Sunday afternoon’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Winnipeg Jets - the Blues third loss of four games this season against Winnipeg - made very clear what the Blues need to address at the trade deadline.
The team’s offense got it done without either Robert Thomas (illness) or Pavel Buchnevich (concussion), but when it came time for effective defense, well, it was defense optional for the second game in a row.
The team’s defense is hesitant, with maybe the exception of Justin Faulk and Torey Krug. Colton Parayko still looks like he has either long term effects from his back injury or has developed long term habits from the pain related to that injury. He’s tentative, he’s not taking away lanes with his long reach like he could, and as far as being a deterrent around the Blues net he is a non-issue.
Marco Scandella’s name keeps getting tossed around as a trade chip, and I have to ask: to what team? And for what?
Niko Mikkola, Jake Walman, and Robert Bortuzzo are fine. I don’t mean that as a compliment, just a descriptor.
The team’s overtime loss - their sixth of the season - was a microcosm of the problems the team has been facing. This isn’t even entirely a breakdown on the defensemen’s part - it’s the team defense fundamentals, as a whole, that need to be looked at.
The post-game write up from Jim Thomas in the Post-Dispatch reads like a what not to do list. Most of it comes straight from the mouth of Brayden Schenn and Craig Berube, as they were the only two members of the organization made available to the press after the loss.
“When goals happen, we’re getting caught on the wrong side of the puck, and that kind of happens in overtime,” Schenn said. “You’ve got to wait for your chance, and we’re a little bit antsy to attack before we get the puck or before we finish up defending.”
That was in reference to Jordan Kyrou’s overtime play, in which he came on for a line change and blasted to the Jets’ zone instead of minding the Jets players on the ice. That left just Parayko to defend against Nikolaj Ehlers and Pierre Luc-Dubois since Schenn was coming on at a line-change. It’s great Parayko wanted to make something happen, but you also need to be mindful of what’s happening. His mistake led to a scoring opportunity that led to a goal by Dubois.
Berube wasn’t thrilled with Parayko’s positioning on the goal, either:
“Stay more in the middle of the ice,” Berube said. “Schenn is back-checking. It’s a lefthanded shot (Ehlers) — just leave him on the outside. And let him shoot from over there, rather than making a seam pass. That’s tough. That’s a tough save.”
Split second decision making left the team in the lurch, but situations like both of these instances from Sunday aren’t just happening in overtime. They’re happening nearly every time the team is in their own zone.
The problem is, where does the fix come from? Does the team continue to wait for one of the other four defensemen not named Faulk or Krug to play better? Do they make a trade that potentially costs them one of their top prospects or a high draft pick? If the Blues are in win now mode, it’s easy to see Doug Armstrong going with this route again - but the team’s stable isn’t exactly stocked right now. Are fans in the mood for a rebuild once this window closes?
The options for trade pieces are slim if the Blues don’t want to sell the farm (team), and prime target Jakob Chychrun is out at least two weeks with injury, maybe four.
Never say never with Doug Armstrong and his ability to hose the competition in a trade, but Blues fans may want to start tempering their trade deadline expectations. The help the Blues need may just have to come from within the organization, and someone needs to get a jump on finding it.