The St. Louis Blues are 3-7-0 after 10 games, and they haven’t found their game yet in 2022-23, after a 3-0-0 start, losing seven straight. Even after general manager, Doug Armstrong defended head coach Craig Berube, things haven’t improved much.
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It’s fair to say that they looked better in their 3-1 loss to the Boston Bruins on Monday, but it still didn’t result in a win. Their November schedule is difficult, and they’re already 0-2-0 after their first couple of games this month.
The Blues’ Best Players Are Underperforming
Nearly every player on the roster is playing below their standards. Point production is down across the board except for Brayden Schenn, Justin Faulk, and Vladimir Tarasenko, and since Armstrong came out and spoke to the media about his team, the Blues have been outscored 8-3 in two games.
It took until the 10th game of the season for Jordan Kyrou to tally an assist. Ryan O’Reilly has one point in 10 games and a poor minus-12. Just about everybody is struggling, and although Berube has tried to switch up his lines, they’ve seen few positives from those changes. It hasn’t been enough to stop a seven-game losing streak, but St. Louis has to keep making adjustments. At least the team’s work ethic has improved in the last couple of games, but that isn’t the only factor in success.
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At some point, stars like Kyrou and O’Reilly are going to have to start finishing quality scoring chances. The Blues have scored four goals in their last three games after a 7-4 beatdown loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Oct. 29. They aren’t scoring enough to get the job done, and they aren’t defending well enough either. It’s hard to believe that their key players are all struggling at the same time, but they are.
Blues’ Special Teams Aren’t Special
This is from Armstrong himself, who remarked that the Blues’ special teams aren’t special. The loss to the Bruins was caused by poor special teams. The Bruins, led by Jim Montgomery, have elite power-play and penalty-kill units – Montgomery spent his last two seasons under Berube in St. Louis and did a great job coaching special teams. The Blues had three power-play chances in Boston and registered only three shots. In their second power play of the game, the Bruins’ penalty kill outshot them 1-0.
On the other side, the Bruins went 2-for-2 on the power play with goals from Jake DeBrusk and Patrice Bergeron. The Blues’ penalty kill started the season well but now ranks 29th in the league. The units simply don’t defend well enough, and I credit some of that to a breakdown in the structure this season. The team clearly misses Montgomery’s elite special-teams coaching, while their power play struggles have revolved around a hesitancy to shoot the puck. The Blues always try to make the extra pass, which worked at times last season but not this season when no one is finishing around the net, especially without David Perron, who had 11 power-play goals last season. The bottom line is that the Blues’ special teams are well below average.
Armstrong Deserves More Criticism than Berube
I’ve always believed a trade was more likely to happen than a coaching change in St. Louis. I still feel that way, but my confidence in that is starting to slip. Berube deserves some criticism for his team’s struggles, but there needs to be more heat on Armstrong. He built the roster and should have known that this defense can’t carry the team when they are struggling to score goals. Last season, the Blues had zero issues scoring goals, with sky-high shooting percentages and nine 20-goal scorers.
The Nick Leddy extension should haunt Armstrong this season. He is not the player that they thought he was, and management kept him over Perron. I’m not saying that trying to fix the defensive woes over re-signing Perron wasn’t the right call, but Leddy wasn’t the answer. He isn’t a great defender and provides a lot less offensively than he should. While Faulk has great offensive numbers, his defensive game has lacked a little bit. As for Colton Parayko, I can’t believe Armstrong gave him an eight-year extension – it’s just not going to work. He’s invested far too much salary cap space in a below-average defensive unit, and now the team is paying the price.
As for the heat on Thomas and Kyrou, there’s no way to know if those extensions will work out right now. It’s far too early to be critical, but my confidence in Kyrou is wavering quickly. Armstrong needs to look in the mirror and those around the organization need to put some heat on him. If he wants to save himself and the franchise, he’ll know when to blow it up or start making trades. It doesn’t seem like the Blues will make much noise this season, not yet at least. They are running out of time to avoid a wasted season in 2022-23.