The Post-Dispatch's Jeremy Rutherford has published an interesting and timely interview with Blues' General Manager Doug Armstrong. The team's recent slide (4-5-1 in their last ten) has caused them to lose pace with the Chicago Blackhawks and Nashville Predators; they sit five points behind both. More importantly (and frustratingly), the team is nowhere near meeting the expectations fans and management had for them going into this season. It is a quality team on paper who has, for much of this season, relied on the production of one line to cover up lapses in fundamental play.
Those lapses in fundamentals have caught up with the team as of late.
So, who is this team?
"The general feeling is the identity flows from year to year but the reality is you have to create a new identity every year because you’re bringing in different players," Armstrong said. "We’ve taken our style of play maybe for granted, but you have to get new players to understand and have the same philosophy. Sometimes that takes a little bit longer. I would say I think our identity has been set now. Now we just have to put it into place on a regular basis."
The change in personnel necessitates a change in identity. The new arrivals, and there are quite a few of them this season, are both responsible for creating a new team identity and fitting into a coach's system that may not necessarily be accommodating.
This could be where frustrations with the coaching staff are coming from. By "frustrations," I obviously mean fan frustrations, as the team has not voiced any concerns nor have the players aside from Ian Cole's "they tell me to do too much" complaint. Defensively, the team seems to be incapable of remembering the basics - whether or not that's because there's too much going on in their head remains to be seen. When the fundamentals are followed, such as Saturday night's 7-2 win over the San Jose Sharks, there are rewards and they are many. This team can score when given leeway to.
Perhaps new faces coming to terms with the team's pre-existing identity is helping improvement. Maybe it's the team's veterans being more open to the modification of the identity that's gotten them going. Whatever the reason, Armstrong believes that the team is starting to really gel and come together, and he's happy with where they are as a group.
This, of course, may be frustrating for fans to hear - how can the GM be happy with their recent record? Armstrong is trying to look at how they've played and the bigger recent picture of it all. For us, it's easier to focus on the negatives - and there are some problems that need to be addressed. As a whole, Armstrong's assessment that this team is a quality one as-is is a good one. It also means that something needs to change to make sure that the team plays with an appropriate consistency.
"I think that emotions run rampant during periods of bad play," Armstrong said. "But if you look around the NHL, you don’t make decisions based on a five- or 10-game blocks. You make them based on history. The same thing with players, you stick with them because you know they’re good players and they’ll come out of it, and you stick with coaches because you know that they can find a way to get their team to play."
So, what needs to change? Does anything?