If you can believe it, and you probably can’t, Jake Allen has only been part of the Blues for four seasons. Like everything down there, they’ve been flagellating themselves so hard and so loudly about it it only feels like he’s been there a decade. Blues fans probably feel it’s been even longer, given the Homer-ific tale that Allen has been for them.
Let’s go back through it, shall we? Jay Gallon started gobbling up starts in the ’14-’15 season, and the team clearly wanted to shift him into the starter’s role over Brian Elliot. Allen never grabbed it with two hands, and yet the Blues force-fed him into the playoffs. You’ll recall he completely melted down, as the division-winning Blues were toppled, with no shortage of giggles, by the Wild, who the Hawks then plastered in the next round. Allen’s .904 in that series didn’t exactly wow the spectators.
Because of that playoff barf-belch, the Blues went into the next season with the tandem of Elliot and Allen, because they couldn’t in good conscience toss Elliot aside. Allen was pretty good that season, with a .920. But Elliot outplayed him with an out-of-nowhere .930, and then stoned the Hawks over seven games which will assuredly go down as the greatest accomplishment in franchise history.
But the Blues were still determined to turn the job over to Allen, extending him at the very first opening on July 1st before last season. They sold high on Elliot to Calgary, and turned everything over to Allen. And it looked like it might actually work. Allen was only about league-average last year, but sterling in the playoffs for the first time, as he was the only reason that the Blues were able to get by the Wild in five games. They were rolled hard in each of those, as he made 35 saves or more three times in those five games. There was not much he could do about a clearly superior Predators team.
The Blues must have thought he crossed the Rubicon and they could finally relax about their goaltending.
Ha. As if this wasn’t the Blues.
Allen couldn’t stop a blindfolded turtle in January and February, losing starts to known space Titan Carter Hutton. He’s rebounded in March as the Blues try and death-rattle their way into the last playoff spot. But overall a .907 does not suggest that Allen is going to be the long-term answer the Blues have desperately hoped him to be for four seasons now.
Which leaves them in something of a quandary. Allen is signed through the ’20-’21 season at a $4.3 hit. That’s not terrible, but if the Blues feel they need to bring in someone to split starts with Allen at least, they’re going to end up paying two goalies at least that, otherwise known as “The Jim Nill Plan.” It’s gone great for the Stars. Maybe some team out there thinks it can harvest out of Allen what the Blues have never been able to, but unlikely. Perhaps a team like the Coyotes or Sabres or Senators feels that if they’re punting another season anyway they can take the risk. No one’s trading for a $4.3 million backup, we know that.
What the Blues do will obviously determine their direction. There ain’t shit on shit in the free agent market for the Blues. They could trade for a backup who is angling for a starter’s role. A Khudobin or McElhinney type. But that carries risk.
What we can be sure of is that the Blues will likely get it wrong.
Game #73 Preview