The St. Louis Blues have found themselves on a 3-game winning streak thanks to some quality team play, their top line producing as it should, and a couple of glorious comebacks. Here’s a look into current Blues news and musings so fans can decide what to worry about, and what not to, over this Holiday week.
Recent Team News
First off the team needs to improve their record versus the Eastern Conference. They have been the most successful team against the East since 2011-12 when Ken Hitchcock took over, but this season are under .500 against these teams (5-6-1). They need to find ways to grind out wins against Eastern Conference teams because those games are all true 2-point affairs (meaning even if the Blues win in an OT or a shootout they still don’t concede any points to a team trying to catch them in the standings). This will help them secure a playoff spot earlier to rest stars for the true test.
Next is the team’s inconsistencies. These seem to be a problem of the (recent) past now, as the team has managed to score an average of 2.6 goals-per-game over their last 5 games, with 4 wins to show for it. The play has been more balanced, with both forwards and defensemen playing smarter in every zone which allows their teammates to fill in gaps in coverage, and it seems to be leading to more high quality scoring chances for the club. Though the Blues still need to work on their turnovers, especially in their own zone (mostly on sloppy clearing attempts), they are trending in the right direction which is great to see at this point of the season.
Lastly, there have been some trade rumors floating around regarding some big names on the block with their respective clubs. Fans around the area love when these pop up so they can play armchair GM in a variety of scenarios, all of which set to bring the Blues to the next echelon for a spring time Stanley Cup playoff run. Unfortunately most of these rumors barely hold weight, and the team isn’t necessarily worse off for that.
There have been a few names mentioned as potential (or hopeful) Blues acquisitions, however none of them currently carry very much weight. That can change in the blink of an eye as the trade deadline approaches, but with the NHL’s roster freeze taking effect on Friday, fans will have to wait until after December 28th for anything to be a real possibility.
First off is Steven Stamkos, who won’t be moving teams until the trade deadline, or realistically until this summer (if at all). While having an electric playmaker such as Stammer would be an awesome edition to the team, his salary demands will be far too high for the Blues current pocketbooks, and the team would lose too many valuable pieces in the exchange (he currently makes an AAV of $7.5MM). A move for Stamkos would likely garner a trade involving either Stastny, Backes, Steen, or Schwartz, and possibly Shattenkirk or Pietrangelo which is far too steep for GM Doug Armstrong to consider.
Next is a slightly more realistic trade rumor involving Evgeni Malkin. His time in Pittsburgh seems to be dwindling, and his name has popped up in various trade rumors throughout this season so far. Again, and unfortunately for the Blues, Malkin’s price tag would likely be too rich for Armstrong’s current cap restrictions, or would leave too many holes in the Blues lineup if the transaction were to be made (AAV is $9.5MM). However, this move may make more sense for the long-term success of the team if the club’s rookies can continue their impressive development track (specifically Colton Parayko, Joel Edmundson, Petteri Lindbohm, and Robby Fabbri), and if Malkin is willing to forgo a raise to win another Cup. This trade would likely send Jay Bouwmeester or Alex Pietrangelo to the Penguins, along with a solid forward like Steen or Backes, and a top prospect such as Ty Rattie, Ivan Barbashev, or Joel Edmundson. A conditional draft pick or two may have to be added to sweeten the deal as well. That just seems like an awful lot to give up, but if he finds some chemistry with fellow standout Russian, Vladimir Tarasenko, it may all be worth it in the end.
The last, and most frequently talked about trade rumor of recent past has been that of Ryan Johansen from the Columbus Blue Jackets. He and his coach, John Tortorella, have apparently had problems seeing eye-to-eye about the team’s success and Johansen’s contributions to it, so he has been heavily shopped recently. Though the Blues have showed interest in the crafty forward, the return may not be suitable for Armstrong to make the move. The Blue Jackets reportedly want a solid defenseman in return for Johansen, which the Blues have a plethora of, but does the team really need another middle-6 forward with Patrik Berglund getting close to suiting up, and Jaden Schwartz set to return in late-January? The answer to this question should be a ‘no’ meaning that the Blues will continue to weather the storm heading in to the new year, and will ramp up as the spring arises. Though a trade could very well boost the offense and give the Blues a little added scoring touch moving forward, it doesn’t outweigh the downside, and the players they’d have to give up to get any of these assets moving forward.
With the Holidays upon us the Blues are looking to continue to grind out wins and stay in playoff contention in the start-studded Central Division. Whether or not they make a trade doesn’t matter as much as team cohesiveness, and overall on-ice communication. If the Note can manage to keep their feet moving with and without the puck, and can continue to increase their chatter on the ice they should be able to keep rolling in to the playoffs with their current roster. The team already has enough questions internally with Bergy and Schwartz set to come back, Gomez playing well when in the lineup, and a plethora of solid D-men without adding a possible trade into the mix. The future is as bright as ever for the club, and they should finally give fans something to cheer about come April, as the playoffs begin.
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