St. Louis Blues Lack Leadership And Mental Toughness Right Now

ST. LOUIS, MO - FEBRUARY 20: Paul Stastny
ST. LOUIS, MO - FEBRUARY 20: Paul Stastny /

The St. Louis Blues could be one of the better teams in the entire NHL. Unfortunately, as a group, they have no interest in doing what it takes to be that.

The St. Louis Blues clearly have some major issues right now. As we sit here in the final week of February, they are in the midst of a season long four game losing streak.

As noted in some of the post-game articles, the Blues have not played terribly in some of those games. They had flashes against Pittsburgh and got some bad bounces. They were alright against Dallas and San Jose, but could not match their opponent.

Many fans have skirted around the issue. Blame gets passed around from player to player. It’s Jake Allen‘s fault or it’s Vladimir Tarasenko‘s fault. Mike Yeo even has to share some blame.

When you strip everything away though, it has become clear that this team has no leadership and is mentally weak.

Before people freak out, that is not said to lay blame with Alex Pietrangelo. I supported his captaincy and still do. Not every captain is a rah, rah guy who chews out people when they aren’t getting the job done.

No, this is a team-wide, systemic problem that has been around for years. People easily forget that these same issues happened during the David Backes era.

SAN JOSE, CA – MAY 19: David Backes
SAN JOSE, CA – MAY 19: David Backes /

Suddenly, because people like his grit and playing style, they forget that Backes and his teams were part of the problem. Backes always talked a great game in the media about guys needing to buy in or do the dirty work. We rarely saw that translate into results though.

Yes, Backes was the captain of the team that went all the way to the Western Conference Finals. However, it was Troy Brouwer‘s locker room presence that seemed to actually get players to buy what the team had been selling for years.

Now, with both of those guys gone, we’ve returned to the era of “independent contractors” as Doug Armstrong put it. Very few players seem on the same page. You have forwards and defensemen doing whatever they please in the moment. You have forward lines charging ahead, getting too much separation between them and the defenders, leaving a ton of space behind if there are turnovers.

That’s not a cohesive team. Pietrangelo is a decent captain, but everyone is not doing their job to pick up the other guy.

They do not have that locker room guy that will figuratively grab guys by the scruff and say you’re not doing your job. That kind of stuff does get overblown in pro sports, but it is needed.

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Again, it’s nothing new. We’ve seen this for years, regardless of who the coach was as well. For whatever reason, there is a mental weakness that spreads through this team throughout a season.

This is nowhere near the first time we’ve seen swoons. It’s not the first time we’ve seen this club have the same type of game and the same post-game reactions afterward either.

For years, under Ken Hitchcock, we were drowned in the phrase “buy in”. When the Blues played their best, they bought in. When they played poorly, they strayed from their duties.

Clearly, this was not solely a Hitchcock problem. The team is no longer buying what Mike Yeo is selling it seems and it’s only been a year since he took over.

They simply do not want to put in the work. I’m not talking about practices or lifting weights or having meetings. I’m talking about doing the things, game in and out, that get wins. We’re talking about sticking together as a unit, going up and down the ice as a five-man unit.

The Blues have had success by crashing the net, getting rebounds, getting in goaltender’s faces. Then, for no reason at all, that type of play disappears.

That’s mental weakness. Nobody is asking these guys to be robots. You get fatigues, you wear out and the body just won’t respond. We’ve all been there, regardless of the situation. If you think of yourself as a top-tier team, you have to expect yourself and your teammates to push through the adversity.

It’s not as though this team cannot do it either. At the beginning of the 2017-18 season, that’s all we talked about – how the Blues kept their heads up and kept chipping away. Whether it was injuries or bad officiating or unlucky goals against, they found a way to keep plugging and get points and wins.

It’s the total opposite right now. Every team makes mistakes. Every team has goaltenders let in soft goals or has turnovers that lead to odd-man rushes.

The difference is that, at least right now, those mistakes define the Blues. Right now, the Blues have to play flawlessly to win and no team can sustain that.

You need to be able to win even when you’re not at your best. That kind of ability comes from within a locker room.

At the start of the season, we heard how great the locker room is and how tight they were. It was reminiscent of 2015-16. You don’t hear that anymore. You don’t hear how they’re all fighting for each other.

This team has the talent to win. They do not have the talent to win as individuals. We all love these players (for the most part). However, you’d be fooling yourself if you did not think there are better individual players on just about every team above them in the standings.

Next: Blues Are Far More Than One Piece Away

The Blues have to be the Blues. They cannot be Allen and company or Tarasenko and friends or Schenn and the rest.

Maybe the team meeting they held on February 21.

I suppose it better have. There is not a coaching change coming. A trade will only help so much. It has to come from within every man in that room.

Again, this is not an Alexander Steen issue. It’s not a problem with Jay Bouwmeester or Jaden Schwartz. This is an entire team issue. It will take an entire team to fix it.