There’s no shortage of blame for your St. Louis Blues’ poor season thus far; Mike Yeo under-performed as head coach, but management’s done the same, along with (especially) the players.
The latter of that group has shown an unwillingness to compete to their potential on an almost nightly basis, which is something St. Louis fans aren’t quick to forgive. As Doug Armstrong alluded to Tuesday, Blues fans are a largely blue collar bunch who expect to get their money’s worth at the rink, and they’ve been ripped off aplenty this season.
Actually, they’ve been ripped off here-and-there going back to just before Christmas ’17, which is something else the Blues GM alluded to after introducing Craig Berube as interim head coach this week.
“A top three of four team in the league, feeling good about ourselves, everything was going well, then we hit a rut in December-January and quite honestly, we haven’t gotten out of it,” Army said. “If you look at our record since December 1, we’re about a .500 hockey team. That’s not good enough in today’s NHL.”
Indeed. But Army went out and spent plenty of Blues bucks this past summer, with the only really strong return in Ryan O’Reilly. So, the argument can be made it’s an institutional problem, but it’s still puzzling as to why so many well-paid players aren’t playing hard every shift.
Armstrong assumes his part of the blame, but also lays due blame on his skaters.
“The wins and losses fall on hockey operations and as the president of hockey operations and the general manager of the team, there’s things that need to be addressed,” Armstrong said. “We’ve stayed patient with the core group of players and that patience now is at its thinnest point.
“It reflects on Mike Yeo, but it shouldn’t reflect solely on Mike Yeo and it’s not a referendum on his ability to coach. I think, again, he’s paying for sins,” Army added. “Mike is paying for the collective group. It’s not all on Mike, but ultimately as the head coach, you’re responsible to get the team to play at a level.”
All true, but just who can get this group to play ‘at a level’ if some of these players are now on their third head coach in less than three years? Some players have been held accountable and shipped out going back to last season’s lulls, but when is enough enough for the core as a whole?
There are no-trade clauses (Steen, Pietrangelo) to consider, but could we see another shakeup if things don’t pickup? On Tuesday, The Athletic‘s Jeremy Rutherford reminded Armstrong of his comments the day after firing best friend, Ken Hitchcock in 2017, when the GM said that’d be the last time he’d be carrying out such a Blues sentence.
Army held the players accountable after Hitch’s dismissal, too, and said Tuesday he’d be doing the same following the latest firing.
“I guess I could say it again: that the next permanent head coach, if we’re having this conversation, there will be core players gone, but I guess if I’ve said that once I wouldn’t believe it either,” he said. “I truly believe it this time. We’ve transferred into a different group. That group’s not three people; that group’s eight or nine people in my opinion. And they have to get us out of this. We need our best players to be our best players on a much more consistent basis.”
He’s not wrong, and needing the ‘best players to be the best players,’ has been a theme for too long to many fans.
“I don’t think there’s a drop-dead date that there will be seven guys gone if something doesn’t happen by date x,” he said. “Players have decisions to make over the next few years and we have decisions to make over the next few years.”
Stay connected with 101 ESPN for plenty of Blues coverage and analysis throughout the season, and have a wonderfully happy Thanksgiving.