Well everyone, it’s time to talk about the St. Louis Lose. Wait, that’s not right, let’s try again. It’s time to talk about the St. Louis Hughes. *Sigh* no, no, hold on, I’ll get it.
It’s been a rough season to be a fan of the St. Louis *ahem* Blues, and at this point everyone either realizes that the team is in the middle of a rebuild or is in desperate need of one. To recap the last few weeks, since firing Mike Yeo shortly after their loss to the Los Angeles Kings on November 19, the Blues have gone 3-5-1 under interim coach Craig Berube, showing some signs of competency in beating Colorado, Nashville, and Winnipeg, but for the most part rolling over and letting teams score at will – just ask Patrick Laine
Laine on his surprise having no Blues defenders around him: “Yeah, especially with the fifth goal. I was pretty surprised that I was wide open and had the time to look where I’m shooting and kind of pick the spot. So I think with that goal, I was pretty surprised how open I was.”
— Jeremy Rutherford (@jprutherford) November 25, 2018
The big questions are, where do we go from here and who should lead it. As far as the latter, I am not sure who it should be, but I am quite certain who it should not be: Doug Armstrong.
— Cristiano Simonetta (@CMS_74_) April 27, 2016
To his credit, Doug Armstrong is decent at drafting. Look no farther than Robby Fabbri, Jordan Kyrou, and Robert Thomas to get a glimpse at the talent he his found. This is, however, only one role of a General Manager, and when it comes to two other important roles: trades and contracts, Armstrong has been woefully bad and are the main reason the Blues are in the position they are in now – he has a history of handing out bad contracts and trading players when they are at their lowest value.
Dating back to 2015, Armstrong has offered inexplicable contract extensions to Patrik Berglund, Vladimir Sobotka, Jori Lehtera, Alex Steen, and Jake Allen. These moves hamstrung the team and, upon realizing that these players might not be the ones to build a team around, forced Armstrong into trading valuable assets to get rid of them. While the acquisitions of Brayden Schenn and Ryan O’Reilly have undoubtedly been great, they came at the cost of multiple first round picks (for Schenn), and a first and second for O’Reilly. This was a huge overpayment for those players, in isolation, but Armstrong had to entice the Philadelphia Flyers and Buffalo Sabres to take on the bad contracts of Lehtera, Sobotka, and Berglund.
But great, at least he got out of those contracts – unfortunately, we do not have as many picks as we need to actually start a rebuild. And, somehow, the Blues are still fourth in the league in salary cap, due to the bloated contracts of Steen, Allen, and Jay Bouwmeester. These players are also likely not tradable assets because A) Bouwmeester and Steen have no-trade clauses, and B) they’re not very good. It is very unlikely that any team would want to take on a streaky and underperforming goalie, and a 34 year old winger making close to $6 million/year.
Even more unfortunately, the Blues do not have many young players ready to step up. Thomas and Kyrou have shown flashes, but outside of those two you have only the continually hurt Fabbri, and very underwhelming players like Zach Sanford and Oskar Sundqvist. Many pundits lauded Doug Armstrong for trading Kevin Shattenkirk to the Washington Capitals, but looking at the return, we received a first rounder that had to be traded to get out of another mess, and Sanford, who aside from 5 games this season has contributed virtually nothing.
Turning to some of our better players, including Schenn, O’Reilly, Vladimir Tarasenko, Colton Parayko, and Alex Pietrangelo, sure some of these players could net decent returns, but there is a very low chance that any return a 1:1 value. Tarasenko, O’Reilly, Parayko, and Schenn are all relatively young players – the types of players a rebuilding team needs to build around. Pietrangelo is an interesting option – still only 28 years old, and regardless of one down season, he is a dominant, all-world defenseman. The Blues lack defensive depth, and if he can return 2-3 Parayko level players, the Blues should consider making that trade. Otherwise, there is no sense trading him either.
So here we are, a team with bloated contacts, very few young prospects, and a handful of players that, alone, cannot make the team competent. And no real head coach. This was all created by Doug Armstrong. Worse yet, he is tasked with finding us our next coach. The same man who created a “coach in waiting” position for Mike Yeo (he of the zero cups and underperforming Minnesota Wild), so he could not get away.
Could the Blues get Jack Hughes? Maybe, though somehow the Blues are not the absolute worst team in the league, that honor belongs to the Chicago Blackhawks. The draft this year is very deep, so at least having a top 5 pick will be a step in the right direction, but with most of this team locked in past 2020, it is going to be a long road back to mediocrity. Aside from the Blues themselves being able to draft Jack Hughes, my hope is that the Blackhawks can get him. Chicago is even worse than the Blues defensively, and I have a suspicion that they would be open to dealing Hughes for Pietrangelo (and more), or possibly even Patrick Kane. Whatever the Blues do, they somehow need to trade away all but a few players.
How can they do it? I don’t know. One thing is for sure though – Doug Armstrong cannot be the one leading the way.
Thanks for reading.