Things have gone from bad to worse for the St. Louis Blues as their losing streak continues. Even after general manager Doug Armstrong held a rare early-season press conference, the team didn’t respond with a victory.
The Blues haven’t made enough of an effort to turn this thing around. Their defensive structure is still lacking and they allow their opponents to do whatever they want from the circles to the boards.
There is a lot to discuss with this team, including the fact that they are currently 31st in the NHL standings. The only team behind them is the Columbus Blue Jackets, who are off to a disastrous 3-9-0 start.
Blues Losing Streak Reaches 6 Games
The Blues entered last week with only two games on the schedule, but both of them were at home. The scrappy and high-scoring Los Angeles Kings put a beating on them with a 5-1 victory, including four goals in the second period. This was the epitome of what the season has been, a total lack of competence and consistency in their own zone. Their coverage was less than stellar, and that’s been apparent all season, as the constant defensive breakdowns from Colton Parayko, Nick Leddy, and others have proven to be costly.
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As for the loss to the New York Islanders, the Blues played well for the first 10 minutes, and then it was all Islanders. They got a goal from Vladimir Tarasenko to take a 1-0 lead, and right as the second period began, the Islanders punched one from Kyle Palmieri to tie the game. The Blues basically laid down after that as the Islanders took control of the game and scored four goals in the second period to take a commanding lead. The Blues tried to come back with a Robert Thomas goal, but they fell short and lost 5-2. They were outscored 8-1 in the second period in their two games, it’s unlikely to get much worse than this.
Armstrong’s Comments in Press Conference
It’s definitely rare for Armstrong to come out and speak about his team after just eight games, but that happened earlier last week before the loss to the Islanders. I won’t throw any of his quotes in here, but be sure to check out his press conference as I analyze them here.
While Armstrong made it clear that he doesn’t want to overreact, he also stressed the concept of not underreacting either. I feel like he was very honest in his assessment of his team. He also made sure to let everybody know, including the team, that head coach Craig Berube is going nowhere. He believes in Berube’s system and also said that it was a competitive issue rather than a system issue. That’s a brutally honest statement from him, and it says a lot about the state of the team. These issues aren’t ones that veteran-led teams should be having.
Armstrong deserves more of the blame than Berube as well, as this is a clearly flawed roster overall. The massive contracts littered with no-trade clauses are costing them. Nearly every player on this team is underperforming, which feels impossible. Armstrong has managed the team in a bizarre way since winning the Stanley Cup in 2019, and frankly, I don’t think he’s getting enough heat. He sounded like a general manager that won’t be afraid to blow it up at the trade deadline which is the correct way to approach it.
Saad Close to Returning from Injury
The Blues have not won a game without Brandon Saad, as he’s missed six straight games since an injury sustained in their last win. It’s not like he will be the savior of the season when he returns, but it would be nice to have his veteran presence back in the lineup. It’s looking like he’ll return sometime this week, but it’s unknown who he could replace in the lineup.
If I had to guess, I would say that it’s going to be either Logan Brown or Jake Neighbours that come out of the lineup with Saad’s return. This would allow Noel Acciari to rightfully move back to the fourth line. With Acciari at center, Alexey Toropchenko and Tyler Pitlick generated a lot of energy for the Blues forward group. Saad playing alongside Ryan O’Reilly and Brayden Schenn could create some chemistry amongst the veterans.
Blues Could Trade Rentals If Slide Continues
It’s clearly way too early to truly discuss these possibilities, but it’s worth covering briefly here as a Blues’ rebuild seems inevitable. They don’t have many tradeable contracts, especially within their defensive unit. However, possible rentals for playoff teams are something that they do have. Whether it’s Tarasenko, O’Reilly, or Ivan Barbashev, the Blues need to get something in return for them if they stay out of playoff contention.
O’Reilly’s value is likely at an all-time low, but his proven success in the playoffs is valuable. He could fetch the Blues a pick in the 2023 Draft, but I’m not sure it’s going to be an overly valuable selection. As for Tarasenko, he has nine points in nine games and has been one of the Blues’ only noticeable players during their losing streak. Barabshev is another heavy hitting forward that could provide a boost to a potential playoff team. None of these players have a ton of value, but there is simply no way that Armstrong can let them walk for nothing.
Outside of those three, I don’t see many tradeable assets. Torey Krug was rumored to be on the block over the summer, but his contract and underwhelming play make him untradeable in the middle of the season. The season could be much more painful if they don’t find some wins sooner rather than later. Armstrong will soon find out what his team is made of and he can’t be afraid to make some moves.
Blues’ Week Ahead
- Monday: at Boston Bruins (10-2-0, 20 points), 6 PM
- Tuesday: at Philadelphia Flyers (6-3-2, 14 points), 6 PM
- Thursday: vs. San Jose Sharks (3-8-3, 9 points), 7 PM
- Saturday: at Vegas Golden Knights (11-2-0, 22 points), 9 PM
It’s a rough slate for the Blues this week. The Bruins and Golden Knights are both off to tremendous starts. They must figure out how to string together some wins, and it needs to start in this four-game stretch. I’m not overly confident in the fact that they can turn this around, but a lot will be found out about the 2022-23 Blues over these next seven days.
Ethan Carter has been writing at The Hockey Writers for over three years now. He also co-hosts The Blue Note Podcast for the Bleav Network, which covers the Blues and the NHL multiple times per week.