Channelling his inner M.C. Skat Kat, Doug Armstrong had this to say to the Boston Globe’s Fluto Shinzawa:
“We don’t want to take any backwards movement in our organization. But sometimes you do expose yourself to maybe taking half a step back to take a couple steps forward.”
This may not be the thing that fans of a Western Conference finalist want to hear. The Blues, who this past post-season finally had some modicum of success, were poised to have a little more this post-season were it not for the walking of Troy Brouwer, David Backes, and the trade demand of Brian Elliott. Brouwer wound up being a one-year rental, making the T.J. Oshie trade a little less palatable. Elliott, who was - according to many on the team, including Jake Allen - the reason that the Blues made it to the Western Conference Finals to begin with, was dealt to the Calgary Flames for a couple of draft picks. Why? Because he wouldn’t be the clear cut starter in St. Louis with Allen waiting in the wings.
David Backes, of course, was a cap ceiling victim and a victim of his own age and signs of declining play (despite an excellent playoff performance). Armstrong deemed it too risky to have that much money and term locked up in a player on the wrong side of 30.
It wasn’t completely a necessity that the Blues lose three locker room leaders this off-season, but it wasn’t shocking to fans. The Blues have a stable full of young talent that, if properly deployed, should be successful. As Greg Wyshynski pointed out on Puck Daddy, this is Colton Parayko, Jake Allen, Robby Fabbri, Jaden Schwartz, and Vladimir Tarasenko’s team now. The question, as Wysh states, is do these guys step up into leadership roles with Backes, Brouwer, and Elliott gone, or do they defer to players like Paul Stastny, Alex Pietrangelo, and Jay Bouwmeester? A potential leadership vacuum rather than a talent vacuum seems to be the issue. If the young players step up and claim ownership while working in tandem with the veterans, there’s no reason that a leadership vacuum should happen.
As Armstrong explained:
“It’s going to be an interesting case study on how quickly this group takes up the leadership,” Armstrong said. “Can they do it in September? Or does it take them a year? There’s certainly a faith that over time, they’re going to pick it up without any issue. Obviously you want them to pick it up as quickly as possible. We don’t want to take any backwards movement in our organization. But sometimes you do expose yourself to maybe taking half a step back to take a couple steps forward. It just seemed like with the commitments we want to make to a player like Schwartz — the one we made with Tarasenko, what we did with Jake Allen at 25-26 years old, Colton Parayko we think is a really good player — people get caught in the crosshairs. That’s the unfortunate side of the business.”
This line-up should be considered a half-step back if the young talent and old talent aren’t properly utilized by the new coaching staff and Ken Hitchcock.
Then again, this was captured yesterday at the Blues’ open house:
I see a continuation of the Lehtera Experiment is already in someone’s mind.
Aside from that, it’s not a bad roster. It’s not earth-shattering, it doesn’t have much flashy about it save for Tarasenko and Schwartz, but it’s also not bad. Is it half a step backwards as compared to the team last season? Sure. Can the Blues take those two steps forward? That’s up to the guys behind the bench.