get to Brent Seabrook in a moment, but first let me talk about the atmosphere.
On both Thursday night and on Saturday, the crowds at Scottrade Center have been as good as it gets. Part of it is the presence of the raucous, obtuse, insufferable Blackhawk fans. Yes, the same ones who spent Sunday defending Seabrook’s hit on David Backes, the same ones represented by the inane blonde girl in the green Blackhawks sweater in the corner where Backes was injured, yelling and trying to taunt him. The same ones who now, after picking Chicago to sweep, are picking them to win in six games.
I’ve seen some unbearable groups of fans in my time. I actually gave the Hawks fans credit on the show on Friday for being nice and not causing problems. Saturday brought out a different side to them. We have to come up with a day … not Punch a Blackhawk Fan in The Face Day … but we have to come up with a day to celebrate denigrating these kooks.
On Saturday, after they scored their third goal, Chicago fans were going crazy, which is their right. But one in particular around us was loudly cursing and carrying on. I have a short fuse come playoff time. I gently, albeit angrily, told him to sit down and shut up. He didn’t. I stood up and, with fists clenched, glared (my daughter called it a death stare) at him. He quickly quieted and sat down. When Barret Jackman scored the winning goal, he and his friend ran out of the section and down the steps to leave. At that point, I wasn’t going to do anything to him. I have no problem with cheering, but when you come into my building and use that sort of vulgarity, you’re going to either stop, or pay a price. I’m glad the guy stopped.
The NHL’s three-game suspension of Chicago defenseman Seabrook is astounding. When Max Lapierre of the Blues checked Dan Boyle of San Jose from behind back in October, Lapierre got a five-game suspension. Lapierre was a repeat offender, but the league’s spokesman at the time, Brendan Shanahan, said, “While we recognize that this wasn’t an overly violent check … you might bear the responsibility for the outcome,” which was an injury to Boyle. Seabrook’s hit was overly violent. The result was the same – both victims were knocked unconscious on the ice – but Lapierre didn’t even hit Boyle’s head. There was a clear desire on Seabrook’s part to target Backes’ head. If Lapierre got five games for his hit on Boyle, then Seabrook should have gotten at least five. And if the NHL wants to deter this sort of activity (because clearly Chicago players have no respect for their opponents), they needed to send a high-profile message and suspend him for the rest of the series.
I am shocked, by the way, that Joel Quenneville would advocate the cheap shots his team has taken. Bryan Bickell left his feet to drive T.J. Oshie’s head into the boards on Saturday. Bickell also delivered a knee-to-knee hit on Vladimir Sobotka that presented clear intent to injure. I hope that’s not Q. If it is, I’m shocked. If it isn’t, he’d better get control of his team.
The rest of this series will have high energy and high tension. The Blackhawks’ cheap shot tactics haven’t worked. What do they do now? It’ll be interesting to see.
The NFL’s move of the draft to May 8 is a mistake. Everybody is tired of talking about it, and just wants it to be here. Ordinarily the first round would be this Thursday, but now it’s two weeks later. I hope they move it back to the final weekend in October next year.
Did you realize that after this road trip, the Cardinals will have played six home games and 17 road games? Not only that, but the Cardinals come home for six more, then have another nine-game road trip. After May 11, the Redbirds will have played just 12 home games and 26 road games. That disparity evens out as the Cards play 16-of-19 at home through June 3. If the Redbirds are 21-17 after 38 games – or, more simply, 10-9 in their next 19 – they’ll be fine.
Mike Alden got lucky that Frank Haith left for Tulsa. He was probably going to have to fire Haith after next season anyway. The basketball Tigers didn’t make the NCAA tournament this season, and the prospects are bleak for next year, too. So Haith leaving saved Alden the hassle of taking out the hatchet.
Originally, I figured the best move for Mizzou would be to try and lure Gregg Marshall away from Wichita State. But Marshall is set to make $1.76 million this year (Haith was making $1.75 million), and Gary Pinkel is going to make $3.1 million on the football side. I don’t think Mizzou, which has become decidedly a football school in a football conference, should go more than $2 million for its basketball coach. So they should offer Marshall the $250,000 raise, but stop there. Otherwise, take a look at the Archie Millers and Tim Mileses of the world.
Mizzou basketball isn’t what it was and, with the move to the SEC, never will be what it was. Unless Pinkel is on board with the hoops coach getting almost as much as he is, I think the Tigers should go younger and cheaper for Haith’s replacement.