To the Blues Management and Coaching Staff,
Please do something with Chris Stewart. He's not helping the team. He's not a good player right now. He's not producing. He's not working. He's not a Blue. It's way past time for something drastic. Was today the day?
Reports from practice today are coming in as positive as ever for #25. Hitch, good job in putting him on the 4th line. Took you long enough didn't it? For God's sake. Stewart has been flat-out bad for a while now. You talked to reporters today about him. You mentioned his effort lacking. You mentioned his talent being too much for how he's been playing. You called him out on it and put him on the fourth line. He had a great practice, reportedly.* What now?
Is he a fourth line player? Does he serve the team best in that role? That's a lot of money for a fourth line guy who isn't a veteran at the tail end of his career. This guy is still trying to be a number one option in the NHL. He's not supposed to be playing less than 10 minutes a game. Let's say he turns his game around on the fourth line and, Hitch, you have to move him up to the third or second line. Great news right? But what about the guy whose place he is taking? Do you punish a guy for staying strong and playing well while promoting a guy who should have been playing well all along?
Mr. Armstrong and Mr. Davidson, that's where you guys come into play. Team chemistry is very important, especially around playoff time. You don't want to mess with that. Keep the guys happy. But what if the team has turned its back on Stewart? And what if after this stint on the fourth line he takes another deserving player's spot? What happens within the dressing room then? Is it time to move him? I think it is.
This move by Hitchcock to put Stewart on the fourth line and talking to the media about 25's lack of effort could have just set the wheels in motion for getting rid of a guy who has only been on the team for a year. Recognizing a guy is bad is one thing. Making something happen because of it is another. When the coach knows, as well as everyone else watching the games, that a guy's bad he can push him and push him until something changes. That has to have been happening.
Hitch, you don't seem like a guy who wouldn't challenge a poor effort night in and night out. This certainly was a last ditch effort to get the guy going. The rest of the players have surely noticed what's been going on. They probably feel bad for Stewart. They know he's better than how he's been playing as of late, just like everyone else watching knows. The team doesn't need to be feeling bad for a struggling player. That's not healthy. It leads to lack of focus and maybe even losing games THAT YOU SHOULD WIN (too soon?).
Focus is key for this Blues team. They thrive on pressuring the other team into mistakes. They capitalize on good forechecking. They make plays because they have tremendous effort. If a guy isn't doing what he's been coached to do.....well........it's time to say goodbye.
*thanks to Lou Korac and his always awesome twitter feed