As the Blues’ long break continues - only two more days until a game, everyone! - speculation for the future is rampant. It’s the second half of the season, the Blues have been playing well, and it’s time for the team to formulate their playoff push strategy.
Clearly, when I say “team,” I mean Doug Armstrong. The Blues roster, as it’s constructed now, has been consistently effective at winning games. That hasn’t kept a bit of luck from being there to bail them out, however. As Jordan Binnington has faltered, Ville Husso has shone. The defense has had their share of struggles this season, but the offense has been solid. You can thank Vladimir Tarasenko for a good chunk of that offensive power, and by proxy, you can thank Armstrong for holding onto him when a trade partner wasn’t found.
All in all, it’s not the road you take, it’s the destination. The Blues are at the halfway point, and Armstrong seems satisfied with their journey. As he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jim Thomas:
“It’s been a good first half,” Armstrong said. “I think we’ve learned a lot about our organization. With the injuries and COVID, we’ve had to test our depth and test our pro scouting and test our development. And I think those have all passed with good grades.
“Plus, I would say the emergence of (Jordan) Kyrou and (Robert) Thomas on a veteran team makes everyone feel good about the present and the future.”
Armstrong didn’t seem worried about Parayko or Binnington’s play, comparing Parayko to Bouwmeester in the expectations category. You can tell as you read the interview with Thomas that Armstrong is focused on the team’s offense. If you read between the lines, it’s not hard to catch that aside from Parayko, the team’s defense was a non-starter for discussion.
What direction will this encourage Armstrong to take at the trade deadline? He made clear to mention that he believes the bottom eight teams in the East are definite sellers, but it’s the figuring out what they want in exchange is the difficult part. Will they ask for prospects? Current roster players? Will any of them be selling a defensive upgrade that can help the Blues?
The question that needs to be asked is instead how would Armstrong find the cap space for a deadline acquisition? The defense absolutely needs to be upgraded, and if Army finds the deal he’ll make it. But right now, it feels like other teams expect roster players in return for what they’re selling, and aside from Marco Scandella (and how do you sell him right now?), what roster player do you ship out? You can’t touch the forwards.
A trade doesn’t appear to a pressing need to him right now, nor is discussing much about the defense in general. If Armstrong is truly content with the direction the Blues are headed, fans might need to temper their deadline expectations.