Given the lack of success in the 2018 season so far, is it time to re-evaluate the St. Louis Blues’ offseason?
Let’s take a step back to the St. Louis Blues’ offseason. It’s July 2018, you’re sitting around staring at your computer screen waiting on the St. Louis Blues to make some kind of move. A move that will hopefully be the spark that gets the team back into a playoff spot come next season. Then across your screen come that beautiful notification, “Blues acquire Sabres forward Ryan O’Reilly in blockbuster trade.” You can’t contain your excitement, you leap up from your seat ecstatic and the brilliance of Doug Armstrong. How could he fleece the Sabres out of such a talented center while simultaneously dumping all of that salary that was being eaten up by Berglund and Sabotka? It didn’t matter, because now the Blues were fixed throw in Perron, Bozak, and Maroon and our free agency period was a colossal success!
Except that it wasn’t. The Blues sit firmly at last place in the central with no clear way to dig themselves out of the hole, and we the fans are stuck asking ourselves “what’s going wrong?”. Well the unfortunate answer is this team just isn’t very good. But how could that be? We added O’Reilly, Bozak, Perron, and Maroon. Plus Fabbri is back and healthy (sorta) how can it be possible that our team isn’t very good? The simple answer lies not in what we added, but in what we lost. To make it plain and simple I’ll put it this way. What the Blues lost over the course of the last 6 months is more than they gained with their trades and signings, even though I loved the Perron signing and O’Reilly trade. So without further ado let’s break it down.
Tyler Bozak– The Bozak signing was one that I was very happy about early on in the Blues season, but upon closer inspection is an acquisition that was honestly a downgrade from a player the Blues lost in free agency, Kyle Brodziak. Both players played 81 games, and while Bozak posted 10 more points Brodziak did most of his damage buried on the Blues fourth line. Further, Brodziak is a significantly better defensive player than Bozak. An area where the blues are clearly lacking at the moment. Did the Blues have any chance at resigning Brodziak, would the allure of more money gotten him to resign? We don’t know, but all in all the Bozak signing was just a net neutral one and not necessarily a positive stride for a struggling Blues team.
Patrick Maroon- Maroon signed a hometown deal to come and play for St. Louis, and don’t get me wrong I love the guy. But you know what I love more? Production, which is something the Blues lost when they traded away Patrik Berglund. Now do I think that it would have been a good idea to not trade for Ryan O’Reilly? No, but I think it’s something to talk about when we’re looking at players we lost vs players we gained. Berglund played in only 57 games for the Blues and still managed to notch 26 points, including a hat trick against Montreal. Am I saying these players should be compared as a one to one correlation? No but when we’re talking about on ice production and getting pucks in nets, we need to think about the raw numbers and I believe that a healthy Berglund is just as good as a healthy Maroon.
The Blues of course also lost Vladimir Sobotka, Paul Stastny, and Dimitri Jaskin all of whom weren’t terrific player but all were at the very least capable. Not to mention trading away prospect Tage Thompson. Which means that by the end of the off-season the Blues lost six players that they had on their roster the previous year, while only acquiring four players to replace them. It is also arguable that two of those four had better counterparts in house that could have been resigned to bolster the Blues current roster. None of this even takes into account the various injuries the Blues have had to deal with this year, Schwartz, Gunnarsson, Fabbri, and Bortuzzo all missing significant time. Not to mention lingering injuries to Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Steen to add into the mix.
Overall I think the Blues got better in a handful of areas, but managed to get worse in a couple more. Couple that with a litany of injuries, and boom you’ve got an absolutely atrocious hockey season. Which in my opinion simply cannot be rectified in a timely fashion. So there’s only one thing to do, blow it all up.
Cut loose some of the injury prone, unreliable members of the old core and bring up some of the youth. Let them get experience at the NHL level and uncover exactly what it is we have in our pipeline. Embrace the tank, get a high draft pick, and utilize the cap space we’ll recover through trades to retool. But I’ll save my thoughts on how exactly to do that for another article.