The day after their head coach was fired, the St. Louis Blues woke up and found themselves outside the playoff picture in the Western Conference.
The Calgary Flames, with a convincing win over the Wild last night, leapfrogged the Blues into the second wild-card spot.
For new head coach Mike Yeo, the challenge of replacing Ken Hitchcock begins now. If the Blues can beat the visiting Maple Leafs tonight, St. Louis can leapfrog the Flames right back.
“I’m excited for our group and I’m excited about the challenge,” Yeo said this morning, per the Post-Dispatch. “We wake up this morning and we found ourselves sitting outside of a playoff spot, but I think there’s a lot of belief inside of our locker room. I know that tonight will be a tough challenge. I know that we’re not just going to make a change like this and all of the sudden things are going to be better. We’re going to have to make them better.”
Read more: Yeo must make better use of Blues’ speed
Yeo is not expected to make any major changes to the Blues’ system — not yet anyway.
If anything, firing Hitchcock was management’s way of giving his players a jolt. An emotional Doug Armstrong said yesterday that the Blues had become a group of “independent contractors,” and that they needed to “become a team again.”
“We need to start playing together,” he said. “Whether it’s when we have the puck, whether it’s when we don’t have the puck, we have to start playing as a five-man unit on the ice.”
Jake Allen will start in goal tonight. Suffice to say, if the Blues’ goaltending doesn’t improve, no amount of teamwork will salvage their season.
The Blues also fired goaltending coach Jim Corsi yesterday. He’ll be replaced by Martin Brodeur and Ty Conklin, who will share the job of trying to get Allen back on track.
“Jim Corsi has coached Hall-of-Fame goaltenders and Vezina-winning goaltenders, but there was a disconnect for whatever reason,” Armstrong said, per NHL.com. “I’m not blaming the goalies, I’m not blaming Jimmy. I’m just saying right now we’re near the bottom of the league, certainly in the last couple of months, in save percentage and goals-against, and that has to change.”
Blues goaltending since Dec. 1