St. Louis Blues Needs to Fix What Ails Them Now

After watching the Feb. 24, 2015 5-2 shellacking by the Montreal Canadiens on home ice, some things became sadly apparent about this Blues team. Yes, the absence of Kevin Shattenkirk — by most measures a Norris candidate — hurts. But this team’s fate doesn’t hinge around one guy. There’s a lack of drive, energy and focus, and it starts in the backend. This team is designed to play in the opposition’s attacking zone, with offensive support from its defense. As it stands, Blues forwards are playing tentatively, knowing they’ll have to bear an inordinate amount of defensive responsibility to cover what this overmatched D faces. Now is the time to find the problems and fix them, prior to entering the playoffs and attempting to figure things out on the fly. Example is this butter-soft play from the Montreal contest:


Jay Bouwmeester Might Not be 100 Percent

The groin injury that stopped Bouwmeester’s iron man streak might be a lingering problem. His play is representative of the entire defensive corps — playing to not make mistakes and only pinching when the opposition is on its heels. Normally, he’s about a 24-minute player and is not a defensive liability on most nights. The issue from a purely subjective viewpoint is he’s trying to do too much in the absence of Shattenkirk, and possibly in some degree of discomfort. It isn’t that he’s hurting the Blues  — he’s almost even on plus-minus over the last five games — but coach Ken Hitchcock needs to figure out whether he’s being overplayed and be better about matchups.

Bouwmeester was acquired toward the end of the 2012-13 season (Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports)
Bouwmeester might be tasked with too much of a burden. (Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports)

The Blues’ Fourth Line Isn’t Stopping Anyone

The traditional role of a fourth line is to stop the opposition’s best. That hasn’t happened of late on this Blues squad. Steve Ott (-6), Ryan Reaves (-3) and Marcel Goc (-1) can’t contribute enough offensively to counter these negatives. Other teams are clearly getting the message and exploiting these holes. Compounding the matter is support players like Chris Porter (-1) and Patrik Berglund — when he’s taking his rightful place on a lower-tier line — is a minus three. Clearly some creative line juggling needs to take place and, to Coach Hitchcock’s credit, he did attempt to do just that by sticking Berglund with Oshie and Backes in the Montreal game. Although it’s hard to not succeed in that role, it’s generally a smart move create balance and complimentary matchups. Looking up and down the roster, it’s clear the fourth line is getting exposed. These are the forwards most complimentary to the defense, and something’s in dire need of correction in this regard.

Steve Ott was acquired by the Blues in the Ryan Miller deal last season (Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports)
Steve Ott’s penchant for ill-timed penalties and defensive zone play isn’t helping. (Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports)

Blues Should Plan for the Worst, Hope For the Best

There’s a very real possibility Kevin Shattenkirk isn’t coming back. Abdominal surgeries impact core strength that affects all aspects of a hockey player’s activities. So, even if he’s not shut down as a precautionary/healing measure, he certainly won’t be the #22 we’ve seen thus far. The Blues prior to the deadline would be smart to go all-in for the best defenseman they can find, whether that be Keith Yandle, Oliver Ekmann-Larsson or Mike Green. Yes, these are expensive options and yes, they will cost in terms of assets. But let’s not play NHL 15 GM for a second and assume Doug Armstrong can work the magic Blues fans are used to. Any of these players is in some ways a direct replacement for Shattenkirk and, even if expensive rentals, this is the hand the team is holding right now and must play. It’s never easy to replace a top D-man, especially when he’s playing well over what you would expect from a guy earning right around $4M per year. When the depth on defense includes the likes of Chris Butler and Petteri Lindbohm — not names that will lead the Blues deep into the playoffs — drastic measures need to occur to fill the void. Hopefully, the front office figures out what those measures are and fixes them before it’s yet again too late.

(Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports)
There aren’t too many options better than Keith Yandle in replacing a Shattenkirk. (Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports)

18 thoughts on “St. Louis Blues Needs to Fix What Ails Them Now”

  1. As a Blackhawks fan I am definitely not rooting for the Blues but I could definitely see where playing someone else in the first round would really help the Blues. Unfortunately barring a Predator collapse it will be a Hawks Blues matchup in round 1 and as a Hawks fan I feel pretty confident even without Kane.

  2. Wisniewski from Columbus is available and could be had. He has a couple of years left and with Davidson in CBJ a deal could be worked out. Maybe get Cam Atkinson as well for the wing as they are rumored to deal him. Berglund is a waste of money in any regard. I’d rather have one of the younger players up from the farm and live with the possible offensive upside and defesive mistakes. In any event, Elliot is a serviceable enough goalie but he will not be stealing games in the playoffs which any Cup winning goalie will do at least a couple of times to get those 16 wins.

  3. Bottom line, this is not a physical team and it will cost them in the playoffs. Here’s how I see it. For one, Pietrangelo is way over-rated as a defenseman, he is a pansy-ass in the defensive zone and doesn’t know how to check. Ian Cole makes too many mistakes and should be benched or replaced. I don’t think Bouwmeester is all that bad but he is playing tentative. Boy do we miss Roman Polack. The Blues need to get a top notch, physical defenseman to replace Shattenkirk now. Offensively, Patrick Berglund and Steve Ott are liabilities on the ice and must go. I feel the rest of the forwards, as a group, are overall good quality players. I have noticed lately that the forwards are getting pinched to the boards when carrying the puck into the offensive zone, that didn’t happen most of the year, they carried the puck in through the middle of the ice and set up shop. Unless they get back to fast paced, creative hockey they will get bumped out in the first round again and fans are tired of it.

  4. Same old Blues. It seems almost impossible to overcome the losing and defeatist culture that has been so much a part of that organization. What we can count on is that the Blues will fold up come playoffs. And when it does the whole organization must be exploded from Hitchcock down, keeping Backes, Schwartz, Lohtera, and Tarasenko, and maybe Oshie. There are so far from being a contender. And in order to go deep you need a stellar goalie which neither Elliott nor Allen is. It is best to send to a message to the new owner by boycotting a team that has no heart and very little talent. Maybe the owner might do what it takes in the off season.

    • As soon as the blues stumble just for a couple of games, everybody automatically writes them off. I fail to see how this team is not a contender. And while elliot may not be an elite goalie, he has most definitely been above-average the last two seasons. I think he compares well with corey crawford, if maybe a slight downgrade. And if they were to blowup the roster, they most definitely would keep steen and allen

      • You are just Pollyannaish and ignoring stats and the history. This same old game
        has been going on for at least four seasons right now where they put up
        good season standings and then flame out right around the playoffs. The
        team has few really stellar players and they lack downright grit and heart,
        something that even old man Hitch mentioned last year. Yes Elliot might be
        above average when it comes to regular season numbers but when it comes time to
        come up big he sorely lacks. The other thing that is really glaring is that
        aside from a real small handful of players the team is actually quite mediocre
        with Berglund, Stastny, Ott, and others. If you think the Blues can win with no
        defense, no heart, no top flight goalie, occasionally one pure goal scorer, a
        team that is not buying into the coach’s game, and crappy players then I have a
        bridge I would like to talk to you about. Let’s not confuse devotion with

        • Well first of all, the blues lost to either the blackhawks or kings the last four seasons. I understand you have to beat the best to be the best, but the teams that have won against the Kings and Blackhawks in the post season, are the kings and blackhawks. I doubt any team in the league would be able to beat those teams 4 years in a row. And I think you are off with your assessment of elliot. When he has played in the post season, it has been in years when he was a backup. Pretty hard to get your confidence up and play a strong game when you weren’t trusted as THE guy for the whole season. First it was halak ahead of him, then miller. Last year he saw some more confidence being put in him, and this year he has run with that confidence. This is not the elliot of years past. I will give you that burglund is mediocre given his cap hit, but Ott is a fourth liner, and stastny is not mediocre. He is being put on a third line with a rookie and a mediocre player. Pretty hard to make an impact with that line. if you think backes, steen, shwartz, tarasenko, lehtera, oshie(in the second half of the season), and jaskin (of late) are mediocre, then I really don’t think you know that much about hockey. The reality is that this team is a strong contender that everybody gives up on at the slightest stumble

