This morning, Doug Armstrong held a press conference to discuss the trade of Kevin Shattenkirk to the Washington Capitals. The tone of the press conference, as reported on by Jeremy Rutherford, seemed to be one of justification for the deal, and resignation that this may not be the year for the Blues. Again.
"We are not in the business of trading good players for prospects when your team has a chance to win the Cup," Armstrong said. "This team now has to get in on its own. It's going to be more difficult, but if we get in, you always have a chance to win."
"If you can get into the playoffs, we have an opportunity to win," Armstrong said. "We've seen other teams win. But we are not in the same situation a year ago. We are not a top-five team in the league in the standings. We don't have the same rhythm that we did a year ago at this time. We are not raising any flags. What we are doing is looking at the situation the way it is."
Realism is nice. Most Blues fans realized what was this season was going to be like several months ago, when it seemed next to impossible that the team that Armstrong constructed would catch any sort of rhythm, or would be anything other than slightly above average. Fans possibly realized this more quickly than Armstrong, but the trade of Shattenkirk is a signal that, after firing Ken Hitchcock, the Blues will be content just making the playoffs. That’s the measure of success this season.
Happy 50th birthday to the St. Louis Blues.
This team, and the lame duck coaching situation, is the construction of Armstrong. He has placed his bets on a team with a lack of depth at center, one that seemed content to pair up Vladimir Tarasenko with an underperforming and overpaid Jori Lehtera. One whose strength seems to be - again - on the number of second and third liners that it possesses. The Blues got another potential third line player with the acquisition of Zach Sanford. Time will tell how development will shape him, but he isn’t a differencemaker now.
Due to cap issues, the Blues have lost their cohesive core in the locker room. It’s shown on the ice in a lack of consistency and motivation.
“Last year at this deadline, everyone said St. Louis is a Cup contender. Now we are at the dark horse part of that. But dark horses win every once in a while, too."
Is that what passes for motivation this season? Trust me, that isn’t going to get anyone’s attention in the locker room. Armstrong believes that the team is transitioning to a new, younger group of players who need to step up and take the reins. That may be, but someone has to teach them how to ride a horse, and it remains to be seen how much exposure the young crowd had to the old guard before they left town.
This has been deemed a transition year since this summer, which is unfortunate. Most teams who wind up in the Western Conference finals don’t find themselves figuring out their future less than a year later, but these are the Blues, and right now they’re beholden to whatever cap-compliant roster Doug Armstrong can piece together.