NBCSN’s coverage of the 2020-21 NHL season continues with the Wednesday Night Hockey matchup between the Colorado Avalanche and St. Louis Blues. Avalanche-Blues stream coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.
Blues GM Doug Armstrong didn’t see a need to make an earth shattering move before Monday’s NHL trade deadline.
The Blues aren’t comfortable by any stretch, but they sit fourth in the West Division ahead of the Wednesday Night Hockey matchup with division leading Colorado. St. Louis is a point ahead of fifth-place Arizona with two games in-hand on the Coyotes, and are four points ahead of sixth-place San Jose.
Making a move to keep up with the Joneses? That’s never a recipe for success. There would have been salary cap gymnastics that would have been needed to make a bold move. Mike Hoffman or Vince Dunn could have brought in assets to help either now or for the future, but the Blues made additions that didn’t cost anything.
Vladimir Tarasenko has been back since early March; same for Tyler Bozak. Jaden Schwartz and Colton Parayko returned to the lineup earlier this month. Those are four key contributors who play a lot and produce in their own ways. Now the goals are starting to come for the Blues after struggling to score for most of the season.
There was a time, however, when Armstrong had the thought of selling. That 2-8-4 run that began in March led to the GM planning out return requests for some of his players. The phones went quiet and the Blues won three in a row and the Coyotes went on a losing streak. That brought back the belief that playoff hockey could be a reality this season.
“Each trade deadline has its own uniqueness, but with the shortened season and our fluctuation in play, it had our minds going in different directions,” Armstrong said Monday. “Certainly the play of the last three games and being in a playoff spot today was a reflection of really deciding to stand pat with this group.”
Consistency has been lacking this season for St. Louis, and we’ll see over the next month whether this three-game win streak steered Armstrong onto the wrong path. But healing up, plus a big game Saturday night against the Coyotes could really cement their spot in the playoff race.
Look at Armstrong’s past and you’ll see times where he dealt key players — Kevin Shattenkirk, Paul Stastny — while the Blues were still in contention. That’s a sign of a lack of confidence in the roster. This season, however, he believes in his charges.
“You want so much for the players to experience playoff hockey,” Armstrong said. “I don’t want to say that I was any more frustrated than the coaches were or any more frustrated than the players were. It was a collective frustration, but also a collective understanding that nobody really cares if you’re frustrated or not.
“If you start to feel sorry for yourself — or God forbid, you’re willing to say, ‘We’ll get them next year’… If I had felt that was the indication, then there would have been a lot of player movement because our jobs are to fight to the bitter end until they tell us to stop fighting.”