Every season we hear that. And sometimes, I’m suckered into believing it. And I think this year more than most. And then I remember it’s the St. Louis Blues, and it can’t possibly be true. Maybe one day the laws of the universe will change, and we’ll all feel even more unmoored than we do now. But until that happens, the only structure we have that keeps us from unending madness is the rules we’ve always known. And one of those is that the Blues will always fuck it up. They will never get out of their own way. Until they do, we cannot reason anything else. Were we to, we would simply bend the world in a way it was not meant to go and the pillars of society and life would indeed crumble and all there would be is chaos and limitless abyss.
What’s dispiriting though is that the Blues this past summer showed the urgency that we ached for the Hawks to show. They knew they were weak down the middle, so in came Ryan O’Reilly and Tyler Bozak. Those were two players we wished the Hawks would make a run at. The Blues didn’t hang on to prospects that looked like they had over-ripened. So away went Tage Thompson and a couple high draft picks, because now is the time for the Blues. We stared at Dylan Sikura’s vacant gape on its way to Rockford. They treated missing the playoffs last year like an insult and something to be eradicated immediately and thoroughly. The Hawks signed Cam Ward and Brandon Manning. You see the problem here.
Anyway, let’s get in up to the elbow, which if you do in St. Louis leaves you with tuberculosis.
2017-2018: 44-32-6 94 points 226 GF 222 GA 51.7 CF% 51.4 xGF% 7.1 SH% .928 SV%
Goalies: And yet it doesn’t matter how you redo your bedroom or living room of your house if you keep introducing various insects and rodents and sharp weapons to your foundation. So here we are again with Jay Gallon in net. The Blues are so determined to make it work with him for the 24th year in a row that it’s gone beyond Tin Cup hitting his ball from the fairway instead of taking a drop. Except this might be the time the Blues run out of balls in the bag.
Jake Allen was bad last year. .906 SV% is bad. Carter Hutton was better. And yet it’s Carter Hutton who goes, just like any other goalie that’s dared to play alongside Allen. He can’t be moved. He’s a southern congressman at this point. No amount of incompetence or bewildering actions will ever remove him.
Allen has been above-average in exactly one of his now five NHL seasons. At this point the Blues must know what he is, which is not enough. It’s not that the physical tools aren’t there. They most certainly are. He’s big, he’s athletic. But he’s always going to do just enough to kill you. Shame they put in all this work to end up where they always do. Really is.
Anyway, backing him up this time around with certainly an eye on usurping him is Chad Johnson. Johnson was woeful in Buffalo last year but serviceable or more in Calgary the year before that and Buffalo again two years ago. Maybe Johnson is just non-threatening enough to get Allen to relax while being able to take 15-20 starts without throwing up all over everyone. I don’t know. But this looks to be Problem Area #1 again for St. Louis, who just seemingly never learn. This time it will be different.
Defense: I don’t know how many different ways we can phrase this for however many years, but the Blues defensive unit just isn’t as good as “experts” will tell you. Alex Pietrangelo somehow conned the world into thinking he’s a Norris-level defender–probably by being big, a decent skater, and Canadian–but that’s utter horseshit. He’s fine. He’s there against the best competition, but he doesn’t roll them over. He never has. He’s a rhythm guitarist miscast playing solos. And paring him with Joel “Assuredly Has Had A Bug Caught In His Ear Before” Edmundson isn’t going to change that.
Colton Parayko is the only puck-mover they have, and his game in his own zone is somewhere around DEFCON Dumbass. I still don’t know what it is Carl Gunnarsson does, and neither do they. Jay Bouwmeester is dead, has been dead, will continue to be dead, and the Blues will continue to play him more minutes until even the worms peaking out from his eye sockets ask to be left alone finally. Vinnie Dun (HEY GABBAGOOL! VINNE DUNN OVA’ HERE!) could be another puck-mover they need, but Mike Yeo apparently can’t escape the stench of Ken Hitchcock and still won’t trust him with more than 13 minutes per night.
It’s probably not as bad as we make out, but it’s certainly nowhere near great. Considering the crops of forwards one sees most nights in the Central, that’s an issue. This time it will be different.
Forwards: Ok, so the center-depth is greatly improved. Brayden Schenn was a steal from Philly, and now they’ve added Bozak and O’Reilly. Bozak really flourished behind Matthews and Kadri in Toronto, and here he’ll get to be behind ROR and Schenn. It’s really a swift move.
However, looking deeply at it now and the winger situation….ooooh boy. Vladimir Tarasenko will still score a ton, whether running with Schenn or O’ Reilly. Jaden Schwartz is still their most creative player. Fabbi Robbry or Robbry Fabbi is back from injury, providing more dash. But that’s just about it. They’re brought back David Perron, and they’re going to have a quizzical look on their face in January when he’s on the bottom six with 17 points and taking the most mystifyingly dumb penalties imaginable. Alex Steen was in need of hospice care at the end of last year and that’s not going to get better now. Patrick Maroon is here, which is just so St. Louis Blues I don’t think I can stand it. It’s a less than impressive group, so the centers and Tank are going to have to have premium years.
Outlook: Overall, they’re just a touch short of Nashville and Winnipeg. But they’re pretty much ahead of everyone else in the division, which sets them up to get thwacked by one of the aforementioned in the first round. Same as it ever was. The wingers don’t look like they provide enough, the defense is slowish and not all that skilled, and even if those things reverse there’s always Jay Gallon walking around with his gasoline can, a book of matches, and a vacant look in his eye. They made the right moves this summer. They just didn’t make enough of them.
This time it will be different…it was ever thus.
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