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Hold the Players Accountable

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Armstrong can blame himself, but the players screwed up this season too.

San Jose Sharks v St Louis Blues - Game One Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Hitchcock and Armstrong deserve most of the blame for the two-month-long trainwreck we’ve been witnessing, but don’t forget that this roster lost these games. Not Hitchcock. Not Armstong. For better or worse, this locker room tuned out Hitchcock, and they’re responsible for this disaster, too. Within this core, you have a handful of players that have chewed through head coaches like President Trump tears through $1000 tubes of facial bronzer.

Andy Murray. Davis Payne. Mike Kitchen. Ken Hitchcock. Mike Yeo. All causalities - or future causalities - of Shattenkirk, Pietrangelo, Steen, Perron, and Berglund. Vote someone in this group off the island. The front office did the right thing by firing Hitch, and they should follow it up by ditching one of uncoachables. Send a message to the locker room - shape up or ship out.

If Armstrong's truly distraught about firing his BFF, he should take it out on the roster that made it happen. The club can get a small boost by shuffling around coaches, but it's the players alone who are responsible for the on ice results. If this is a transitional year, then commit to the transition. Sell off Berglund and Shattenkirk for draft picks and prospects. If this is a playoff year, commit to contention. Make a deal for Duchene or Landeskog and give the Blues some strength at center. St.Louis was a championship contender last season. A final four appearance, and drawing within six wins of the prize (no matter how listless they looked against the Sharks) puts them indisputably in this territory.

I don't accept the notion that Hitchcock was put in a position to fail. If Hitch felt he couldn't deliver what Armstrong and the front office were asking, why did he sign the contract? He had an opportunity to succeed - as any other team in the league has an opportunity to succeed every night - and he didn't. Let's stop pretending it was doomed from the start. Was the transition from Hitchcock-Mueller-Shaw to Hitchcock-Yeo clunky and awkward? Of course it was, but that doesn't make winning impossible. Especially when you consider that the foundation of this club is only slightly different from the last five seasons.

Maybe you could make the argument that Oshie was the first sacrificial lamb, and by trading Osh for a perceived ‘locker room’ problem, it diminished his return. Or perhaps Hitchcock was such a morale problem that the players shouldn’t be blamed for their poor performance under his watch. I don’t buy this, and by the sounds of it, neither does the team:

“Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo was made aware late Tuesday night and immediately felt like the club had let Hitchcock down.

“We’re a team here from the top down and you feel like he’s taking a lot of the brunt for it,” Pietrangelo said. “I certainly feel that way. It starts with me and goes down to the rest of the group.”

Others found out Wednesday morning and also felt part of the problem.

“You’ve got to take some,” Blues goalie Jake Allen said. “The coach can only do so much, but a lot lies on the players. He did so much for this organization his six years here, he turned this whole ship around. It’s tough news to take for all of us, there was a tough vibe in here this morning.”

Asked about Armstrong’s comments about the culture of ‘independent contractors,’ Blues forward Alexander Steen agreed that it was an issue.

“I think we’ve been talking about similar things in the room,” he said. “Just the unity in our room, I don’t think we’ve found that consistent play throughout the first half of the season here. We have to get back to work.”

Armstrong said the message to players after Wednesday would be: “The spotlight is on you.” [STLTODAY]

If you believe this roster ‘tuned out’ a coach that is a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame, what’s to stop them from tuning out Yeo? Or the coach after that? Berglund, Steen, Shattenkirk and Perron aren’t potential-laden prospects anymore. The franchise won’t collapse without them. If they can’t right the ship in the next two weeks, flip the old core on the trade market for prospects and picks, and build around Tarasenko, Fabbri, and Parayko.