David Perron, barring a trade, is part of the Blues’ future.
The Blues’ 2018-19 season so far has been up and down. Mostly down. And I’ll confess that I have been tempted to bail on this team, or to find a better team to root for. Maybe Vegas – they’re new, and the logo is really cool. But those grey sweaters….I just can’t like those.
Maybe the Senators. If the Blues are my “blue” team, then maybe I need a “red” team. The Senators’ logo is also cool, I think. But they’re not any better than the Blues this year, and they also are questionable in their roster management. They seem poised to go nowhere fast.
So no other team has grabbed me, and no matter how frustrating they are, the Blues are my first sports love. So let’s look at some themes to watch as the Blues play in the second half of the season.
The Timeshare in Goal
Jordan Binnington has played as well as you can expect a goaltender to play in his first two NHL starts. In those two games he has allowed just one goal, while making some impressive saves and drawing the praise of his coach and teammates. Suddenly it doesn’t seem an issue that Jake Allen doesn’t have a seasoned veteran to back him up. Binnington is showing he deserves more playing time, and I would think he’ll get it, allowing Jake Allen more rest and time to refocus. The schedule is condensing, and that means the Blues need both goaltenders, not just one hot hand.
One of the main reasons for the Blues’ lingering in the bottom of the Western Conference standings is the awful (so far) offensive numbers from every top 6 forward except for O’Reilly and Perron. Tarasenko has 12 goals, on pace for less than 25. Jaden Schwartz has JUST 3. Since we’re halfway through the season, that’s a pace of 6 goals for him. Schenn has 8, Bozak has 6. Steen has 6. The forwards that should be scoring goals haven’t been with consistency. They need to step it up in a major way. If they resume scoring anywhere close to their career averages, then the Blues will have enough offense to power a surge up the standings.
The Trade Deadline
With every terrible loss, more and fans clamor on social media for Doug Armstrong to start making blockbusters. When you start looking deeper at the particulars, we find out it’s not an easy thing to make trades in the NHL. Such trades may occur as the trade deadline approaches. What will complicate the decisions of the front office, of course, is if, miraculously, the Blues do start moving up the standings, the willingness to trade players will dissipate. Doug Armstrong may be put in the unenviable position of not knowing the true identity of the team. So far, that’s been easy, right? The Blues played awfully inconsistently, so trade away the core! But the team has bettered their play, even though their W-L record isn’t yet indicative of that. It’s all dependent on the standings.
The Coaching Search
It seems to me there hasn’t been much chatter about the search for a new coach lately. When the firing of Mike Yeo coincided with the availability of Joel Quenneville, fans and media were quick to jump on the possibility of a reuniting of the Blues with their former coach, Q. The Blues didn’t get the customary betterment of the winning percentage following a coaching change. If they had, that would have been a justification for longer consideration of Craig Berube to lose the interim label. Perhaps Stillman and the ownership group will wait until the season is over to conclude the search. They’ll better know the direction of the team in the offseason, after any roster churn produced by the trade deadline is over. Either way, it’s something on which to keep tabs.
The Product on the Ice
You are no doubt aware that the Blues have not won more than two consecutive games this season. If they are to make any move north in the standings, that will have to change. The team needs better goaltending, consistent defensive fundamentals, and scoring from their top forwards in order for them to string together wins.
The Young Forwards
Perhaps the most encouraging element of this season has been the production and development of some of the young forwards. Namely, they are Sanford, Sundqvist, Barbashev, and Thomas. While Thomas is considered a key part of the future, it’s not known how big a role the other three will play. All are contributing offensively and it’s fun to watch. Here’s hoping Thomas isn’t on the injured shelf for long.
All things considered, I’m hopeful for the second half of this season. I’m hopeful that the Blues will start playing with more confidence and aggressiveness. I’m hopeful the top forwards will re-find their scoring mojo. I’m hopeful that the tribulations of this season will bind the team together and make them mentally tough for the stretch run.
I’m not giving up hope for this year. #LGB.