St. Louis Blues fans, like all sports fans, love to second guess those in charge. Somehow we all think we could do better if given the opportunity, or we would at least have done things differently in this instance or that.
This constantly comes up when a player gets traded away. If blame is not handed out to the general manager, the coach gets the finger pointed at for not doing well enough.
We have seen it plenty of times in the past. Ken Hitchcock got lots of blame for not utilizing his younger players and prospects, which was semi-true since he liked to rely on his veterans because he knew what they were going to provide.
Now, Craig Berube is getting the same blame. However, though he is blamed for the same treatment of younger players, nothing could be further from the truth.
The latest incident came about when the Blues traded Klim Kostin to Edmonton.
While it is likely a minority, there was still an outcry from fans that Berube was to blame. He never gave Kostin a fair shake was the general claim.
One fan even texted into 101 ESPN to say that Berube was at fault and “botched Kostin.” I’m not really sure how a coach botches a player when the player is responsible for their own play, but there you have it.
Clearly, the claim is that not enough was done to develop Kostin or give him an opportunity. The problem comes when this is not true and those particular fans are only seeing what they want to see.
Kostin did not get a ton of NHL games under his belt with the Blues, but why is that automatically the coach’s fault? Why is it not possible that the player did not earn any more time than he was given?
The idea that Berube did not give Kostin a fair shake is false. He played the man in several different spots, giving him every chance to find his niche.
Kostin was even put on a line with Ryan O’Reilly for a time. If you can’t find regular time with the team’s captain and a player that does everything possible to get his teammates involved, that is on you.
Those that take to social media and contact sports radio constantly talk about the skills Kostin brought to the table and his size and strength. Nobody on the Blues ever denied any of that existed, but we only ever saw it utilized in flashes.
Kostin couldn’t do things consistently. He would score a solid goal or have a good physical shift, but then disappear.
People will say that is true of many players, but the difference is those players responded to the coaching they were given. For whatever reason, Kostin did not seem to consistently apply the things the staff asked him to do.
Kostin was clearly capable of the physical style the Blues wanted, but there was a disconnect on what they wanted every shift. I hate to say he didn’t consistently put in the effort, but even Jamie Rivers said as much on his radio show once the trade was made.
I can hear plenty of cries saying “What about Kyrou?” or “What about Tarasenko?”. They appear to take shifts off in their defensive responsibilities.
They are also 30-goal scorers, or projected to be a 30-goal scorer. I am not excusing any of their defensive lapses, but they have proven their consistency elsewhere. Kostin is still young, but he was old enough to know he wasn’t going to suddenly become a 30-ogal scorer.
Ultimately, this is all just about those that want to gripe. They decided the player was going to be something, so it’s on the coaches that it did not happen.
We saw the same reaction when Robby Fabbri left the Blues. Fabbri is a solid NHL player, but he has not done any more in Detroit than what he had done in St. Louis.
In fact, his career high in goals and points are still when he was in a Blues uniform. Doug Armstrong has not given up on a player too soon and Berube certainly has not.
The idea that Berube has not given a fair shake to young players is also nonsense. The reason he got brought up to the Blues was because he had done so well developing the younger players when he was with the Blues affiliate.
Ivan Barbashev is 26 and became a 26-goal scorer under Berube. That’s pretty good for development and doing as much as you can with the chances given.
Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou have earned eight-year, multi-million dollar extensions under Berube. They had high-end talent to start with, but they earned the money from the Blues because they both learned how to play the way the Blues want.
Alexei Toropchenko seemed destined to be a career minor leaguer for awhile and now he’s written in pen on the lineup whenever he returns from injury. He’s learned to play the way Berube wanted and was rewarded for it.
The same is true of Nikita Alexandrov and Jake Neighbours. Neither are consistent players yet, but they will be.
Fans are allowed to be disappointed that a player did not click with the team that drafted him. Kostin still has potential and maybe he will find it in Edmonton the way David Perron took a step forward in his career with the Oilers.
His failure to stick with the Blues is on him though, not on the coaches. No coach is perfect and they all have their own tendencies that are different than our own. That doesn’t mean they are automatically wrong just.
They see the work a player puts in every day, on and off the ice, in games and during practice. There’s a lot that they see that we do not.