Trading Hull just wouldn't work for Blues Off season aside, he's not finished

February 19, 1993|By The Sporting News

What's all the Hullabaloo?

We suggested last summer that Brett Hull was happy and healthy and a candidate to score 100 goals in the 1992-93 season -- if the St. Louis Blues went out and got him a decent playmaking center.

Fifty-eight games into the season, including nine against expansion Ottawa, Tampa Bay and San Jose, Hull had only 39 goals. That's far off the 50 goals in 50 games pace Hull had the past two seasons.

With Hull seeking a new six-year contract for $20 million and wondering what the club's plans are for him after his contract runs out after the 1993-94 season, the Blues got tired of waiting for Hull to produce. They actually came close to trading him last week to the Los Angeles Kings for center Tony Granato, right wing Marty McSorley and defenseman Rob Blake. But the Kings refused toinclude Blake in the package.

The idea of trading a star player for three or four lesser parts rarely works, unless the premier player is on a downward spiral. That's hardly the case with Hull, even though he will not reach 72, 86 or 70 goals as he did the past three seasons.

Just because the Quebec Nordiques became a contender when they traded Eric Lindros to Philadelphia for six players, two first-round draft choices and $15 million doesn't mean trading a cornerstone player for four, five or six easy pieces is going to work every time. Are the Edmonton Oilers better now after trading Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier? Of course not.

To argue that Hull's career was dependent on clever center Adam Oates, who was traded to Boston last season, is silly. Hull scored when Gilmour was his center. He scored when Peter Zezel was his center.

But the Blues fumbled the puck when they went 57 games into this season before they promised to work out a new contract with Hull and try to find a center for him before the March 20 trading deadline.

Hull, 28, is far from finished. He is worth $3 million or more per season. But putting him with centers such as Ron Sutter, Igor Korolev, Ron Wilson, Bob Bassen and Kevin Miller is like putting Mario Lemieux with Jay Caufield and Troy Loney.

Still, Bryan Trottier wasn't a lesser talent without Mike Bossy. Jerry Rice continues to catch passes without Joe Montana. Barry Bonds survived without Bobby Bonilla. But none of those players did the job alone.

Instead of trading for a playmaker such as Brian Bradley before the season when Tampa Bay would have gladly taken two or three prospects or acquiring John Cullen from Hartford for a second-round draft choice, the Blues ignored the problem and stumbled out of the box.

"If you're winning, the game is fun, but it's been one of those years where we're not winning," Hull says. "Losing makes everything look so much grayer, and who do they point the finger at when we're losing? Me. Which makes it even worse.

"People say, 'Oh, he's not even trying.' Well, what do they mean I'mnot trying? I am trying."

Hull talks about missing Oates. He talks about their friendship, the fact they used to do everything together. They will be friends forever, but enough is enough.

"Geez, I'm starting to sound like a baby," Hull says. "It's not like I hate coming to the rink, but there's a certain enjoyment you should get and it's not quite there right now."

What the Blues forget is that Hull helped raise their season-ticket base from 8,000 to 13,000. He didn't come back and ask to renegotiate his four-year, $7.2 million contract, as Oates did with his contract. More importantly, the Blues forget they have 60 luxury boxes to fill in the new Kiel Center in 1994-95. Hull will help fill those seats. More importantly, the Blues forget they have 60 luxury boxes to fill in the new Kiel Center in 1994-95. Hull will help fill those seats.

"I'm not going anywhere," Hull says. "I don't want to bail out on the people of St. Louis. They're going to have to kick me out before I leave. I want to stay here bad enough that something can be worked out."

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