Let’s not say anything more about Brad Lee (@GTBradLee) of St. Louis Game Time than we have to.
Oh hey look, your team sucks too. What happened there? We haven’t seen you in a while so we kind of lost track.
Here’s the Reader’s Digest version. The Blues were one of the best teams in the NHL in October and November. Then early in December Jaden Schwartz took a shot off his boot in Detroit. Fucking figures. Broken foot, missed significant time. The Blues had basically become a one-line team with him, Brayden Schenn and Vladimir Tarasenko. Without little Schwartzy, the forward lines became a patchwork quilt of crap. At the same time, Jake Allen forgot how to make saves. Starter Hutton pushed him for playing time and Allen responded by allowing a shit ton of goals. The story line for the middle of the season became, “Thank god the Blues got off to such a good start so they are still safely in playoff position.” Then when Schwartz came back, they still couldn’t score. The team basically believed they were still the squad from the first two months. Every night they came out and played the same exact game and it didn’t work. It took fans booing and giving Allen sarcastic cheers for making an easy save after allowing four or five for the players to basically speak up and say, “We suck.” There’s been a little resurgence in the last 10 days or so, sparked by a return of the forecheck. Alex Steen and Kyle Brodziak (a pending UFA who chose to leave a Mike Yeo team before and remains unsigned even though he’s been one of the most consistent guys on the team all season) have become a nice little wrecking crew dragging Patrik Berglund’s useless ass down the ice. Allen has been forced to play better while Hutton recovers from a puck to the back of the head injury in practice. Bu there are 12 games left including tonight and they’re three points back of the Stars with a game in hand, but the Ducks are still ahead of them and the Flames right behind. It’s going to be a close call. Thankfully the schedule has some easy games on the schedule, including three with Chicago.
So this has to be it for this Jay Gallon bullshit, right?
I want to agree. I want to say he needs to find a quality realtor. I want to say the Blues front office believes he needs a change of scenery. But the guy is in the first year of a four-year contract extension for a $4.3 million a year cap hit. They signed him to the deal soon after trading Brian Elliott in 2016. It didn’t take effect until this season. They tried to make him the starter multiple times as career backup Elliott continued to outplay him. And now career backup Hutton has done the same. At every turn, the Blues have chosen to stick with Allen. And he’s shown he does not have the capacity to be a steady, reliable and consistent NHL goaltender. His positioning is bad, his focus worse. Watch tonight how many times the Hawks try to go short side. There’s a really good reason, it’s soft as Charmin. There were bullshit rumors that Montreal was interested in him, but it was a companion piece to a bullshit rumor that the Blues wanted Carey Price’s $10 million a year cap hit starting next season. Anyway, there’s a Finnish kid who looks like he’s the real deal named Ville Husso. He probably won’t start tonight after Allen got the OT win last night in St. Louis, but he’s only been trusted to wear stylish hats on the bench while Hutton has been hurt. By the way, Hutton is a free agent and probably has earned a nice little contract for a team who needs a stopgap guy while youngsters mature. So Allen, when he probably returns next fall, will probably have to fight off Husso for playing time. So yeah, expect Husso to get starts next season.
Doug Armstrong is gonna get canned for all this, no?
He has been the general manager since 2010. His team got to the Western Conference Final and two wins from playing for that big shiny silver thing. That was in the 2016 playoffs. Last year they got outplayed by the Wild and still won in the first round. They got rolled by the Predators in the second. This year they will be lucky to make the playoffs. These two step-back seasons coincided with the final two years in Armstrong’s contract. This season, he signed a four-year extension. With and option for a fifth! Let’s cover a few quick highlights. Thought Ryan Miller was the option when his career numbers were slightly worse than Elliott’s. Didn’t end well. Gave Jay Bouwmeester (Jabe O’Meester?) a five-year, more than $5 million a year contract extension for his early to mid 30s after he played about a million games in a row. He’s out six months with a hip injury. He gave Steve Ott $2 million a year for a couple years. He extended Berglund and Sobotka just 12 months ago and then was heavily rumored to be trying to move their embarrassing contracts at the deadline. He passed on a new contract for David Backes saying it was too much money for a player his age. And then a few months later gave an identical deal to Steen, who has underwhelmed to say the least. He protected Ryan Reaves and let David Perron go to Vegas in the expansion draft. Perron has set career numbers in assists and points. Here’s the biggest issue. The Blues have spent close to the cap every year since the current ownership group took over in January 2013 coming out of the last mini lockout. So that’s trying to win now, right? But in recent seasons he hasn’t tried to add in season, especially at the deadline. They’ve traded Kevin Shattenkirk and Paul Stastny at the last two deadlines. And he has refused to trade one of four highly regarded prospects saying he wants to protect the team’s future. In other words, he’s trying to win now. And build for the future. But he hasn’t committed fully to either. When you try to use all strategies, you don’t actually have a strategy. And as the Blues have imploded since early December, we have four or five years more to look forward to. Still shorter than the Seabrook contract length, though.
