Postmortem: Blues Drop Central Title With A Thud

Dilip Vishwanat

The Blues, despite excellent play for the first two-thirds of the season, are finishing second in the Central Division.

So, how 'bout them Blues, eh? No, not the Blues of the early season, who tricked many people into believing that they would keep up their unsustainable hot streak. And not really the Blues of today, who had half of their forwards out as well as two of their top six defensemen.

But the Blues of the last ten games - or really, more accurately, the past two months - have been an unsettling uneven team to watch. The holes have become apparent. Goaltending was never the problem, as our stats guys illustrated (and probably will once more for fun) repeatedly. You can't tell me that the ending result would be any worse with Halak in net (though I'm also unsure how much better it would've been, if at all).

But do you you know how the team would've been better? If Doug Armstrong and Ken Hitchcock would stop pretending that they're the Dallas Stars from a decade ago. The Blues didn't need Steve Ott. They didn't need Brenden Morrow. Derek Roy they could've used a couple years ago, when he was still playing well. They don't need to build a whole line-up around grit and a tight defense, because you know why? Neither of those things score goals.

This team relied too much on early season scoring to keep lulling themselves into a false sense of security about the direction in which they were heading. They should've (and could've) traded for someone who is a reliable scorer at the trade deadline. Instead they traded for a goaltender who was not an upgrade and Steve Ott, who was immediately rendered redundant because look at the bottom six.

Well, look at who should be the bottom six, I should say, because the bottom six changed constantly, and sometimes the bottom six wound up in the top six, and sometimes, when desperation and injuries really set in, bottom six guys wound up on the top line.

This sputtering to the finish isn't on Ryan Miller, despite his absolutely God-awful terrible stats. Did he help the issue? No. Halak's stats could've been about the same, because there were constant defensive breakdowns in front of Miller. Honestly, one has to ask if it could've been any different had Hitchcock stopped trying to get Miller's confidence back in the rut by starting him over and over and over again. A break before playoffs would've been more helpful.

I'm not sure what the Blues are going to do in the first round. Unless they get back most of these injured guys, the Blackhawks are going to eat this team alive. Injuries were the final nail in this coffin, but the problems started well before guys started dropping like flies. For once, someone is going to have to realize that as gritty and blue collar as the Blues are - and that's great - they need an extra offensive push to get them over the edge. It's not fair to lean on someone having a career season, and it's not correct to point to a couple of those guys who are scoring at unsustainable clips and go "Look! Look! We're fine!"

For the love of God, make a big deal. Stop signing fourth-liners to large contracts. Do something, but please actually get real sustainable offense next year. Defense may win championships, but not if you can't score. Then you just lose 1-0.

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