Take a gander at the Western Conference standings right now and you have to scroll a bit to find the St. Louis Blues, who currently reside next-to-last with a 2-4-3 record and seven points, two better than the last place Los Angeles Kings.
Thursday night’s 7-4 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets was not an ideal way to kick off a seven-game homestand, especially when there’s plenty to fix. Head coach Mike Yeo was probably already on the hot seat heading into this season and if this keeps up, he’s possibly in his final days as Blues head coach.
“Heck my job should be in question right now,” Yeo said Thursday night. “Of course that comes with the trade. But I’m not going to coach to try to save my job. I’m going to coach to try to win a Stanley Cup. I believe in this group, so whatever we need every single day, I’m going to try to do that.”
It wasn’t that long ago that Yeo found himself in a similar situation behind the bench.
Through the first half of the 2014-15 NHL season Yeo’s Minnesota Wild team were struggling mightily. Mired near the bottom of the West standings and last in the Central Division, he went ballistic during an early January practice. Numerous expletives were hurled and there was some angry stick smashing on the ice.
Who knows how much the tirade helped in the team’s turnaround since there was a bigger factor involved. Seven days after Yeo went bonkers the Wild acquired Devan Dubnyk. They would finish with the second-best record in the league from Jan. 7, 2015 on and Dubnyk saved his career and ended up a Vezina Trophy finalist that June.
Unless the second coming of Jan. 2015 – May 2015 Dubnyk is going to be available, there’s no savior coming in for the Blues.
The Blues are in Year 3 with Yeo, which has featured a second-round loss in 2017 and watching the entirety of the 2018 playoffs last spring. Now after a summer where general manager Doug Armstrong brought in Ryan O’Reilly, Tyler Bozak, David Perron, Patrick Maroon, the pressure is on to win.
And while the Blues are scoring fine (3.22 goals per game) and the power play is clicking (28.2 percent), everything else is a sub-par.
• 4 goals against per game (second-most)
• 24 goals allowed at 5-on-5 (tied for second-most)
• 47 percent Corsi, per Natural Stat Trick
• 18 third period goals allowed (most in NHL)
• Jake Allen‘s .896 even strength save percentage is 15th out of 16 goalies with 300 minutes played, per Corsica
A closed-door meeting was held after the loss to the Blue Jackets, a meeting that also included Yeo. The message of needing to be better was reinforced but talking will only do so much as the losses pile up.
“We sign great players and maybe think like goals and chances will come right away because we have such a good roster on paper,” said Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo via the Post-Dispatch. “Now things don’t go our way, so this may be a little bit different expectations (from) what everybody expects. But like I said, there are two ways: Stay here or try to find a way to get out.”
The Blues players were all pointing fingers at themselves following the game and supporting their head coach and Allen, who’s been left out to dry on a number of occasions this season but can still be much better. They’re not a confident team right now and Saturday will be another chance to right the ship as they host the Chicago Blackhawks. After that, it’s four full days off to continue working on fixes — or making big changes — before the Vegas Golden Knights visit.
“I don’t know ‘fragile’ is the right word. We’re not mentally strong enough right now to consistently play the type of game that we want to,” said Alex Steen. “We can sit here and talk about everything, X’s and O’s. It’s not about that, it’s about work and doing it for 60 minutes and we’ve done that only once, maybe twice so far this year and our record shows it.”