Sometimes there just aren’t enough tweets in the world.
Sometimes it doesn’t matter how many 140 character messages you send out.
Sometimes you just have to go on a rant.
I have been taught to write angry, but never publish angry. I may break that rule tonight.
Let’s just start here:
The Blues have lost three bad games in a row now. Bad losses against bad teams. Their penalty kill, once dominant, is getting walked all over. Their defensive pairings have been switched around more than Cleveland Browns head coaches. The offense, oh my god the offense, is awful.
Actually, let’s start with the offense. Why do they hesitate to shoot the puck? They’re always looking to find that perfect play. Quite simply, they pass themselves into submission. Count how many scoring opportunities the Blues waste each game by never actually getting a shot on goal. Look at tonight’s overtime against Ottawa. The Blues had several strong scoring opportunities but failed to put a single shot on goal. Not one!
An even better example of their offensive hesitation came in the third period when Fabbri entered the zone with Lehtera and Tarasenko on a break. The three forwards, granted they haven’t played much together yet, never were able to put a shot on goal from the situation.
Meanwhile, other players who aren’t offensive minded, Bouwmeester comes to mind, shoot the puck more often and force play in the offensive zone. This usually results in a weak scoring opportunity that the goalie is happy to gobble up because THERE’S A REASON BOUWMEESTER ONLY HAS 79 GOALS IN ALMOST 1000 CAREER GAMES.
This is a whole team problem. At the beginning of the season I kept tweeting about this team finding an offensive identity. Are they going to be the rough and tumble Blues of 2011 or are they going to try to use their new skill to be more of a finesse team even with Hitch’s demanding system? After about a month it appeared they had chosen somewhere in the middle. They weren’t scoring a ton, but Allen was playing very well and the goals they were scoring (heck, mostly Tarasenko was scoring) were enough.
Now Allen has come back down to earth and Tarasenko has cooled off a bit and this team is realizing how much they are lacking an offensive identity.
Again, this is a team problem, but I still want to look at a few individuals.
The Blues’ $7 million playmaking center, hometown boy Paul Stastny, has not lived up to expectations. This very well may be because of Hitchcock’s unorthodox/old school/stupid/outdated/defensive system.Plain and simple: the coaching staff must find a way to receive more production from him. The Blues have major cap issues on the horizon and will probably only be able to keep one player out of Backes, Schwartz and Shattenkirk while Stastny cashes a $7 million check for doing very little. Find A Way To Make Stastny More Productive.
Brouwer came to St. Louis hotter than a firecracker and then completely disappeared. Before his goal tonight he hadn’t scored in 10 games. In his postgame interview he mentioned how many defensive responsibilities he had been given while playing with Backes. (When he scored tonight he was switched with Tarasenko and playing with Steen and Stastny.) Maybe that comment was his way of telling Hitch he doesn’t want the defensive responsibility. But then again, nobody wants defensive responsibility, but it’s part of the game.
Lehtera. Man oh man does his contract not look great for Army. Last summer Army gave Lehtera a 3 year extension for $14.1 million starting in the 2016-17 season. Last season Lehtera had solid numbers thanks to his chemistry and frequent playing time with Tarasenko. This year Tarasenko has mostly been centered by Stastny and Lehtera’s numbers have nosedived. If you’re looking for the source of the the Blues’ shooting hesitation issue, it’s most likely Lehtera.
Berglund <loud groan followed by the pounding of the enter key>….
I could single out players until the cows come home, but I won’t.
Another problem for the Blues? Fighting back after an opponent scores. After the now famous #RoarBacon game against Chicago, the Blues haven’t been so great at rallying the troops. A new hashtag has been created by some fans: #RoarDogshit
The Blues used to beat up on the Eastern Conference. Not anymore. The Blues used to be impossible to beat with a lead. Not anymore. The Blues used to take care of business on home ice. Not anymore.
It’s not like this team is playing terrible hockey. They’re doing a lot of things right. They have some great pieces. They’re capable of putting together some good shifts. They just can’t execute offensively. Whether it’s hesitating to shoot, shooting wide or passing themselves into submission, the 2015-16 St. Louis Blues are the KINGS of the ‘almost goal.’ How many times each game do they ‘almost’ score a goal after a great opportunity? This may sound stupid to people who haven’t watched the Blues a lot this season. “Every team has a lot of ‘almost goals,’ you idiot,” people are probably saying. But no, if you watch this team you would see it too. They. Just. Can’t. Cash. It. In.
One of my old baseball coaches used to always talk about what you have to do after knocking an opponent down (figuratively, of course). He said you have to step on their throat and twist your foot until you see every bit of life come out of them. Is that unnecessarily gory and vivid? Sure. But it makes a very clear point and one that the Blues need to learn.
Don’t get me wrong, this team does have a lot of nice pieces. There are good things to look at. I just wonder if they have all of the RIGHT pieces.
How should they fix it? Heck, I don’t know. Do you mortgage your future for a guy like Jonathon Drouin who could be a solid top six forward or could be worthless? Do you fire Hitchock and bring in someone with a system that isn’t outdated and could help the offense? (And if so, who exactly is that guy? Cause there aren’t exactly any great candidates looking for a job..) Maybe you try to trade one of your high priced players to both help the cap space in the future and send a message to the locker room.
I don’t know what the answer is, but it’s very hard for this team to do anything right now with the cap as tight as it is (and don’t forget they will have to fit Schwartz back under it too).
All in all, I feel better after writing this rant of a post. I’m happy you were able to read it before I delete it.
It’s not time to panic yet; after all we’re only half way through the season. But it is time to worry a little bit. Time to wonder if change is coming. The Central Division is nothing to joke about and you can’t keep losing to bad teams in bad ways.
These are the times I try to remind myself that all that matters is getting into the playoffs. Once you’re at the dance, you never know who you might come home with. In past years the Blues have arrived at the dance in a nice limo, a high seed, just to fall on their face on the dance floor during the first song. Maybe this year the Blues will arrive at the last minute in an old sedan just to walk out with the prettiest girl there, Lord Stanley.
(Photo by Scott Rovak/NHLI via Getty Images)