Let’s get something out of the way here right off the bat: I’m aware that the season’s still young. There’s a lot of hockey left to be played here, but just because the season’s a month old doesn’t make these games worth any less. They don’t look at the standings at the end of the year and go “wait a second, this team got all of these points in October! We can’t count that as much!”
Points are points, come they in the first month of the season or the last month.
The Blues are lucky to have 17 points, but they’ve fallen out of a guaranteed playoff spot for right now after going 3-5-2 in their last ten games. After Saturday’s 8-4 pounding by the Columbus Blue Jackets, they have a -10 goal differential.
Their offense seems to only play sporadically, and their defense and goaltending can’t bail them out anymore. What gives? Are they not “buying in” to coach Ken Hitchcock’s system anymore? Again? I mean, this happens every season, usually at the middle of the year; this seems awfully early for a lack of buy-in.
According to Paul Stastny, they’re not playing for each other. From an interview with Tom Timmerman:
“We’re not playing for each other, not playing as a collective group, and it shows. That’s the frustrating part. We have to look at ourselves, we have to look within this locker room and figure out who we’re playing for. We have to be playing for the guy next to us.”
In that same interview, Stastny called the team “fragile.”
If a team isn’t scoring, it screws with their confidence. When you start calling yourselves “fragile,” it’s somewhere between acceptance of the fact that you’re not doing what you’re supposed to and resignation to that problem not changing for the foreseeable future.
Not playing for each other, well, that seems to be a different problem. Was losing David Backes and Troy Brouwer, along with Brian Elliott, really that much of a locker room deflater? Is no one stepping up? Are the Blues “not playing as a team” because their heart and soul guys left and there’s no one left with grit?
They need to come off of it if that’s the case. Wallowing in loss isn’t helpful. You lost big bodies and need to adjust to a new system? Sure. Do that. Blame it on that. Recognize that’s a concrete issue that can be improved upon; don’t brush it off on nebulous things like being “fragile” or “soft” or “terrified of the future” or “Hitch yelled at me/benched me” or whatever else people like to blame game losses and poor performances on.
They had a practice today with a good “compete level.” Bringing that compete level into the game tomorrow night against the Sabres and demonstrating some competency will go a long way to fixing the tangibles - there were a few bright spots Saturday, after all.
If this team needs to figure out who they play for, that speaks to more than the system.