The St. Louis Blues’ season is still going, as they are tied at one game apiece in their second-round NHL playoff series against the Dallas Stars. There are many games still to be played, and the Blues are considered a strong contender to win the Stanley Cup.
Regardless of their postseason result, the Blues need to make these three changes before next season.
1) A New Special Teams Coach
The Blues finished the season with the 10th best power play and the 14th best penalty kill. Those rankings are adequate, but neither is particularly eye opening. While the special teams have improved under interim (and likely long-term) head coach Craig Berube, there are still distinct flaws.
We recently discussed how the Blues’ power play has been inconsistent in the postseason, and that issue has plagued the team all season. There are periods when the unit looks unstoppable, and there are periods when it is inept.
While there are some questions about the talent on the unit overall (we’ll discuss that shortly), on the whole the players aren’t the problem. The scheme isn’t good enough and that comes down to coaching. If Berube is handed the full-time reins, he deserves the right to craft his own coaching staff, and that should start with a new special teams coach.
2) A Power Play Quarterback
Perhaps it’s more of a pipe dream than a real possibility, but the one thing the power play seems to be lacking is a genuine quarterback that can lead the unit from the blue line.
Captain Alex Pietrangelo struggles there. He does not move the puck enough and often fails to keep the play in the zone on clearing attempts or passes back to him. He is a great player, one who is probably undervalued by fans, but quarterbacking a power play isn’t really in his skillset.
Colton Parayko shares similar issues and seems unwilling to fire his slap shot, which is especially frustrating as it’s one of the most impressive shots in the league. We’ve discussed recently how vital Vince Dunn is to the team’s success, but they seem unwilling to commit to him in the role.
Whether its an internal solution, a free agent, or a trade, the Blues need to find a legitimate power play quarterback. They haven’t had one since Kevin Shattenkirk left, and until they do, their special teams won’t fire on all cylinders.
3) Space for Kyrou
The Blues have a loaded group of forwards, but they have a very special prospect waiting in the wings in Jordan Kyrou, the speedy winger who was almost a point-per-game player in the AHL this season. He is consistently ranked in the upper echelon of NHL affiliated prospects.
He’s proved himself in the AHL, and while there is always room to develop in the AHL, he really needs a consistent role in the NHL if the Blues are going to find out what they have in him.
To make that happen, they’ll need to clear some space. Whether that means letting a player like Patrick Maroon walk in free agency or trading a player like Zach Sanford or Robby Fabbri and committing to playing Kyrou consistently, its a move that needs to happen. Kyrou is too special a prospect to let him continue to wallow in the AHL.
Stanley Cup Success
The Blues’ biggest need isn’t on this list, of course; which is to win the team’s first Stanley Cup in franchise history. If that’s going to happen, it will come before any of these changes are implemented. Even Stanley Cup winners need to continue to evolve, though. Just ask this year’s Washington Capitals (or Pittsburgh Penguins, for that matter). If the unthinkable happens and the Blues finally end their Cup drought, the Blues still need to make these changes in the offseason.
Stephen Ground is a veteran of over three years at THW, focusing on the St. Louis Blues, NHL goaltending, and the annual World Junior Championship. He is the co-host of the Two Guys One Cup Podcast, a hockey podcast focused on the Blues.