Uncle! I give up. I admit it. As much as I tried to play the “it’s still early enough” card for the Blues, the quarter pole of the season occurred this weekend, and they still suck. So yes, those of you that said they weren’t a playoff team after five or ten or fifteen games…you’re right and I’m wrong.
Most disturbing about the 2018-19 Blues is that for a team most of us thought would be a playoff team, they’ve only had one bright spot so far; newcomer Ryan O’Reilly. He leads the team in scoring and plus/minus at plus-6. Brayden Schenn has been fine when healthy. His production as a number two center has been good enough, but he can’t quite be classified as a bright spot.
Obviously, coach Mike Yeo was regarded as awful by the front office when he was fired last week. The system that he implemented, and his motivational abilities clearly left much to be desired. It’s too early to judge interim coach Craig Berube.
The rest of the team’s key players have ranged from mediocre to awful to clearly done. With the highest payroll in the NHL, some players have excuses, but most don’t. We can run them down here…
Vladimir Tarasenko: Has just seven goals in 22 games. He hasn’t been terrible, but he must be better for the Blues to succeed.
Robby Fabbri: His start was delayed as he recovered from two ACL surgeries, but he hasn’t found his game yet. We see flashes, but so far, he’s just been mediocre. After almost two years out, he’ll need some time to get his game back.
Alexander Steen: I don’t consider him key, but his salary cap hit is third highest on the team, so somebody does. He’s hurt again, but before his injury had 10 points in sixteen games playing in numerous situations. Based on his current abilities, he can do a little more, but he’s better than awful.
Tyler Bozak: Bozak is making $5 million a year to be a third line center. He’s paid TO BE mediocre. And he has been.
David Perron: The wildly inconsistent Perron has six goals in 22 games, but three of those came in one game. His effort is good, but his production doesn’t match up with his salary.
Jake Allen: Among goalies that have started at least ten games, Allen is 29th in the league with a GAA of 3.27. The league average is 2.87, and there ARE ten goalies with worse GAA’s. Allen’s .896 save percentage is 30th in the league. Allen has faced the 6th most “high danger” shots in the league at 110, but is HD save percentage of .791 is 55th. Ouch. Even with a recent hot streak, we have to count Allen as awful.
Captain Alex Pietrangelo: Has ten points and is a minus-6. Part of a captain’s job is to rally the troops. Petro has failed to get his teammates to play hard on a consistent basis.
Jaden Schwartz: Before getting hurt (of course), he had two goals in fifteen games. Schwartz is supposed to be a bellwether of the team, but hasn’t grabbed the bull by the horns.
Colton Parayko: Has been truly awful. Why he has regressed so dramatically is a mystery, but a player once thought to be a future star is a bad two-way player. He has just six points in 22 games and has personally cost the Blues two games with gaffes in the defensive zone. If he doesn’t ascend to an above average level, it’ll one of the biggest wastes of physical talent in Blues history.
Parayko is making more than Jay Bouwmeester, who is simply done. He’s 35, and between juniors, international competition and the NHL has played nearly 1,600 games. His poor play isn’t his fault, the problem is the people that are playing him as much as they do. Remember that. Bouwmeester is giving his best, and at this stage of his career his best is limited. Blame his GM and coaches, not him.
One more awful: President of Hockey Operations/General Manager Doug Armstrong. While Armstrong has assembled a group with obvious physical talent, he’s failed to address an emotional culture that he’s railed against for years. His famous line “we need that killer instinct, we need to be able to when you have a team down 2-0, you need to take the knife and jam it through their eye into their brain and kill them. We don’t do that,” came four years ago. He talked about chemistry then. He complained about his players being independent contractors when he fired Ken Hitchcock two years ago, and complained about them again last week when he fired Mike Yeo. Yet the leadership of the team was on hand for those playoff disappointments, and the team shows no inclination to award letters on their sweaters to O’Reilly (except for injury) or Schenn.
At some point, new leadership and chemistry have to be introduced to the room WITH new talent, so Armstrong must be on the clock too.
It’s probably too late to fix this train wreck, but at least moves can be made and a coach can be hired that can provide a little hope for the future. This year, though, is by the boards.