Saturday, October 2, 2010

Bringing Cup to St. Louis what drives top draft picks

Oshie, Johnson, Berglund, Perron want
one for fans as much as for themselves

ST. LOUIS -- Erik Johnson, T.J. Oshie, Patrik Berglund and David Perron all have one thing in common: they're all first-round draft choices by the Blues.

There comes a certain expectation from being a No. 1 draft choice, especially for Johnson, who was the No. 1 overall pick in 2006. All these players were drafted high and are currently being groomed by the franchise.

But these players, who have become the faces of the Blues, would like to have something else in common, something many hockey players would not mind attributing to their resumes: winning a Stanley Cup in a city that has not experienced such a feat.

St. Louis, in the NHL since 1967, has been left out of the winter hockey parade since its inception. June parades in downtown St. Louis have been a no-go.

A franchise that is starving for its first Stanley Cup, the Blues have finally broken away from that mantra of win-now-at-all-costs. The empty results are enough reason to abandon the theory. That means the days of trading away draft picks and prospects that would leave the cupboard bare are a thing of the past.

Under new ownership, the Blues are sticking with the build-from-within theme, and they'll do it until the day the ultimate prize is one day going to be glorified down Market Street.

Oshie, the Blues top pick in 2005 (24th overall), has been one of the top faces. He's beginning his third season with the Blues, and Oshie, who has 32 points and 87 points in 133 career games, can't help but feel like some of the young guys playing for the Chicago Blackhawks: Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, etc.

Those guys were able to get a taste of winning a Stanley Cup for a city that has not seen one in 49 years. But to be that group to bring a championship to St. Louis for the first time ever, that alone in itself drives Oshie and the others to do whatever it takes.

"It would be unbelievable," Oshie said. "I think no matter where you are, you win that Stanley Cup, you kind of got that special place in that city. For all of us that came through the system in different ways ... me, Bergy, Perry, and some of the others, we'd share something special with each other. It would be special to do it with the guys that the organization has put the support and trust in each of us to accomplish that feat.

"We've talked about what it would feel like to have that parade here. I can't imagine what it would feel like to win that, especially for it to be the first one coming back to St. Louis. It'd be awesome to see how the fans would react after all the support. The people in this organization have paved the way for us and for us to do it, everyone's a part of that. They'd all be a part of the Blues. To get that first one would be awesome."

Johnson, entering his third season along with Berglund, is friends with both Toews and Kane and has received his share of jostling from his rivals up I-55.

"I talked to (Kane) and Johnny a couple times this summer," Johnson said. "You're happy for them because you're buddies, but at the same time, they're your opponents and people you want to unseat and beat their team. I definitely want that feeling and to be able to rub it in their faces someday."

Johnson admits the thought of a Market Street parade has crossed his mind several times. He hopes in this case, dreams do come true.

"I'm not going to lie. I have before," he said. "That's something that always sticks in the back of your mind. It's something that you want and something you strive for. You don't want to think about it too much, but it's definitely something that's in the back of your head."

Berglund says the idea floats in his mind quite often but would not know how to react if it ever came to fruition.

"I don't know, but I know for sure that I will faint if we win. I will start to cry or something," Berglund said laughing. "I never won anything big. I would probably lose my mind. ... You start to dream away a little bit thinking about it. I can't even describe how it would feel.

"Sometimes we talk about it and obviously, I think about it a whole lot, what the feeling would be like and obviously, I can't even imagine what it would even be like to bring it to St. Louis. But that's why we're here and we're going to work as hard as we can to get to that point."

The Blues' climb back to respectability has had its ups and downs. The road to Lord Stanley Boulevard will have its share of zigs and zags. But the players that have earned the trust of management are more than determined to give the Gateway City cause for celebration. They understand and realize the city thirsts for a drink from Lord Stanley.

"When you step on the ice every day, that's why you're stepping on the ice," Johnson said. "This city has never had that championship here and I think no matter who you are, that's the goal. That's why you come to the rink every day to win. That's definitely our goal as well.

"It's probably the best trophy to win in all of sports. I got to see the Hawks' Cup ring (Thursday) night. To go through all that and to experience that ... I think that's why we all put the skates on every day and the purpose. ... when you see it, you want it that much more. It's always tough to see someone else do it. It definitely makes you want to have that opportunity and be one of your legacies."

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