I might have been wrong.
No, not about Mike Yeo and his inability to coach this team. That, I stand by.
However, I might have been wrong about this team’s ability, heart, and determination to get them back into the postseason, after missing it for the first time since 2010-11 last year.
There was so much to like about this Blues team, following an off-season of change. They had some new voices, they had a defensive core returning, and they added some much needed fire power offensively. All these things added up to them being one of the “winners” of the off-season despite still employing Jake Allen in net.
But shame on me for being fooled about the one thing this Blues team has been missing since David Backes walked out those doors: the heart and tenacity it takes to win on a night in-night out basis in the NHL.
Oh no, this isn’t me taking a shot at the players on the ice, I am letting them determine this storyline for me. Just listen to the postgame comments this team made with Mike Yeo as coach, and continue to make after getting beat down 8-4, at home, by the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday.
“It’s not good enough,” Alex Pietrangelo said on Nov. 3 after a 5-1 home loss to the Minnesota Wild. “I’m trying to find answers here, right? It’s unacceptable, right? This is a place for years that was hard to play. Now it’s not. We’ve got to get back to that.”
Fast-forward to just last week after Mike Yeo was given the boot following a 2-0 loss to the Los Angeles Kings, and these are the words of your captain: “It’s a tough part of the business. You feel like you let him down, and he’s paying for the fact that we’re not playing up to our standards.”
And after the loss Saturday, Petro didn’t disappoint as he once again stood in the locker room and answered the media’s questions with more rhetoric.
“This is a tough one to swallow, especially after the effort we gave last night, beating a team like that. We’ve got to be ready to play. It’s a back-to-back, early game, we’ve got to be ready to play.”
Ugh. If you’re like me you’re tired of reading it and hearing it. But just for laughs let me give you one more.
“Just honestly, lack of effort,” defenseman Joel Edmundson said after another embarrassing home defeat. “We were focused so much on our offense, we didn’t take care of our own D-zone. We let one guy score five goals. We shouldn’t be letting a team score five goals, let alone one guy.”
Yeah, you could saying allowing Patrick Laine to score five of the Jets eight goals is a lack of effort. But wait, it couldn’t be, since Brayden Schenn told Darren Pang on Fox Sports Midwest after their 6-2 win on Friday that this team is going to play hard for Craig Berube.
“Guys love Chief (Berube’s nickname) in our locker room, we’re going to play hard for him.”
I guess he must have said something mean during one of the intermissions, and now the team is ready for a new interim head coach.
Whatever the reason for another excruciating home loss, Doug Armstrong needs to be taking notes and start delivering on his word because if not, he’s no better than these players who keep talking the talk, but failing to walk the walk.
“We’ve stayed patient with a core group of players, and that patience is now at its thinnest point,” Armstrong said in Tuesday’s press conference discussing Yeo’s firing. “The core group’s equity built up is gone.”
Again, less talking more action.
The Blues have allowed five goals or more in six games this season, after having only 10 such games all of last season.
At 8-11-3, the Blues have the 2nd worst record in the NHL. It’s their worst 22-game start since the 2006-07 season, a year that they missed the playoffs. And their 6-7-1 start at home is their worst start at home since starting 5-7-2 in 2009-10, a season that also ended without a postseason berth.
The Note were projected to make the playoffs by many this season, even with some lingering questions about Allen and about how quickly the new lineup would gel. But now those projections seem a little far-fetched with their current playoff odds sitting at 19.5% according to hockey-reference.com.
This group of Alex Pietrangelo, Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz, Alexander Steen, David Perron, Jay Bouwmeester, Colton Parayko, and Jake Allen were all here and a part of the core in 2017 when Ken Hitchcock took the fall for the players “lack of effort.”
Armstrong said it when Hitchcock was fired “he is paying the price for all of our failures, starting with mine.” He went as far as to call the players “independent contractors” and saying the spotlight was now on them.
Well, talk is cheap especially when those core players, mentioned above, make up more than 56% of the team’s salary cap.
I could make a case for keeping each one of them (except maybe Bouwmeester), but the case against keeping them is starting to mount.
Petro’s lack of leadership ability, constant excuse making, and major step back on the ice is just a starting point for his detractors.
Tarasenko’s inconsistent play since the firing of Hitch (a disciplinarian) is a major point of concern, as No. 91’s critics puff out their chest about the player they love to hate.
Schwartz’s inability to stay on the ice is a knock that you don’t want to have against you at the age of 26.
Steen’s lack of offensive production is becoming more prevalent as the 34-year old fights to keep pace with the speedier game, and like Petro, his lack of ability to lead during tough times is being exposed with each and every coach that gets fired on his watch.
Perron’s a third-line player at best, and at this point is taking time away from guys like Jordan Kyrou, Sammy Blais, and others who could be learning on the job in his place. Also, for some reason we all forget that he was here when Davis Payne was fired, when Hitchcock was fired, and now with the firing of Yeo.
Parayko’s lack of discipline with the puck is unexplainable. His -7 differential in the giveaway/takeaway department is a big reason Allen and the other goalies continue to see an abnormal amount of high danger scoring chances on any given night. He took a huge step back under Yeo, and his $5.5 million salary could look like a big mistake in four seasons when it expires.
Allen’s 3.27 goals against ranks 30th among the 37 goalies with at least 500 minutes of ice-time this season.
Need I say more?
Then there’s Doug Armstrong, who assumed the role of General Manager at the end of the 2009-10 season. However, he was the GM-in-waiting during that season when the Blues brought on Davis Payne after firing Andy Murray, he was then the GM that fired Payne for Hitch, the GM that fired Hitch for Yeo, and now the GM that has fired Yeo for the next Blues head coach.
That means since Army has had a say in the future of this franchise, the Blues have gone through four coaching changes, countless numbers of players, and even a ownership change.
On December 27th, 2017, Tom Stillman thought enough of Army’s body of work that he handed him a four-year extension and all the resources necessary to revamp the roster and culture surrounding the Blues.
Since signing that extension, the Blues are 29-30-7 with a point percentage of .492, which ranks 22nd in the NHL during that time.
Clearly firing Hitch wasn’t the answer, letting David Backes walk in free agency wasn’t the answer, and shipping off core pieces like Paul Stastny, Patrik Berglund, and Vladimir Sobotka wasn’t the answer.
As the trading season heats up, I’d expect Army’s cellphone usage to spike drastically.
Because now with his patience running low, Mr. Stillman will have to determine if he’s the answer.