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Trading Stastny: Blues GM Doug Armstrong Does the Right Thing

The Blues traded Paul Stastny.

I’ve had plenty of time to think about it.

Let’s go:

1. This was a sensible trade by Blues manager Doug Armstrong. So sensible as to be obvious. Paul Stastny had 19 regular-season games remaining with a cratering, fading Blues team that’s going nowhere. And  then he could leave as a free agent this summer. If Stastny walks, the Blues get nothing. So to acquire a package from Winnipeg consisting of a 2018 first-round draft choice, the intriguing 20-year-old wing prospect Erik Foley and a conditional fourth-rounder in exchange for giving up 19 games of Stastny … I believe the correct phrase here is “no brainer.”

2. I don’t know if anyone is out there whining about Armstrong giving up on the season. If so, they’re aiming at the wrong target. Blues players gave up on the season with their lax effort and feckless performances. This is a team that’s lost six straight games. A team that has been outscored 17-3 by opponents since taking a 3-0 lead at Nashville on Feb. 13. A team that’s 13-17-2 in its last 32 games, scoring a league-low 2.12 goals per game over that time. A team that’s 10-11 in its last 21 home games — and losing 10 of those contests by three goals or more. A team that inexplicably went on the tank after positive 21-8-2 start to the season. A team that has no leadership. A team that cannot be trusted to give a damn.

3. Stastny’s decision told us everything we need to know. He had a no-trade clause. He waived it. He loved playing here, in his hometown. He could have stayed to press on and do his part to pull the Blues out of the ditch and get them into the playoffs. But Stastny waived the no-trade protection, because Winnipeg will be in the postseason and is in position to do some damage. I do not criticize Stastny for his choice. But his decision reaffirms the Blues’ current status as a fading contender that didn’t bother to show up for its last two games — getting outscored 8-0 while surrendering quickly in losses to Winnipeg and Nashville. Stastny headed to a more positive, hopeful situation. As he should have.

4. Armstrong’s best move on the day had nothing to do with moving Stastny. His top decision was to suppress all temptation to make an insane and irresponsible trade by squandering any of his four essential assets — the elite forward prospects Klim Kostin, Jordan Kyrou, Tage Thompson and Robert Thomas — in an halfwit acquisition of a rental player that couldn’t fix what ails this team. Yeah, I’m supposed to think that an itinerant forward would come to St. Louis via trade and instantly give the Blues a juiced offense, some spine, some toughness and character, some leadership and physicality, and would be leading the parade down Market Street while hoisting the Stanley Cup. Gothcha. Say hello to Charlie Sheen for me.

5. As I tracked the early fan reaction to trade activity Monday, I was astounded by the volume of noisy complaints over Armstrong’s “failure” to make a dumb trade for a short-term patch … a short-term patch that would do nothing to prevent this Titanic from going down. Seriously, how could ANYONE be surprised by the Blues approach here? How many times did Armstrong, in media interviews, make it crystal-blue clear that he would not give up an elite prospect for a rental? Oh, maybe about 500 times? A couple of thousand? And yet … it was the end of the universe as we know it and the gods of hockey would strike Armstrong down because he refused to overpay for, say, Evander Kane. Good grief. I would have endorsed firing Armstrong if he’d acted as stupidly and carelessly as many fans seemingly wanted him to. Yeah, give up Robert Thomas for some quick help so you can get into the playoffs and lose in the first round. Perfect!

6. The Blues had their version of a run. They’ve made the playoff six consecutive seasons. Their core is weakening. It’s time to rejuvenate with young talent, and then supplement it with veteran impact when the time is right.  The process of building up a young talent is advancing, and it’s the smart thing to do, and the right thing to do. This could be a really exciting team in 2019-2020.

6a. The best comedy of deadline day: for months — years — a percentage of obsessive Blues fans have constantly blasted Jay Bouwmeester and Patrik Berglund. More recently, Alex Steen and Vladimir Sobotka have been popular targets for invective. I don’t blame anyone for being dissatisfied. The performances (and injuries) are problematic. The contracts are burdensome. But for the fans who  hate  these players, believe these players are a complete waste of money and roster space, and are demanding that Armstrong take the garbage out and make trades to dump their salaries, I have a simple question: if you’re so convinced that these four players are worthless trash, then why the hell would you expect another team’s GM to trade for them?

7. As for Blues players who weren’t happy about seeing Stastny traded … well, I get it from the standpoint that he’s a popular teammate. And that the Blues still had a chance to reach the postseason. But more than that, I’ll say this: if you wanted your buddy to stay on and ride with you, then you should have played inspired hockey and dedicated yourselves to doing everything it takes to win crucial games. Instead, you failed to post up. You dropped repeated stink bombs on home ice, showing no respect whatsoever to the fans who paid a helluva lot of money to watch you wilt.

You got Stastny traded, boys.

You did this.

It was you.

(I’ve always liked “On the Waterfront.”)

8. Now that Stastny has departed, what do we make of his time here? Before the 2014-2015 season he signed a four-year contract worth $28 million. For the most part he was a good player, at worst a solid player, and a generous gentleman in community-minded endeavors. Stastny was excellent at winning faceoffs (53.5%). His Corsi For percentage (55.3) serves as an endorsement of his overall play. He worked on both special teams units. He logged plenty of ice time. The Blues made the playoffs in Stastny’s first three seasons, reached the Western Conference final in 2016, and are third in the NHL in regular-season wins during his (nearly) four seasons. These are the positives. But now, on the other side of the puck…

9. I expected more impact for $7 million per season. But as a Blue, here’s where Stastny ranked among NHL players who are listed at center for their primary position:

— An average of 0.21 goals per game,  54th.

— An average of 0.45 assists per game, 26th.

— An average of 0.66 points per game,  34th.

— Scored 17 power play goals, tied for 37th.

— Had 47 points on the power play, tied for 42nd.

Stastny’s per-game averages were decidedly better during his eight seasons with Colorado.

As for this season, Stastny’s rates put him even lower on the list of primary-center rankings. He was tied for 69th among centers in goals per game (0.19), 35th with 0.44 assists per game, and tied for 42nd with 0.63 points per game. And despite an average of 2 minutes 48 seconds of power-play time per game — 38th most among centers — Stastny had only three goals and two assists on the PP. That ranked 74th at his position. Put it this way: Patrik Berglund has more power-play points, six, than Stastny this season.

10. Should the Blues try to sign Stastny back to St. Louis as a free agent? Tough call. First of all, it depends on his level of enthusiasm for returning. If he has more desirable options, for more money, that will likely rule his thinking. But the Blues are woefully thin at center — hello, Oskar Sundqvist! — so they’ll need upgrades. What would it cost to re-sign Stastny? Would he be worth it? He’ll be 33 on Dec 27.

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie

More: The Blues Must Stop the Skid and Show Us That They Care