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http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/sports/stories.nsf/blues/story/CE7A3D4D1E1C41998625766E00158B3F?OpenDocument

A day after appearing dejected inside the Blues locker room after a 3-1 loss to Nashville, Dave Checketts said he had seen enough.

The team's owner delivered a stern message Friday to everyone wearing the Bluenote.

"I'm frustrated like everybody else," Checketts said. "And I think it's frankly time to declare the wait over. I think our fans have been patient, I think we've been patient.

"This is a team that the time has come ... it's time to win. The waiting is over. We don't need to be patient anymore. We have a right to expect. We're spending enough and we have a terrific group of guys. It's time to win.


"There is no reason for the kind of effort we saw last night. This team has everything it needs and now is the time to win. All year long, we should compete for first or second in our division. This team is good enough and that's what we expect from them. I think everyone can expect that. And it's top to bottom ... everybody in the organization has to be on that page. It's time to win. We have everything we need to win. There's no excuse."

The Blues are 6-7-4 overall and were in 13th place in the Western Conference before Friday's games. Their 16 points after 17 games matches the team's total at the same point last season, and of course they still had time to squeak into the playoffs. But it took an NHL-best record of 25-9-7 in the second half to pull it off, and that trick is unlikely to be duplicated this season.

This season's start may be more disappointing because expectations were higher with the return of Paul Kariya and Erik Johnson. Those expectations were heightened after back-to-back wins over Detroit to open the season. But since returning from Sweden, the Blues are just 4-7-4 and only 1-3-3 in their past seven games.

"You've got to give them time, I know that," Checketts said. "It takes time to get everybody acclimated, especially after guys have been out a full year like Paul and Erik and Eric Brewer. We've had some injuries, but no more than any other club.

"I just think it's time to say, 'It's time to start winning ... it's time to start competing for the first and second place in the division.' And not have playoffs a question (mark) and have some playoff run where we have to struggle to get in. No, this is a team, even in a tough division, that's good enough to be there."

Checketts said that he was most disturbed by the Blues' mark of 2-6-1 at Scottrade Center this season.

"The hallmark of our club, even when we didn't have the talent, was we never got outworked at home," he said. "It has to be that way. When we come home, this has got to be a very tough place to play. You see it in our fans; the building is either full or nearly full every night. Our season-ticket base is the highest it's been in many, many years in this city. I have no complaints about the fans.

"But we're (2-6-1) at home ... unacceptable, unacceptable. The way we played against Vancouver (a 6-1 win) was extraordinary. I don't think we're going to see that every night. But I want to see that kind of effort, I want to see that kind of energy, and we have a right to expect it."

Asked about Checketts' message, Blues President John Davidson said, "It's logical what Dave is saying. Our home record is something that should be a lot better, and if it was a lot better, we'd be in good shape. ... Anybody in this league that is going to be a playoff club, you've got to be better on home ice than we've been. I don't want that to be our bugaboo at the end, saying, 'Gosh, we were just terrible on home ice; I don't know what went wrong.' So it's time for everybody to re-focus and get it going."

The message didn't take long to filter through the Blues' locker room.

"We're embarrassed," Blues defenseman Barret Jackman said. "Especially when our owner, who has been as accommodating as Mr. Checketts ... he's given us every opportunity within his power to help us succeed ... when he starts putting the pressure on you, you have to respond.

"The ownership has been nothing but amazing. We have to show them some feedback. We have to show that we're willing to compete for them. We put pressure on ourselves, but definitely when it comes from the top like that ... results have to come now."

Checketts said he felt strongly that no changes need to be made, and in fact, he gave head coach Andy Murray an endorsement.

"We picked up his option (for the 2010-11 season) at (Davidson's) recommendation because we believe in him," Checketts said. "So this is not about one guy. He hasn't changed the way he coaches. He might have gotten better at some things. I think he's working hard, and we have great confidence in him ... great confidence.

"It's time for it to come together. I have a feeling that this team is going to go on a tear. That's what I want to see. But it's going to take a tremendous effort to do that."
 
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