This is head coach Craig Berube after the Blues’ loss to the Philadelphia Flyers:
Berube says Blues’ poor record against bad teams is due to “arrogance.” #stlblues— Jeremy Rutherford (@jprutherford) March 25, 2022
This is head coach Craig Berube after the Blues 7-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in the very next game:
Berube on team in general: "It's confidence more than anything. Right now, the confidence is not very high on the hockey team, I'll tell you that. We've got to get our mojo back. That's the biggest thing." #stlblues— Jeremy Rutherford (@jprutherford) March 27, 2022
Ok, so what is it? Is the team arrogant or do they lack confidence? Are they arrogant against the league’s also-rans, but lack confidence against the big boys?
What in the world is going on?
The Blues have hung tough with the NHL’s best teams pretty consistently this season, which makes a “lack of confidence” excuse tough to handle and easy to scratch your head at. They’ve gotten ragdolled by non-playoff teams, which makes the arrogance comment make sense, if you believe that this group is incapable of learning from past mistakes.
It’s the end of March. If you still have arrogance against the league’s worst despite being pretty consistently beaten by the league’s worst, then maybe the problem is beyond arrogance. It’s arrogance coupled with stubbornness - and when they get called out on it, they turtle.
Last night’s 7-2 loss was as close to “if Claude Lemieux was a hockey game” as you could get. The Blues got challenged by a tough opponent - either the Canes or themselves, the choice is yours! - and they caved. They turtled their way into an even worse disappointment than their 5-2 loss to the Flyers.
The Blues’ March Malaise isn’t anything new. It’s happened every season since 2019’s Cup run. 2020’s bubble gave them the benefit of the doubt. After all, covid interrupted the season. 2021? Well, let’s chalk that up to covid again. 2022? Maybe blaming the previous two seasons on the pandemic was a little generous.
This team has heard “they won the Stanley Cup!” as an excuse for bad play, not a celebration, since the 2019-2020 season. It worked for that year, a bit, at covering problems. As the team becomes further and further removed from that Cup championship squad, it becomes harder to use that as a way to brush off poor play being just an anomaly. It’s become a pattern.
The people remaining from that 2019 championship team comprises the team’s leadership corps, as well as most of the coaching staff. It’s incumbent on them to fix whatever the issue is that allows this pattern to continue. Brayden Schenn trotted out the dreaded “buy-in” after last night’s loss, and while he’s not wrong, the fact that the team can’t seem to put a finger on the cause is troubling. They clearly know what they’re doing wrong. There’s little doubt that they’ve never had a grasp on fundamentals, year in and year out. When you don’t know the root cause of the issue that makes it even harder to fix it.
The playoffs are looming. If the Blues want to succeed in the post-season - if they want to make the post-season - they’re going to have to suss out the cause of the problem post-haste.