So, last night's game was not good. It was also something that the Blues have been slogging through since the start of December. The team hasn't looked right since November. Granted, back then, fans and the team could chalk it up to injuries mucking up the lines and team chemistry. It was an easy explanation. It was an easy excuse.
Now, though, the post-game mealy mouthed quotes are getting stale. The pressers and player interviews are in typical Blues playoff form. The guys have ceased saying the right thing, because at this point, there's nothing left to say. They need to perform.
Last night's post-game quotes led to frustration on Twitter, and it's understandable. There's a sense that no one knows what to do anymore. This is not a good sign.
Hitch: "Coaches always worry, but when it's concerning for the players, that's when the simplicity gets dialed up." #StlBlues— Andrew Allsman (@allsmandrew) January 5, 2016
Does that mean that it's just now concerning for the players? As far as simplicity, who were the last guys to mention simplicity and that the system and instruction was hard to understand?
Hitch: "If the sense of urgency grows in the locker room, we can grow from this." #StlBlues— Andrew Allsman (@allsmandrew) January 5, 2016
Again, is there no sense of urgency now? Why? This has been going on for a month, and urgency should've maybe come into play a couple weeks ago. This isn't about "growth." This team knows how to play - we've seen them do it. It's about executing consistently and about the coach getting them to communicate his system clearly and understandably. The team isn't executing.
Pietrangelo: Our game is flipped from the first half of the season. We were dominant in the third. Don't know why we can't close @KMOXSports— Alex Ferrario (@FerrarioKMOX) January 5, 2016
You can obviously tell Hitch is speechless after these games. What else can he say. Players aren't playing when they need to. #stlblues— Alex Ferrario (@FerrarioKMOX) January 5, 2016
If the coach is out of ideas, perhaps someone with ideas should look into sharing them.
Playing well usually leads to points, but I get what he's saying here. At this moment, maybe getting points will encourage good play. Something needs to, because apparently intrinsic motivation is not a thing with this team as a whole, and neither are the options of playing for each other and playing for the coach.
Something needs to be done to fix this. But at this point, in January, it's looking doubtful.
Would firing Hitchcock change things? Certainly. It would probably light a fire under the team that they haven't felt for years. A new coach will bring new perspectives and ideas to a coaching staff that seems to be at a loss as to what to do with this team.
It goes without saying, to get a pair of fresh eyes, it would be best to pull in a coach outside of the current staff. The downside here, is other than Hitchcock, who is available? The Blues screwed themselves out of the opportunity to replace Hitch with a quality replacement this summer. Yes, they did due diligence with Mike Babcock, and yes, Todd McClellan decided to go with the Oilers. No, we won't know who else the Blues talked to, if anyone. But by deciding to stick with the status quo, it allowed eligible and talented coaches to head elsewhere, limiting the pool. I have seen quite a few people ask some version of "if not Hitch, then who?" Who could the Blues get at this point of the season that would be considered an upgrade?
Some don't feel that the issue is a coach or communication between coach and players issue; they feel that the blame lies on the players themselves. That somehow, a "core group" quits on every coach and it spreads, and that this is what caused Andy Murray and Davis Payne to get canned.
Andy Murray was fired on January 3rd, 2010. Davis Payne was canned on November 6, 2011. These are the players currently on the Blues who were on the team through both firings:
- Alex Pietrangelo
- David Backes
- Alexander Steen
- Patrik Berglund
The other two players who most notably made up part of "the core" were Barret Jackman and T.J. Oshie. They are gone. The pattern, if there is one, remains. The other four players are either players who nearly no one wants to deal (Pietrangelo, Steen) or players whose contracts are so large for their skill set that dealing them would be difficult (Backes, Berglund). Also, Backes, Berglund, and Steen all have no trade clauses.
The Blues, by virtue of being a cap team with huge and difficult to move contracts attached to players who could be of value, have hamstrung themselves in a situation of lather, rinse, repeat. It's difficult to assume everything is on the coach, or everything is on the players. It's absurd to think that the Blues have a group of four people whose goal it is to kill coaches' careers and spread malaise.
It is fair to question the message of the coach the effectiveness of that message's transmission, and the dissemination of that message throughout the team. It is more than fair for fans to demand change, from the roster up through the general manager that created this unpleasasnt situation.
A quick fix isn't coming, folks. Some step toward recognition outside of post-game chat that there is a problem would communicate to the fans that the team is at least entertaining some sort of remedy. What that remedy is or should be is anyone's guess, but chances are good that it will be the easiest option. Do you fire a coach, or do you trade half of your line-up, possibly getting lesser players in return? Trading Oshie for Brouwer didn't change much, if anything. Would there be any improvement with more trades of the same ilk?
Buy some beer. It's going to be a long stretch.