The St. Louis Blues have never been an particularly dominant team on either side of the special teams coin. Right now those units are starting to become a rather large detriment to the team’s potential success though and the man in charge could be to blame.
The St. Louis Blues have a bad power play. We have known that for some time. It was the case under Ken Hitchcock and continues to be the case under Mike Yeo.
Perhaps bad is too general or overused. It is ineffective at least. Even when the percentages are high, the eye test just is not passed.
The Blues like to pass the puck way too much. They waste five-on-three advantages as though they were candy being handed out on Halloween – not the good kind either. More like that stale stuff.
It seemed as though there might have been a change when the coaching switch was made last season. There was a bump in the numbers initially, but maybe that was just the typical coaching change spike that happens across the board.
The power play ended up being one of the main reasons the Blues could not defeat the Nashville Predators in the playoffs. St. Louis challenged Nashville more than any other team, except Pittsburgh, but the Blues could not take advantage of how many times the Preds put themselves in the box.
Now that has carried over into 2017-18. The power play is struggling mightily despite having some strong lines (the top line anyway) available.
Through nine games, the Blues are scoring on only 14.29% of their power plays. That is a full five percentage points behind the league average. Not behind the league’s best, but the average. That puts St. Louis at 24th in the league with 31 teams now in the NHL.
That’s not exactly something to be proud of. Perhaps we should have expected it with Yeo as coach. Even with good teams, Yeo’s five years in Minnesota never saw any of his teams above the league average on special teams. The following tables show the Wild’s team stats starting with 2011-12 and ending with Yeo’s partial season of 2015-16.
The Wild were never above the league average on the power play in Yeo’s time. They were only in the same percentile in two years, interestingly having one be the year he was fired.
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The penalty kill was in the same boat. 2014-15 was the only season Minnesota’s penalty kill was above the league’s average. Every other year was below with 2011-12 being the only one that was a few hundredths off.
You can blame Minnesota’s players for not getting the job done. You can also put a lot of the struggles on the Blues’ players as well.
However, eventually we have to accept the idea that the coaching staff shoulders some or much of the blame. Clearly Yeo either struggles to handle special teams properly or does not surround himself with coaches who do.
It would be one thing if this was more of an aberration. When the same thing occurs on every squad Yeo is in charge of, it is more of a trend than anything.
None of this is brought up to bash Yeo. He is a talented coach that made a lot out of some middle of the road Wild teams.
Yeo certainly did not have the talent alone to defeat St. Louis in 2014-15. He implemented a game plan to make it happen though.
He guided the team to a second place divisional finish in 2012-13, had 98 points the next year and 100 points in 2014-15. Yeo is a good coach that can inspire players at the right time.
For whatever reason, he cannot get his special teams units to click. Whether it is system or the personnel he puts on the ice, it has not worked yet.
Perhaps the entire staff is to blame. You would think Darryl Sydor would help in that area, but he was on Yeo’s staff before and things did not quite make a jump then.
The question is now whether that might be his undoing. There is no way Yeo loses his job this early in his tenure, but if the Blues continue to have playoff failure in large part to special teams falterings, then he will eventually.
The league is starting to tighten the leash on a lot of calls. Special teams is becoming an integral part of the game and the Blues are lagging behind.
Hopefully the team and its coach can get it figured out. With coaching minds like the Blues have, you would hope they could find the right scheme or combinations.
Yeo learned a lot from his dismissal in Minnesota. We can only hope he learned from those team’s failings on special teams as well.