Why To Remain Optimistic in the Blues Even After Another Early Exit

RALEIGH, NC January 30, 2015: St. Louis Blues center Paul Stastny (26) during the NHL game between the St Louis Blues and the Carolina Hurricanes at the PNC Arena.
Editorial credit: Kyle Besler / Shutterstock.com

On Sunday, the St. Louis Blues suffered yet another early round exit as they fell to the Nashville Predators 3-1, and dropped the series 4-2. This marks the eighth year in their last nine where the Blues have failed to advance past the second round. The lone outlier was 2015-16 when they reached the Western Conference Finals and were eliminated by the San Jose Sharks. They haven’t made it to the Stanley Cup Finals since being swept by the Boston Bruins in the 1969-70 season.

After all of these years of disappointment, why should Blues fans believe in their team to make a Cup run?

While their history may make it difficult to be hopeful with the Blues, there is a reason to remain optimistic about this team: They aren’t the same Blues team fans are used to. Yes, fans have likely heard this one before. But there are multiple reasons to believe that the current Blues team is unlike any in the past, and it starts with the man in charge behind the bench.

When the Blues fired coach Ken Hitchcock on February 1, they were sitting at a disappointing 24-21-5 record and were in eighth in the Western Conference. The team seemed lost and appeared to be on their way to their first missed playoffs since 2010-11. Looking for a spark, they appointed Mike Yeo to the head coaching position.

And he was just the spark the Blues needed.

The Blues went on to go 22-8-2 after the Yeo hiring, allowing them to finish third in the Central division with a final record of 46-29-7. In the playoffs, St. Louis bested the Minnesota Wild (the team that fired Yeo in the middle of the 2015-16 season) four games to one, which then led to their second round exit to Nashville.

When a team goes from looking likely to miss the playoffs to being just two wins away from the Western Conference Finals, a majority of the credit will be given to the head coach for turning his team around. Yeo did just that and proved his value to the Blues, and he did this in just the final few months of the season.

Looking forward, the Blues will not only have Mike Yeo in charge for 32 games, but for a whole 82. If he could carry a team that was primed for a rebuild to the second round in less than half of a season, what could he do in a full season? The more experienced Yeo gets with this Blues roster, the better he’ll be at getting his players to adapt to his system. With time, the connection between the head coach and the players should become even stronger and could take the team to an entirely different level.

There is a lot to be excited about when it comes to Mike Yeo, but he’s only half of it. The other half? The Blues’ roster itself.

TJ Oshie. David Backes. Brian Elliott. Kevin Shattenkirk. These are just a couple of the names the Blues have lost in the last few years. For most teams, losing key players such as these would leave them either at or near the bottom of their conference. The Blues, however, have remained one of the top contenders in the Western Conference and responded with not only a competitive roster but a young one as well. St. Louis currently sits exactly in the middle of the league in terms of average age at 28.3. Out of the 14 teams younger than them, only 5 made the playoffs in 2017. Building a roster with players that are both young and capable of making an impact for their team from day one is no simple task for general managers in the league. But the team Doug Armstrong has put together heavily relies on its’ young core players. The following is a list of some of the key players for the Blues under 30 and their age.

Ivan Barbashev – 21

Robby Fabbri – 21

Zach Sanford – 22

Joel Edmundson – 23

Colton Parayko – 24

Dmitrij Jaskin – 24

Jaden Schwartz – 24

Vladimir Tarasenko – 25

Jake Allen – 26

Alex Pietrangelo – 27

Patrik Berglund – 28

David Perron – 28

Vladimir Sobotka – 29

Two of the more notable names on the list are Pietrangelo and Tarasenko. Pietrangelo has been the Blues captain since August of 2016, has been on two All-Star teams and is regarded as one of the better all-around defensemen in the league. On the other side of the ice is Tarasenko, who has cemented himself as one of the premier scorers in the game. The right winger has netted at least 37 goals in each of the last 3 seasons and has finished top 6 in the league in goals scored in each of those seasons. From Allen to Parayko to Tarasenko, the talent the Blues have under the age of 30 is unmatched by a majority of the NHL.

To go along with the younger players on the roster are veterans like Paul Stastny, 31, and Alexander Steen, 33. Even at their ages, both have continued to make large contributions to the team whenever they’re on the ice. This is also one of their largest problems. Steen and Stastny have struggled to stay healthy, and both missed time in the 2017 playoffs. The health of the two forwards will be critical to the Blues moving forward. If they are able to stay on the ice, the combination of them and the team’s young core could take St. Louis past the second round and beyond.

At times, Blues fans have felt as if their team is cursed. 50 years of heartbreak and disappointment will do that to even the most loyal of fans. But with the organization heading into a direction that it hasn’t in the past, the reasons for optimism are there. The St. Louis Blues are getting closer and closer, and soon it may all be worth it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *