Let me restate that for the Twitter generation: the #stlblues need to bring #QTOTHELOU.
Let me start be saying that I recognize having a knee-jerk reaction to the Blues’ lackluster start and calling for a new coach without digging deeper is not the way to run a successful organization, so let’s evaluate how current coach Mike Yeo has performed this season, then get to the merits of hiring Quenneville. The Blues stumbled out of the gate, winning just one of their first five games, but since then have performed semi-respectably, beating teams like Toronto and Vegas rather easily. Unfortunately, when they played the heavy-hitters of the Central, they came back down to earth, blowing a 3-1 third period lead to Winnipeg, and having one of their most embarrassing performances of recent memory in a 5-1 loss to Minnesota, being outshot 45-16. Is this all Mike Yeo’s fault? No. Has Mike Yeo done even one thing to make this team better? It does not seem like this.
Egregious infraction 1: the constant, and quite frankly baffling, use of Jay Bouwmeester. The Blues are in a precarious position with Robert Bortuzzo being injured and, up until recently, Carl Gunnarsson recovering from an ACL tear, so the Blues were forced into playing Bouwmeester. They were not, however, fired into playing him more than 19 minutes in 8 of the 11 games he has played in, or keeping him on the ice in critical late game situations. Would this be any different under Coach Q? We don’t really know, but looking at Brent Seabrook’s average time on ice, it has fallen about 2 minutes since 2015-2016. While he still gets about 20 minutes of ice time (according to hockey reference), the Blackhawks’ defense is much worse than the that of the Blues, and Seabrook is still capable of generating much more offense than Bouwmeester. If we say an n of 1 is significant (somewhere a statistician’s head just exploded), it stands to reason that Quenneville does not simply look at pedigree and contract value when determining whether to keeping playing an aging veteran exactly as he did in his prime.
Egregious infraction 2: inability to use young players properly. The Blues have a wealth of young players, including Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou – neither of which has been used well. Thomas, a highly-touted prospect, played the first five games, but was then benched for almost two weeks. Yeo’s rationale was that he was trying to find his confidence:
Yeo says Thomas is out, Sanford is in tonight. He says Thomas is trying to find his confidence and may be a little worried about his 9-game trial. #stlblues
— Jeremy Rutherford (@jprutherford) October 17, 2018
Nothing does more for a young player’s confidence than a benching 5 games into a 9-game trial. Within those first 5 games, that the Blues were losing all but 1, Thomas saw more than 10 minutes of ice time just twice. This does not help develop young players, and it does not help the current team win. Kyrou faired better under Yeo, slightly, but after not putting up many points in the first few games, he has been relegated to fewer than 10 minutes of ice time in each of his last three games (and has not played in the last 3). This type of player mismanagement makes me nostalgic for Mike Matheny, who once stated that coaches are not in the business of player development.
Now, would this change under Quenneville? That’s questionable. According to BlackhawkUp, one of Quenneville’s biggest critiques was that he would not trust younger players. However, the Blackhawks, at the time, were a dynasty in the making, with players like Toews and Kane (themselves fairly young), so it is understandable to trust these guys more. His development of Patrick Kane alone is enough to show how strong he is in the player development department.
This list can go on, but in the end, the Blues need to realize that Quenneville is an all-time great coach, while Yeo has not done anything in his career to prove he can ever reach that level. They are not playing well this year, an Q can help turn that around. It’s far from a given that a reunion is imminent, but the Blues would be foolish not to explore the possibility.