The St. Louis Blues have had a disastrous season so far, and that’s being as kind as possible. At the time of this writing, they sit in last place in the entire NHL.
For obvious reasons, the month of January will be critical if they want to maximize their dwindling hopes of making something of the season. But it won’t be an easy month.
Blues’ January Schedule
The Blues will have five home games and seven road games in the month of January. During that time, they’ll have two back-to-back series, both on a Monday and Tuesday. The first, against the Philadelphia Flyers and the headline-capturing Dallas Stars, is an away then home series. Then they’ll face the Washington Capitals and the New York Islanders, both on the road, a week later. As the Blues face the Stars for the first two times this month, it will be interesting to see how Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn respond in light of their CEO’s very public criticism.
Seven of the 12 teams which the Blues will play are in a playoff position, and two more of the games are against the New York Islanders, who are just one point out. They’ll also play the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals and superstar Alex Ovechkin, who has been dominant against the Blues in his career. It’s no surprise that Ovechkin is a great player, but he has 28 points in 17 career games against St. Louis, a truly dominating streak.
None of the games in January are on Friday, the one day of the week where the Blues have been especially good this year, while three of them fall on Saturday, a day that has been a menace to them all season.
The month ends with the team’s bye week, centered around All-Star weekend. That means that the 12 games this month occur in the 21-day period that begins on Thursday. It’s a very compressed schedule against strong opponents, and it will be a tough challenge for St. Louis.
Pietrangelo, Fabbri, Others Healthy
One of the few things in the Blues’ favor is that their roster is finally completely healthy. Other than Erik Foley, an AHL level prospect who has struggled with concussion symptoms all season, there are no serious injuries on the entire squad.
Captain Alex Pietrangelo returned against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Dec. 29, while their oft-injured young winger Robby Fabbri returned the following game. Now, Carl Gunnarsson is reportedly healthy, awaiting a coach’s decision to rejoin the lineup.
The Blues have had various injuries all season long, so it will be a great opportunity for them to finally see the squad fully healthy. But that may mean more for the front office than the on-ice prospects, as St. Louis is rumored to be looking to make changes to this disappointing roster.
Is a Trade Coming?
General manager Doug Armstrong has not shied away from making changes in the past, and it may be time for him to act again. Could the Blues make a big trade in the month of January?
They have pieces that other teams would certainly be interested in. Even if rumors about mega-trades involving Vladimir Tarasenko do not come to fruition, they could still trade pieces on shorter contracts like Brayden Schenn, or, if they want to shake up the locker room, Pietrangelo.
Related: Who Won’t the St. Louis Blues Trade?
There is little doubt that Armstrong will make moves before the season is over. In the past two seasons, he’s traded expiring contracts at the deadline for future pieces. Currently, his only expiring contracts are on aging or underperforming pieces like Pat Maroon, Jay Bouwmeester, and Carl Gunnarsson.
But with the Blues in the situation they’re in, Armstrong is considering bigger moves. Could the month of January mean major changes in the Gateway City? Nothing can be ruled out at the moment.
Make or Break Time
If the Blues have any hope of salvaging their season (and realistically, they do not) they’d need to absolutely dominate the month of January.
On the bright side, they have a healthy roster for the first time all season. But they’ve also got a compact schedule with 12 games in 21 days, many against playoff opponents and more on the road than at home.
It will be a trying month for a team that is already in the league’s basement, and no one rationally expects a miracle. But the Blues can make headlines in other ways, and with the rumor mill churning s quickly as it has, they may be an interesting team to follow, win or lose.