St. Louis Blues Need Big Changes If Losing Ways Continue

Nov 9, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock looks on from the bench during the first period against the Chicago Blackhawks at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 9, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock looks on from the bench during the first period against the Chicago Blackhawks at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports /

The St. Louis Blues are not quite a quarter of the way through the NHL season. Still, the manner in which they have been losing might make the idea of big change more likely.

The St. Louis Blues have not been themselves lately. Or, a scarier but equally plausible thought is they have been themselves and they aren’t even close to what we hoped they would be.

The Blues are 3-5-2 in their last 10. They have lost three games in a row, though the Chicago game was lost in overtime if we are looking for a thread of a silver lining.

Those are not the actions of a championship contender. All teams go through slumps and lose games and struggle in certain aspects.

The Blues are struggling in all aspects. The way they are losing is what is causing worry more than the simple fact that they are losing.

St. Louis has lost their last five games by a margin of 24-8. That includes a 5-0 loss to the Rangers, 6-2 to Dallas and 8-4 to Columbus.

The last one was particularly embarrassing. The last one swung those of us not wanting massive change in the other direction.

Coaching Change

The biggest change and most likely would be the firing of Ken Hitchcock. The Blues do already have his successor in place.

It would be extremely disappointing for the Blues to have to fire Hitchcock during his final season. He is second only to Joel Quenneville in wins in Blues history.

As of writing this, Hitchcock has 231 wins and was hoping to close the gap between himself and Quenneville by leading the team to another postseason run. Instead, the Blues are looking like a team without a rudder, in need of a shakeup.

People who have followed my articles have probably gotten the vibe that I’m not usually for big change just for the sake of change. I have long said the grass is not greener on the other side.

For example, there were many upset that the Blues did not throw money at Mike Babcock. Those same people would have thrown a fit when Babcock said “it’s not about the goals scored, it’s about the goals you give up.”

So, I have never put much stock in all the fans that yell and scream that it is all Hitch’s fault and he should have been gone long ago. How do we know the team makes it to the conference finals without him?

That said, the team’s recent listless nature makes me at least question my own stance. If the Blues are not questioning anything and everything they aren’t doing their job. They aren’t doing their fans a service.

The other option is to seek out a trade. That would help the on-ice product, but also has potential drawbacks.

Player Change

Kevin Shattenkirk is the name that comes up the most. Fans, including myself, were a bit shocked when the Blues could not pull the trigger on some high profile trades that were heavily rumored during the NHL Draft.

There were some names that were very pleasing to the eye on paper that might have made a difference for the Blues in their lack of scoring. However, since the Blues struggle defensively right now, who knows if that was really a solution.

Shattenkirk is off to a pretty good offensive start. 12 points in 16 games isn’t too shabby.

As good as he has been offensively, it has not been quite as solid defensively. That is a teamwide problem though, so it is hard to gauge Shattenkirk in his own bubble.

The trade issue is a double-edged sword though. On the one hand, there are other teams in a similar boat, so the Blues might be able a decent deal.

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On the other hand, the Blues’ struggles might signal other teams they are in a state of panic. Savvy GMs might feel they have the upper hand if they see Doug Armstrong’s name pop up on caller ID right now.

Shattenkirk is all but gone after the season anyway. The question is who else the Blues might send away.

The Blues are currently rotating some players with decent talent in and out of the scratch list. Might that be a signal that they could be on the block if the right return was there?

The team has to keep that option open. Any good GM keeps that option open whether the team is struggling or not though.

Leadership Issues?

Before anyone freaks out, I’m not against Alex Pietrangelo or him getting the C. There are questions about his leadership before he’s really had a chance to lead though and some of the questions come from the player himself.

As someone who has played sports their entire life, but not at anything close to a professional level, I admit some naivety to this. David Backes was a wonderful captain, but I just can’t see his absence being that big a deal.

We all loved Backes during his time, but he was culprit No. 1 when giving the same excuses after losses and then things not changing the next game. So, why the sudden drop off now?

Others have pointed to the loss of Troy Brouwer and Steve Ott. Brouwer was great in the locker room, but only here one season. Ott was a glue guy, but was not even in the lineup on some nights.

I’m honestly not trying to downplay their contributions. However, if losing a few guys has really shaken this team to the core, then they have issues bigger than any one change can fix.

Pietrangelo is going to be the captain for years to come. He’s a very good player and deserves respect.

If the team is only paying him lip service though, that’s something he has to find a way to fix.

The bottom line of all this is we all have to be open to all options at this point. There are no guarantees one way or the other.

Coaching changes in season don’t always produce better results. It did when Hitchcock came, but he’s a Hall of Fame caliber coach.

We don’t know what Mike Yeo would bring to the table without a full offseason behind him. Right now, the powerplay is under his control and it has been very hot or cold and that’s all we have to base anything on.

Trades do send a message. The player coming in doesn’t always gel right away though

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Right now, I’m open to anything. I’m not 100% on board with these changes, but I’m not against them either and that is saying a lot.

The team is quickly approaching a place where there is no option but to make a change. If they keep losing and losing badly with no energy or will, the only question might be how many changes happen as opposed to whether one will happen.