Going into the 2022-2023 season the Blues had some high expectations from around the league. Would most people say we were on par with say the top 3 teams in the league? No. But this is a Blues team that last season was 5.6 seconds away from potentially taking the eventual cup champs to a likely bloodbath of a Game 7 in the second round, and locked up the two guys that we were hoping to be our future in Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou for the next 8 years.
Fast forward to about a month before this season’s trade deadline, and the Blues are being talked about as a potential lottery team with just a 2.5% chance to make the playoffs according to moneypuck.com.
So how did we get here? Well for a team that has been known for it’s defense over the years the Blues currently are the 9th worst team in the NHL in terms of goals against average, and 6th worst when it comes to total goals allowed. Partner that with the 10th worst offense in the league in terms of goals per game and you’ve got yourself a baaaaaad hockey team. Jordan Binnington’s stats look like that of an EBUG this year, but if you’ve been watching the games you’d know he might be having one of the best sub .900 save % seasons we’ve seen from a goalie in years. So why the awful numbers? Because the Blues team defense is softer than baby feces when it comes to protecting their net, constantly giving up classic EA NHL backdoor goals where the goalie has less of a chance of saving the puck than I have a chance of marrying Sydney Sweeney (love you babe). I mean just look at this goal in OT against Colorado back in December.
Parayko is 6’6 and 230 pounds, and lets Rantanen bully him in his own crease to complete a hat-trick in OT against a division rival that eliminated us from the playoffs last year.
You might think “oh, well let’s just ship off our traffic cone defensemen and trade for some solid top 4 guys”. Unfortunately, here are our top 4 defensemen’s contracts.
All 4 with no trade clauses through 2025, with 3 of them inflicting a $6.5 million cap hit a year. Not only will Doug Armstrong have to convince these guys to take a trade if he wanted to go that route, he would have to somehow convince another team’s GM’s to take their contracts. Outside of Justin Faulk, none of those guys are earning their sheets since they signed a deal.
In terms of who we CAN try trading, that doesn’t look to sexy either. Ryan O’Reilly has been mentioned in a lot of trade talks, however with him being injured after putting 16 points in 37 games along with the worst +/- on the team this year at -28 he isn’t exactly marketable as The Factor that won us the cup in 2019. The next option would be to dip into the farm system, however with the 18th best prospect pool in the league according to hockeywriters.com Armstrong’s voice mailbox won’t exactly be full. Unfortunately the best looking option to get the Blues a solid return right now would be shipping off Tarasenko or Barbashev as a rental, but for a rental no one is going to be banging at the door to get him especially with Tarasenko being past his prime.
To those of you who are reading this and thinking “But wait! We were in last place halfway through the season then came back to win it all just 4 years ago!” please take a clap bomb to the forehead to get your mind right. Going into 2019 the Blues were touted as top 3 potential contenders after building a stacked roster in the off season. This season our 3rd and 4th line is made made up almost entirely of guys who had 0 games of NHL experience going into this year or are NHL journeyman cut by other teams in the offseason and it shows.
Will I be upset if O’reilly and the gang turn it around and finish the season on a strong note shoving this entire article up my colon? No, but unfortunately for Blues fans it’s looking like it will be a sad next few months, and with the current state of our farm system + the contracts we’ve given out it might be a sad next season too.
The last time the Blues had a top 10 pick in the draft was 2008 (they got a guy named Alex Pietrangelo if you’ve heard of him). Since then it has been nothing but a consistent standard of success that most teams can’t hold a candle to. Since 2010 the Blues are 5th in wins in the league behind only Pittsburgh, Washington, Boston, and Tampa. That’s damn good company to be in. We may only have one cup to show for it, but that’s damn good company to be in.
Only time will tell where the hell the Blues go moving forward, but there is a long list of jobs I’d rather have than be in Doug Armstrong’s shows right now. My opinion is it might be time to embrace the suck for a season and finally get another top 10 pick in the draft. Hell if we sell enough big pieces, this guy might be wearing a Bluenote next season (just please for the love of god not Chicago).