Ok, but there are more than a few promising kids here, right? Like, the Blues conceivably could turn this around next year…
Do yourself a favor and look up highlight videos of Jordan Kyrou and Robert Thomas. Have hard liquor nearby. They are destroying the OHL this season. Both played at the World Juniors for Canada. They have legit top-line talent. They are teenagers. There is still plenty of time for the Blues to fuck them up, trust me. With the last pick of the first round last June, the Blues used the first-round pick they got from Pittsburgh in the Reaves trade (WTF, indeed), and chose injured Russian Klim Kostin. He’s been one of the youngest guys in the AHL this year at San Antonio. He has all-world skill. Either scouts are xenophobic and dislike Russians, or he does have a little bit of a work ethic issue. And the other member of the Untouchable Four is Tage Thompson who will bring his bird legs to United Center tonight. He has size, reach, vision and velvety soft hands. He also weighs less than your sister, gets pushed off the puck by a light breeze and has more deer frozen in the headlights moments in NHL games than we can remember. He’s a work in progress. While all four of these guys are important, the subtraction of Stastny is more so. Can you believe his cap hit was $7 million? And if the Blues can convince Bouwmeester to be more like Marian Hossa and pretend to be injured all year (with a real hip injury instead of a make believe equipment allergy), they could put all of his $5.3 million cap hit on long term IR. That’s $12.3 million. Maybe they can find a taker for Car Gunnarsson and his almost $3 million and maybe John Tavares likes deep-fried ravioli and I know it’s a pipe dream, but you probably don’t want to envision Tarasenko and Tavares coming down the ice with the puck in Chicago for years to come, I’m just saying. Bottom line: Blues have legit prospects not far from impact status and potentially a difference-making amount of cap space to work with. Granted, we’re talking about the St. Louis Blues. We get that, trust me.
We kept asking our friends in Minnesota about this but they were never sure. Is Mike Yeo a Moron or Not A Moron?
I mentioned the Brodziak situation. He’s played well enough to warrant promotion to the third line. He knows his role and he has played it well and consistently all season. And yet it seems like he will test free agency for a second time after playing for Yeo. It’s not his fault Schwartz got hurt in December. It wasn’t his fault he has to play Sobotka, Berglund and Dmitrij Jaskin as the three forwards on his second power play unit, he has to play the guys put on his roster. And by the way, Tarasenko left the game Saturday night in the first period after a shot to the jaw. You’ll really be saying, “Who the fuck is that Blue?” if he’s not able to go tonight. I think he’s handled the goaltending debacle as well as possible. His lines sometimes make no sense. But again, the hand he’s dealt. Do I think he was the difference in winning a playoff round last year? Hell no. Do I think he could have prevented such a fall in the standings this season? Meh. You probably think the Blues are a bunch of assholes. They played that way much of January and February. Remember, Steen and Berglund and Pietrangelo have played for four head coaches for the Blues. Tuning out Ken Hitchcock and giving the new coach a momentary boost wasn’t just expected, it’s how they’ve operated their entire careers in St. Louis. That’s not on Yeo. And while saying you can’t blame him for shit going bad, it’s not like I can sit here and tell you he’s done anything to turn it around. The only thing that’s been noticeable has been his calm demeanor since he got here. And maybe that’s bad because these guys needed to get fired up several times and didn’t. Maybe they needed fire from the head coach, and they haven’t gotten it, at least in public. Hey Blackhawks, fire the mustache and we’ll put out a red carpet in St. Louis. It’ll be like “Quantum Leap.” The Blues could put right what once went wrong and makeup for firing Q when the team was resetting with an ownership change (not even the current owners) and turning over players across the entire organization. I know it’s not happening, he’s the new Ditka. But we know how that ended. Finally, fuck Patrick Kane, it’s fun watching Captain Serious be average and we will finally admit Corey Crawford is good. You’re welcome. Have fun at the draft lottery.
Game #73 Preview