I think we can all agree that while the Blues have been pretty good in the last few years, something has been missing. Everyone has their speculations as to what, exactly, it is that's been missing.
The Blues added enough defensive depth at one trade deadline to make the team a formidable force on the blue line, one envied by many teams. That was done at the 2013 trade deadline. That didn't work.
We've seen trades to make the team "five percent better" with an eye on goaltending. That was at the 2014 trade deadline. That obviously didn't work.
We've seen the rise of a Russian superstar, flanked by a couple youngsters who have the hands to be top-line material. But when you're depending on Vladimir Tarasenko to score ALL the goals, things fall apart, even against a team like the Wild(s), as we saw this postseason.
The most common thread here is the team has had the same coach through all these changes. One that preaches defense-first hockey in a league leaning toward high-end skill. One that preaches the importance of home ice advantage, then has seen his team lose said advantage in every playoff series he's coached in.
And here we are again, bringing that same coach back.
In an offseason in which four (and perhaps five, if you include Pete DeBoer) viable replacements to the head coach were available, after two of them became unavailable, Doug Armstrong chose to stick with what he knows best, because as we all know, doing the same things over and over again hoping for something different to happen is always a great idea.
There is a caveat here . . . if management makes some changes to the team (and I'm talking SIGNIFICANT changes), you can easily justify bringing the coach back. And when I say "significant", I'm talking not only the firing of most of the rest of the coaching staff (with a strong eye toward Brad Shaw and Ray Bennett, in that regard) (UPDATE: THAT won't be happening), but the moving of not just one core piece, but maybe two or three.
But we saw how that all worked out in San Jose last year. And if there are not significant moves within the team, you're looking at a strong possibility this becomes the Central Division version of the Sharks.
And if the plan isn't to make significant changes alongside Hitchcock (again, UPDATE, not happening) and among the core, that will mean retaining Hitch was the wrong move.
What changes need to be made? The obvious one, based on comments made down the stretch, would be T.J. Oshie being traded. He has two years left on his contract, has voiced his disapproval with the coach and has done jack shit in the playoffs thus far in his career. Trading him would bring new pieces to the core and a shake-up to this team's structure.
But if you're committed to this coaching move, it can't stop there. There have been rumors of Patrik Berglund being shipped off before his limited no-trade clause kicks in. People seem to want David Backes gone. Jay Bouwmeester looked pedestrian at many points last year, but he has no-movement protection.
And one I would love to see, but it'll never happen . . . Steve Ott. Trade him for nothing, if you will, but get him off the team so Hitch doesn't move him to the fucking top line.
See, this is really hard to do in the salary cap era. To get, you have to give, and the Blues not only don't have many movable pieces, but among the ones that ARE movable, not many of them have enough value to bring back anything of significance.
Which brings us back to the decision to keep Hitch around. What significant thing has he done to make you believe he can helm a Cup contender in these last four years?
I haven't seen it. You likely haven't seen it. And yet, we're doing this again.
So my charge to the Blues and Doug Armstrong is this . . . if you're committed to this coaching move, make significant moves in other areas of the team, or else run the risk of turning your team into a laughingstock at the level of the Sharks. Again.
Or don't, and not only alienate most of the fan base, but start the franchise toward a backward slide. Your choice.