By: Sammy Stava
The St. Louis Blues’ season came to an end on Saturday night against the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center in Game 82 of the regular season. The club would finish the regular season with a record of 44-32-6 and 94 points, but it simply wasn’t enough in a loaded Western Conference. This will mark the first time the Blues have missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs since the 2010-2011 season, ending a streak of six consecutive postseason appearances. They would happen to miss the playoffs by one single point.
That doesn’t sound all too bad, but it was how this team missed the playoffs which made this season a failure. At one point, they were off to their best start in franchise history and were first place in the Western Conference. On Thanksgiving and Christmas, they were in first place in the Central Division. At the official halfway point of the season, they would fall to second place in the Central Division, but still with an impressive record of 24-15-2 and 50 points through 41 games.
It would have taken an epic collapse for this team to end their season on April 7th. Well, it did. A record of 20-17-4 in the second half of the season will do that. Most notably, a 1-7-2 stretch from February 11th to March 8th, then to lose five out of their last six games to end the regular season, just recently after winning eight out of their last nine games.
As mentioned before, this team missed the playoffs by one single point. You can pinpoint to a lot of games this season that were missed opportunities. Let’s start with losing to the last place team in the Western Conference, the Arizona Coyotes, twice, 5-2 (at home) on January 20th, and 6-0 in Arizona on March 31st, which felt like the inevitable dagger to their playoff hopes. What about blowing a 3-0 third period lead in Nashville on February 13th? They would end up losing 4-3 in overtime. As they lost five out of their last six games to end the regular season, three of those losses came against teams with technically nothing to play for. All they needed Saturday night was one point, so it’s fitting that this team, which had so many missed opportunities this season, couldn’t even get that.
Mike Yeo’s first full season with the Blues ends with no playoffs, but is he to blame for this mess? With an injury plagued team and the organization becoming sellers for the second straight season (Kevin Shattenkirk last year and Paul Stastny this year), he almost pulled it off again. Despite not making the playoffs this season, Mike Yeo still currently has an impressive record of 66-40-8 as the Blues head coach.
Yes, Jake Allen has had his inconsistences this season, but he was a big reason why the Blues had won eight out of their last nine games from March 10th – 27th and gave the team a fighting chance in the final game of the regular season. He indeed did steal that first round series last year against Minnesota. The potential is still there.
The bottom line was, the Blues finished 24th in the NHL in goals scored this season, and were 30th in the NHL on the powerplay. Only the Edmonton Oilers, who finished 36-40-6 this season, were worse on the man-advantage. What does that say about this team? They didn’t have enough elite NHL players to be a legitimate playoff caliber team, and that falls on the general manager Doug Armstrong.
Look, the Brayden Schenn for Jori Lehtera trade was a successful one, but it obviously wasn’t enough in the offseason, because look who’s in the playoffs this season, the Flyers, and look who’s not, the Blues. The Paul Stastny trade made sense at the time in terms of the future, so it better work out.
The Blackhawks’ streak of nine consecutive playoff appearances and the Rangers’ streak of seven consecutive playoff appearances both came to an end this season. Understandably so, some playoff runs indeed come to an end at some point. Those teams, however, can afford down years. The Blues can’t. Chicago has won three Stanley Cups in Joel Quenneville’s tenure, and New York went to the Stanley Cup Final in Alain Vigneault’s first season in 2013-2014. Vigneault was recently fired, and Quenneville was questionable on the hot seat. Those are two organizations that are acting with a sense of urgency, something this Blues organization needs to do. It also wouldn’t hurt for this Blues team to come out with extra motivation next season after missing the playoffs.
This will be Doug Armstrong’s most important offseason as the Blues General Manager, and some major moves need to be made to improve this team. This organization simply can’t afford to waste the years of Vladimir Tarasenko, Alex Pietrangelo, or Jaden Schwartz in their primes. Something needs to be done, or else this franchise might see the dark days from 2005-2006 to 2010-2011 sooner rather than later.