Commentary

Hey, Kings, Oilers, Blues and Blackhawks fans ... don't fret

Updated: February 18, 2008, 2:35 PM ET
By Mike Brophy | The Hockey News

With the trade deadline fast approaching and the playoffs just around the corner, this is an exciting time of year.

For many fans, the best hockey they'll see lies ahead.

But for teams like the Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues, Edmonton Oilers and Chicago Blackhawks, the 2007-08 season is as good as done.

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To those fans I suggest, do not fret. Your teams made significant improvements this season and success is not too far off.

That may be a difficult notion for Kings fans to swallow, but those who have been critical of GM Dean Lombardi must also admit the team has a solid foundation of youth from which to build on.

What some fans don't comprehend is when you elect to build through a youth movement, you need to surround those players with veterans to help them get over the hump.

So if the Kings signed a veteran or two that you don't necessarily care for, understand those players will, in all likelihood, be gone when the kids begin to hit their stride.

Players such as Anze Kopitar, Alexander Frolov, Dustin Brown, Patrick O'Sullivan and Jack Johnson all have the potential to be impact performers for years to come. And when that day arrives, Lombardi will surely surround them with a higher quality of unrestricted free agent.

Both St. Louis and Chicago enjoyed very good first halves of the season -- certainly good enough to give their fans hope for the immediate future.

For the Blues, the arrival of bona fide star Paul Kariya gave the team instant credibility, while the emergence of Brad Boyes as a goal-scorer was an unexpected pleasure.

Youngsters Erik Johnson and David Perron justified their high selections in the draft and gave fans, who flocked back to the Scottrade Center, a reason to start following the team in earnest once again.

In Chicago, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews arguably outperformed their expectations, given their youth, and the Blackhawks under Rocky Wirtz took giant steps toward being a sporting entity to be reckoned with.

This Original Six team, like the Blues, dipped in the second half, but enough good was accomplished this season to suggest Chicago fans will be rewarded for their patience shortly.

Injuries, more than anything else, conspired to derail the Oilers. While youngsters Andrew Cogliano and Sam Gagner enjoyed solid rookie seasons, veteran players the team was counting on to show them the way were stuck in sickbay for far too long.

Team leaders Ethan Moreau and Jarret Stoll were missed early on and Shawn Horcoff and Sheldon Souray will both miss the remainder of the season.

Still, there is new ownership and, like in Los Angeles, St. Louis and Chicago, there is a solid foundation to build upon.

It can be frustrating for fans to watch their teams finish out of the playoffs and building through the draft takes time. But if you are a fan of the Kings, Blues, Blackhawks or Oilers, take heed.

Try putting yourself in the shoes of a Toronto Maple Leafs fan for a minute.

Yikes!

Mike Brophy's Double OT appears regularly on thehockeynews.com.

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