Recently, Jeremy Rutherford tweeted out a comment from the Blues’ Paul Stastny. The words are enlightening and something many Blues fans think and fear:
Stastny: “When we’re doing well, it seems like we’re not winning. When we lose…it seems like the end of the world. That’s got to change.”
— Jeremy Rutherford (@jprutherford) February 19, 2015
This is the type of mentality that allows a team to jump up two games to none against a Chicago Blackhawks or LA Kings squad — two teams that have won multiple times in recent memory — and the first game they lose the wheels come off and the series is over. What’s fascinating about this tweet is the fact that Stastny comes from a completely different culture in Colorado, hearing what a newcomer thinks about this team’s outlook from day to day. It’s very reasonable to think that the current Blues core is inured to a certain apocalyptic way of thinking — especially when the real season begins — and it’s equally reasonable that Blues leadership is aware of this — causing them to retain a veteran like Martin Brodeur.
Cultural Problems Are Glossed Over in the Regular Season
The 82-game season allows emotional ebbs and flows to look smooth on the surface. Fans don’t see the body language nor hear the talk in the locker room. Compressed into a knockout tournament, the issues where a team doesn’t feel like it’s succeeding when it wins, and the world is caving in when it loses can spell a very short Stanley Cup campaign. Coincidentally (or not), that is exactly what Blues fans are accustomed to. Paul Stastny’s honest glimpse into the mindset of this Blues squad causes fans and prospective free agents to ask what it is that promotes this level of angst.
Does the Team Require a Leadership Change?
A reasonable question when examining these issues is, from where does it stem? Is is coach Hitchcock, who pulls no punches when telling fans and media that his team is being mediocre even when winning? Does it come from on-ice leadership in the form of David Backes et al? It’s fair to say that should the team not go far in the postseason this year, a major leadership change is in order. Whether that means looking outside for a new head coach now that the team is established, or moving a veteran voice in the locker room is yet to be decided.
Today’s NHLer is Very Different
Modern NHL coaches can’t use the old-school method of yelling at players and telling them what to do. Today’s player can’t be threatened or coerced into a certain course of action; player agents and the NHLPA form a large buffer between player and coach. For a guy on a one-way contract, the worst fate that could occur is getting moved from a contender to a cellar dweller. Phil Kessel in Toronto, for example, is on a basement team as it is, so the worst that can happen is he’s moved to a contender. The Blues’ situation is far more complex, where the gap between the top role players is thinner than average. Although the Blues clearly don’t have the acidic circumstances as found in Toronto, the mindset is the same: players needing individualized motivation and push.
The Blues Might Be Victims of Their Own Success
People aren’t that different, regardless of their roles or station in life. When one is used to success and the world bending to one’s will, any deviation or pushback is rather shocking. Even worse, people often become numb to success, with failure like a cold shower. This same phenomenon causes bad teams to continually lose — they’re used to it and it ceases to bother them anymore. This current Blues core might simply be accepting to a certain extent with winning “enough” in the regular season, and since they’ve done a ton of meaningless winning over the past few years, might feel that there’s always next year. The Blues seem to be in a limbo of sorts, where losses create pity parties instead of generating urgency, and haven’t had a taste of the Cup — which breeds a desire to taste it again.
Freelance writer and public relations practitioner. 20+ years in goal and long-time Blues fan.