Tension for Blues Reaching a Breaking Point

Frustration is beginning to boil over in St. Louis. The team is now in its fourth season since winning its first Stanley Cup in franchise history, and tensions are seemingly higher than ever. The Blues are in a complicated spot as they are experiencing a number of pressing tensions from multiple areas as the holiday break inches closer. If they are to break out of their slump and reclaim ground, they will first need to address three main areas of tension.

Blues’ Performance Tension

To say that a majority of the team is underperforming may be an understatement. Eight of the club’s nine players that scored 20 or more goals this past season have returned to St. Louis this year. However, you would not think that was the case for the team with a 12-15 record, an eight-game losing streak earlier this season, and a 3-7 record over their last 10 games.

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Should the Blues’ trajectory continue, what was once considered one of the deepest, most dangerous lineups in hockey would be a mere shimmer of its former self. Of the nine 20-plus goal scorers, only four (Jordan Kyrou, Pavel Buchnevich, Ryan O’Reilly, and Vladimir Tarasenko) are on pace to surpass the 20-goal mark once more this season. As the season moves along and the team continues to underperform, internal and external pressure will grow for these players either to find the next gear in their play or get traded by the deadline. 

Related: Blues Have No Incentive to Trade Ryan O’Reilly at This Time

Latest News & Highlights

After the Blues’ 5-2 loss on Thursday to the Winnipeg Jets, frustration seemed to seep into the postgame interviews with head coach Craig Berube. After the game, he said: “As a coaching staff, we’re preparing them, we tell them what they need to do against this team. Look for it. This is what you’ve got to do, but we can’t go out and play for them. They have to go out and play, as a team, and right now, we’re not doing it. We’re not doing it enough, we’re not consistent enough 100 percent. You lose in this league.” (from ‘A frustrated Berube on his team: There are a lot of Blues not playing well, not putting team first,’ St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Dec. 9, 2022)

Blues’ Financial Tension

Changes are on the horizon for the St. Louis squad. However, those changes may be coming sooner than some have expected. The St. Louis squad has reached a point where not only are they strapped financially in today’s market but in a situation that may force them to move on from key organizational players for the sake of their future.

St. Louis Blues Doug Armstrong
St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff Roberson)

Now that general manager Doug Armstrong has secured two of his franchise’s future pillars, Jordan Kyrou and Robert Thomas, to long-term contracts, his attention has turned to veteran players like Tarasenko, O’Reilly, and Ivan Barbashev. To date, the Blues are projected to have just over $12 million in cap space for the coming 2023-24 season, a figure that could secure one of O’Reilly or Tarasenko, leaving little remaining funds to roster an additional eight players to fill out their 23-man roster. Armstrong is in a tough spot knowing that he has signed multiple players to contracts above $6 million annually, along with an NHL-high 10 players with no-trade clauses in their contracts. To create cap space moving forward, Armstrong will need to perhaps make some of the most creative roster moves of his career.

Blues Fans’ Tension

The Blues have always had an extremely passionate fan base. A franchise with zero championships to its name does not exist for 50 years without a passionate fan base. After their game against the Jets on Thursday night, a fan expressed their displeasure with the team’s performance by tossing their jersey on the ice, an event that may be the first of its kind at the Enterprise Center. Now that the team has won a championship and set a level of high expectations, fans have begun chomping at the bit for the team to turn the corner and exert a level of dominance in the NHL once more. 

As the season progresses and the chances of reaching the playoffs begin to either expand or diminish, the Blues front office will have to make a series of decisions that will have massive ramifications for what could be the better part of the next decade. The coming decisions regarding expiring contracts, draft choices and trades will matter more than ever before.

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