Associating the St. Louis Blues with Jekyll and Hyde is a popular game around the new year. They zig, zag, ride high, crash hard, and regroup to make the playoffs-but the activities in between can test the patience of a fanbase still looking for Stanley Cup adoration 50+ years later. Head coach Mike Yeo is experiencing this mania for the first time as the man in charge, but General Manager Doug Armstrong is used to it by now.
After a wickedly hot start to the season, the Blues are 6-9-1 since the loss of Jaden Schwartz on Dec. 9, and have dropped from first place atop the NHL to third in their own division. Nonetheless, the Blues are in the hunt and primed to make another run when they get healthy.
That doesn’t mean Army is going to be happy with a downturn in overall performance. In St. Louis Post Dispatch columnist Jim Thomas’ piece today, there was a particular section where he seemed to sound an alarm about the team’s play, something STLGT columnist noticed in Thomas’ piece.
Let me say this about this team and how Yeo is handling it: the Blues are down two top six forwards, have a once again shaky Jake Allen in net, and aren’t getting enough from Magnus Paajarvi and Dmitrj Jaskin again. One of their stalwart defensemen, Jay Bouwmeester, has either been injured or ineffective on the ice. One of their leading producers, Alex Steen, couldn’t find the net for several weeks.
When Jaden Schwartz went down, the Blues top line took a huge hit in production, with star winger Vladimir Tarasenko finding the net only three times in 15 games. Early on, the defensemen, namely Carl Gunnarsson and Joel Edmundson, found the net at a higher rate than they ever have.
Here’s a theory: the first six weeks of the season were a helluva ride, but it was above what should be expected from the Blues this season. The team is getting younger at the blue line and on the dot with Vince Dunn and Tage Thompson, so the transition is in progress while a playoff spot is being chased.
It wasn’t an aberration, but not exactly the Blues speed. The D-man have stopped scoring at a high rate and injuries caught up with the Blues, who don’t have the stellar goaltending to withstand a two-goal-per-game average like they did in December. I don’t think any of that should be directed at Yeo--at least not yet.
The head coach could use some insurgence on the top three lines, and if you have read the 20 different trade proposals posted on this site the past couple of weeks, you know there are players out there to acquire. Instead of throwing light shade at the head coach and team, Armstrong needs to put down his “I traded Jori Lehtera” daiquiri and get back to work. Find a goal scorer to help the team get ahead early in games instead of fall behind, and put them in a position to get back on top in the Central.
Robby Fabbri isn’t coming back until the fall, but Schwartz is walking without a boot and on the mend. There are guys like Pat Maroon, Mike Hoffman, Lee Stempniak, and more golden options like Evander Kane and Max Pacioretty out there to bring in. It won’t be easy, but G.M.’s don’t get four year extensions for nothing.
Keep your eyes on the prize, Armstrong. By now, you know what the team needs to go from a playoff participation trophy finalist to a Stanley Cup contender, or you can just come out and tell us that you are rebuilding. Since that is hard work, just get to work. Recess is over.
Thanks for reading and drink more bourbon,