The St. Louis Blues are teetering on the edge of being competative and not. The rest of the division is not standing still, which could leave the Blues hanging on that edge.
It seems like the St. Louis Blues are never in a position of strength. They are always in search of something. That might be a player or a coach, but things rarely seem to come together at once.
The other teams in the division do not seem to have that problem right now. The only team that is in the sort of dilemma as St. Louis, ironically, is Chicago.
The Dallas Stars were in that boat coming out of the 2017-18 season. Suddenly, their coaching change has them heading in the upward direction again.
The Blues are in danger of getting caught slogging through the mud while other teams make their way on dry land.
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Winnipeg and Nashville have vaulted past. Minnesota always seems to be good enough to be somewhere between contender and nuesance. Chicago is Chicago and will be so until they consistently prove that they are not to be reckoned with. And last, but not least, Colorado made a huge jump from joke to playoff team.
Coaching had a good deal to do with it. After a rough first season in Denver, Jared Bednar had the Avalanche buying. Along with having one of the league’s best in Nathan MacKinnon, the team gelled in the right way and could be a force.
The worry is that Dallas is on the same path. The team is practically already assembled.
The Stars team already features Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, John Klingberg, Alexander Radulov, Jason Spezza and Ben Bishop. It was only ill-timed injuries and a slow start while adjusting to Ken Hitchcock’s style that kept that team from the playoffs.
Now, the Stars have their focus cleared up once more with Jim Montgomery coming in. Like Bednar, he does not have previous NHL head coaching experience, but he has the pedigree.
Montgomery just led the Denver Pioneers to the NCAA National Championship. He is now poised to be the latest in a line of coaches that are able to relate better to the younger players while still getting them to play within a system.
Not all college coaches make the jump successfully. There are huge differences between player mentality and the amount of control you can exercise, which have made the switch near impossible in basketball. However, hockey is a game of discipline in a sense, so the change is not as large.
Montgomery has plenty of talent to work with. He just needs to connect with them in a way that Hitchcock could not. If he manages that and quickly, the Blues might be in trouble.
St. Louis has plenty of young talent on the way and should be able to dip their toes in the free-agent or trade waters this offseason. However, Mike Yeo has yet to prove that his system will benefit this team. Coaching won’t always win you a championship, but it can cost you one.
This is not to bash on Yeo. He has shown an ability to get these players to play. It is the consistency that is lacking. When you are in a division where your third and fourth best teams could possibly win other divisions, you can’t afford a lack of consistency.
The Blues can’t afford to fall behind the pack too much. There is no guarantee that Montgomery will have the magic touch with the Stars, but he seems to have a solid plan.
As they mentioned on BlackhawkUp, he managed to allow his teams with the Pioneers to have offensive freedom while still demanding defense, much like Vegas has done. His championship team would often get early leads and then play relentless defense to close out games.
Clearly there are ways to defeat that kind of system. You have to have a solid system of your own to start with however.
The Blues have some murky waters to wade. Their division has some of the best players and has some of the brightest coaching minds.
Each fan must decide for themselves where they rank the Blues in those categories. The results spoke for themselves in 2017-18. They have to be better in 2018-19 or this team could get left in the dust.