          • If you could comprehend basic English you would see that I said there are a handful of players that are worthy and I would include Backes, Tarasenko, Lohtare, and
            Schwartz and only recently Oshie. And I am repeating what Hitchcock said but it is obvious that you know more than him. I am not talking about Elliott’s post season but when he has had hade to co me big DURING REG SEASON he has not. You are a fool knows nothing about hockey and most likely has never played it either. Just keeping listening to those voices in your head and be assured that you are right.

            • lol the players you mentioned are the core of the team, can’t really call the team mediocre if its core is not mediocre, not to mention you missed some key players that are not mediocre (steen, pietrangelo, shattenkirk, jaskin lately). I said nothing about what you quoted hitch on, so i am not sure what you are getting at with that comment…? never said I knew more than him. And you said elliot put up good regular season number but failed to come up big? to most people that would sound like you are talking about the post season, and it isn’t very accurate anyway. He has kept the blues in many games by coming up with big saves at key times. All i came here to do was discuss hockey. try not to pop a blood vessel just because someone doesn’t have the same views as you

  5. What ails the Blues isn’t physical – it’s mental. This team is a bunch of choking dogs that beats up on bad teams but when it faces a team that is semi-decent they fold like the choking dogs they are. The Blues are a FRAUD and have been exposed as such far too often. I am a Kings fan and would love to face these clowns in the post-season since we all know the Kings would win that series. This Blues team is incapable of winning anything of substance because they have nothing solid above their shoulders.

    • the blues have beat the blackhawks, kings, lightning, nashville… these teams don’t count as decent teams?

      • In the Playoffs? I don’t care about what happens in the Reg Season – look at the Ducks for that. Come the post-season this Blues team has come up very short and has blown 2-0 leads the last 2 seasons. Beat the Kings or Hawks in the POSTSEASON and then come talk but until then this Blues team is a Paper Tiger and I see nothing to indicate this postseason will be any different than the last 3.

  6. Time for St. Louis to take a dive. Dive about 12 draft picks lower, giving the Sabres a stellar first round pick to go with McDavid! Nice….

  7. Shellacking is a bit extreme – Montreal got 2 lucky bounces that lead to breakaways and ultimately goals. A dumb drop pass at the blue line by Tarasenko and a guy coming out of the box at the perfect time to catch the clearing attempt. It was a mess of a game on both sides – neither looked really sharp in my opinion. But I guess you get that sometimes when 2 top teams from opposite conferences play and try to feel each other out during the game. Not to mention they have probably the best goalie in the league this year.

    • I’ll admit the Blues weren’t dominated, but they looked very soft and made dumb, careless mistakes. As a results-oriented person, to me 5-2 is a shellacking regardless of the details surrounding that score. This is on the heels of a 4-1 loss to the same team a couple months back, so they understand what the Blues are and aren’t doing well.

  8. None of those three defensemen have the 2 way ability that Shattenkirk has and would probably cost draft picks (we already don’t have a first rounder this year), and one or more of Ty Rattie, Robby Fabbri, Ivan Barbashev, Patrick Berglund, or Dmitrij Jaskin.

    I do feel the lines should be switched up. I personally didn’t think the old lines were bad, we just played a bad couple of games. I think the fourth line is fine they just need to have a little less ice time. Here is another couple of options though

    Steen, Backes, Tarasenko Schwartz Backes Tarasenko
    Schwartz, Stastny Oshie or Steen Stastny Oshie
    Berglund, Lehtera, Jaskin Lehtera Berglund Jaskin
    Ott, Goc, Reaves Ott Goc Reaves

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