Blues take ice with rebuilt squad

The hockey team was in shambles before new owners came in.
Thursday, October 5, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 6:59 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 3, 2008

ST. LOUIS — John Davidson left the safety of the broadcast booth for life on a high wire when he agreed to become St. Louis Blues president.

Davidson, formerly the NHL’s primary color analyst, has spent the summer rebuilding a roster that was stripped down for a fire sale that led to the Blues not only ending a 25-year playoff run but finishing last overall. He seems to be enjoying the task of resurrecting a franchise that also chased off much of its fan base.

The Blues open tonight at San Jose.

“My patience level will be tested, there’s no question about that, because I haven’t been through it,” Davidson said. “I think there’s going to be times where you grit your teeth and have to bear it.

“But you know what? I think we have a plan.”

Former New York Rangers and Madison Square Garden executive Dave Checketts leads a new ownership group that inherited the remnants in late June. It’s no coincidence that all seven of the free agents they’ve added made it to the playoffs last season, to aid in what Davidson, a Blues’ goalie in 1973-74, calls a franchise culture change.

Defenseman Jay McKee, who’ll miss the first few weeks with a knee injury, is one of the league’s top shot-blockers. Forward Doug Weight was part of the talent exodus from St. Louis and returns after helping the Hurricanes win a Stanley Cup. Manny Legace, who comes from the Detroit Red Wings, likely is the No. 1 goalie.

Also added: wingers Bill Guerin, Dan Hinote and Martin Rucinsky, and defenseman Jamie Rivers. Those veterans will be mixed with star power forward Keith Tkachuk, who showed up svelte unlike last season when he reported 20 pounds overweight, and youngsters who got a chance to develop last season, such as Lee Stempniak and defenseman Dennis Wideman.

“I had a great opportunity and played a lot,” Wideman said. “I made a lot of mistakes that you make as a young guy but the way I look at it, last year was my year to make those.”

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