What if ... the Blues had drafted Jonathan Toews instead? (NHL Alternate History)

(Ed. Note: It’s the NHL Alternate History project! We’ve asked fans and bloggers from 31 teams to pick one turning point in their franchise’s history and ask ‘what if things had gone differently?’ Trades, hirings, firings, wins, losses, injuries … all of it. How would one different outcome change the course of history for an NHL team? Today: Brad Lee of St. Louis Game Time on the St. Louis Blues, in an ode to the great QUANTUM LEAP. Enjoy!)

By Brad Lee

[A flash of light, and suddenly the silhouette of Jarmo Kekalainen is filled with shiny cosmic-looking stuff. When it fades, he’s replaced with actor Scott Bakula (St. Louis native) playing the role of Dr. Sam Beckett. Jarmo (Sam) is sitting at a conference table in the bowels of the Savvis center. Men in golf shirts with winged musical notes surround the table.]

[It is June 23, 2006.]

John Davidson: This is our final meeting before tomorrow’s draft. We need a plan. And I believe we need a defenseman. We’ve got a lot of impact forwards in the pipeline. I have high hopes for the foreign kids from 2002, Alexei Shkotov, Andrei Mikhnov and Tomas Troliga. I like David Backes from 2003. Carl Soderberg I see being an impact player. And that Oshie kid, he’s a real spark-plug.

Larry Pleau: Are we sure Erik Johnson is the guy? He’s set to go to Minnesota for at least a year. What if he likes college? What if he falls in love with golf and drives off in his cart for four years? We’d be wrecked. Let’s go forward. A center. Can never have enough centers. Our plane leaves for Vancouver this afternoon. Of course with a connecting flight through Dallas and another in Las Vegas. So time is short. We need to decide.

JD: Jarmo, what do you think?

Sam Beckett: Well…I. Uh. Oh boy

(Theme music plays)

“Theorizing that one could time travel within his own lifetime, Dr. Sam Beckett stepped into the Quantum Leap accelerator and vanished… He woke to find himself trapped in the past, facing mirror images that were not his own and driven by an unknown force to change history for the better. His only guide on this journey is Al, an observer from his own time, who appears in the form of a hologram that only Sam can see and hear. And so Dr. Beckett finds himself leaping from life to life, striving to put right what once went wrong and hoping each time that his next leap will be the leap home.”

Sam: Can we take a break?

JD: We just started.

Sam: I need to go to the restroom. (runs out)

(In the bathroom, Sam’s holographic companion Al arrives)

Al: Sam, Sam! Welcome to St. Louis. And the professional hockey team. Now you probably don’t know this because your brain is Swiss cheese from all the leaps you make, but you’ve helped other sports teams. The Cubs. The Cavaliers. Tom Brady’s entire career. You looked good in that hoodie, by the way.

Sam: But I don’t know the first thing about hockey. And is my name really Jarmo?

Al: Yes! You’re Jarmo Kekalainen, the guy in charge of drafting amateur hockey players for the Blues. And Sam, you have the No. 1 pick tomorrow! You have the chance to reshape a franchise that’s never won the Stanley Cup. EVER.

Sam: Ok. Tell me who to pick.

Al: Well, Iggy isn’t so sure on this one. In history, the Blues took Erik Johnson. And he’s a disappointment. He gets hurt and misses a year. He isn’t the same impact player after the injury. He ends up getting traded and has a mediocre career.

Sam: Well that sounds easy, who should we pick other than this Johnson kid?

Al: The computations are astronomical. Determining the record of the Blues with a different player on a roster that puts 12 forwards and six defenseman and a goalie on the ice at the same time is nearly impossible. Even for a super computer. Win a few more games, a few less games and draft position changes every year. And suddenly a talented Russian isn’t available or maybe the team is a little worse and takes a player it feels is better than the guy the team would’ve taken otherwise. The ripples from one change are exponential.

Sam: I have to go back in there. They’re going to look to me to make a decision. HELP ME!

Al: Ok. Here are your options. You could take Jordan Staal. He comes from a hockey family. He’s big and talented. He bounces around a little bit in his career. Or you could take Nicklas Backstrom. Now he’s European. And hockey in North America is very protective of their turf. He’s really talented, but in the NHL he’s played with one of the greatest natural goal scorers of his generation. So you could argue he’s just played with good teammates. There’s another American Kid who likes hot dogs. Or you could pick Jonathan Toews. He goes on to win three Stanley Cups as a captain with his team. He’s a lock for the Hall of Fame. He transformed his team from a perennial loser to a contender every season even when they lose other key players.

Sam: Hey, that kid sounds perfect! Jonathan Toes.

Al: Toews.

Sam: Whatever. Thanks Al. This will be an easy assignment!

(fast forward to the NHL draft stage in Vancouver the next night)

JD: Thank you to everyone from the Canucks organization making this draft night such a pleasure. And the citizens of Vancouver, you’ve been great hosts. We’d like to say hello to all our fans watching back in St. Louis. I’d like to bring up Jarmo Kekalainen to make this historic pick for the St. Louis Blues, the only first overall selection in team history. Jarmo…

Sam: Uh. Hi. With the first pick in the 2006 NHL draft, the Blues select….Jonathan Toes. I mean Taves, North Dakota.

(A gasp goes through the crowd. The television cameras zoom in on a shocked Erik Johnson who thought he was the surefire pick. Al suddenly appears next to Sam/Jarmo on the stage)

Al: Good pick Sam. History is already rewritten. Jonathan Toews doesn’t win three Cups for the Blackhawks in Chicago. They don’t win any of those three. And….wait. This is odd. According to this, the Blues don’t win any either.

Sam: But I thought you said this kid would win the Cup. Wasn’t I here to help win the Cup for St. Louis?

Al: Apparently it takes more than a time traveling scientist doing the work of fate or whomever is controlling your leaps. It will literally take an act of God. But don’t worry, apparently he didn’t want the Hawks to win after all. Bye bye!

(Sam glows and disappears, reappearing in a different body, time and place)

Brad Lee is the editor of St. Louis Game Time. Toews image by @HitchsHat.

PREVIOUSLY ON NHL ALTERNATE HISTORY

What if … the Islanders never hired Mike Milbury?

What if … Dallas drafted the other Lundqvist brother?

What if … Jonathan Drouin’s Tampa time wasn’t so chaotic? 

What if … Minnesota Wild hired Pierre McGuire as GM? 

What if … Florida had traded Roberto Luongo for Joe Thornton?

What if … the Martin Gelinas goal counted for Calgary?

What if … the Oilers never traded for Chris Pronger?

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