How I Would Fix the Blues
Fans of the St. Louis Blues have been crying for change most of the season. Some of it hasty, some of it on point. The call has increased recently. Even after Owner Dave Checketts "Get you butt in gear" speech in mid November, the Blues are still consistently inconsistent.
This team does need to be concerned with winning now. Right or wrong...fair or unfair...the playoffs set expectations that this team can be a 6th-10th rated team in the Conference. Its time to make some changes to get us back to that level. Since we all have opinions on where to go and what to do, here is my plan.
1. Sit Brad Boyes for a game
- Maybe the coaching staff evaluates Boyes differently than the fans, but his effort has been the weakest of the "top six". As we've seen in several recaps, Boyes is often beat out for 50/50 pucks, one on one battles, and gives up soft turnovers. Sitting him sends a message to the whole line up. That no one is safe when the performance is not to up to standards and expectations. NY Rangers coach John Tortorella was quoted in the New York Post as saying "There's gonna be no entitlement..." in reference to playing under achieving veterans. Brad Boyes is the case in point for the Blues.
2. Send Patrik Berglund to Peoria and Recall Derek Armstrong
- The Blues lack identity. Who are they? Are they a skill team? A possession team? A physical team? There really has been no distinction. Derek Amrstong helsp to set that identity. A team that will not be pushed around, but will push you around. A team that forechecks hard and beats your defensemen in to the boards all night. Putting Berglund in Peoria gives him a chance to get the icetime needed to work through his effort and confidence issues. Playing him with Eller, Palushaj, Stastny, and/or Drazenovic will really help him get going again.
3. Send Daryl Sydor or Mike Weaver to Peoria and Recall Tyson Strachan (assuming a healthy Brewer)
- Daryl Sydor and Mike Weaver really are the same player. Both have below average mobility, average at best transition ability, and are veteran defensive specialists. How many do you need when your offense is as incompetent as the Blues? Tyson Strachan is just a level below Roman Polak. A physical strong and generally safe player. His transition abilities showed improvement in his short NHL stint this season. It's time to see what you have in him. Is he capable of replacing Weaver and Sydor next season?
4. Keep Backes at Center and McDonald on Left Wing
- McDonald's numbers are very similar at left wing compared to center. In my opinion his smaller stature and speed is better utilized creating pressure down the wing. A bigger mobile body like Backes is better in the middle to crash the offensive zone and cover defensive responsibilities. No offense to Andy, but I'd rather see Backes up against the Datsyuks, Thorntons, Sedins, Toews, etc of the Western Conference.
5. Reunite the Colaiacovo & Johnson pairing
- These two were dynamic together in their short stint paired. Since Johnson has been paired with Sydor again, his game has noticeably regressed. He isn't lugging the puck. He isn't pinching as well (or often). EJ looks like a different player the last two weeks than he did the previous six. Put these two on the ice and tell them to go make plays. Let them run the offense up ice and create chances. They are the Blues two best options to create speed in transition off the blue line, let them do their job.
6. Free Roman Polak
- I want to see him lug the puck and try to create more offense. There is a second side of his game that is not being developed right now. Let him take some chances offensively and in transition. If he is staying paired with Jackman, take the offensive responsibilities out of his hands and let Polak be the one to take the puck up ice and make things happen.
7. Find icetime for Alex Pietrangelo
- In my opinion if Alex has a solid World Junior performance and Brewer is healthy, there is no room for Sydor and Weaver. Pietrangelo is your 6th Defensemen while carrying Strachan as the 7th man. Alex provides some much needed transition ability and youthful enthusiasm. Never mind that he is a part of the future core of this team with Johnson, Oshie, Backes, Perron, Berglund, etc.
8. Settle in to a consistent 5 man power play unit
- The Blues can't seem to get their power play going and it is literally holding this team back more than anything else. It has improved under Ray Bennet's second tenure directing the power play, but there is still work to be done. Run out the 5 most creative players and let them hash it out. This means Perron and Oshie on the wall, Backes in front, and a point pairing of Colaiacovo and Johnson. With the apathetic play of Boyes on the power play and the inconsistency with McDonald and Kariya with the advantage, a change up is needed.
Puts your best line on the ice in terms of daily effort.
It worked before when the team was poor, let's try it again.
Solid 2-way play and offensive upside with Perron and Steen being able to possess the puck well in the offensive zone.
BANG-BANG goes the bodies on the glass. Let's these guys work over the defensemen all night long.
Your best offensive combination who can also not hurt you over and over defensively. They don't need 25 minutes a night, but 20 minutes per works.
Your best defensive pairing for the last 70 or so games going back to last season.
You get a safe defensive pair to not hurt you when they are on the ice. Strachan provides a little offensive upside. Once Brewer returns you have a pairing capable of seeing legitimate icetime and meeting expectations.
After the roster is all set, the scheme is very simple on the ice. Do whatever is necessary to get the puck up ice, All 18 skaters need to be committed to moving the puck up ice. Start there and then work on getting it in the net. However, priority number one needs to be getting the puck up ice and holding it there. You can reduce chances on your own net this way. Very much a "New NHL" thought, but one the Blues need to adapt to.
As upset as I am with how this season is going, its not time to fire the coach or pull the trigger on a trade. The Blues front office has poorly managed its assets this season and it's showing now. Adding Bell AND Sydor. Carrying eight defensemen and benching Pietrangelo. Playing the match-ups to hard. Let's get the front office to yank their heads out of the sand, face reality and make some changes.
The Holiday Season trade freeze kicks in very soon. Don't expect any deals, but let's hope for some internal shuffling. If we don't buy the start of the road trip in to western Canada, we might see it when the Blues return home.