The St. Louis Blues are having an incredibly odd season in 2022-23 to this point. We’ve reached the quarter mark in the season and nobody, including the players themselves, have a grasp on who or what they are.
The Blues have proven they can hang, and beat, the best teams in the league. Their win over the Colorado Avalanche, in both style and finish, proved what I had been saying about the Blues beating the Avs in the 2022 playoffs if Jordan Binnington was not taken out.
Unfortunately, the Blues have also proven they can be one of the worst teams in the league. Not only do they lose games to teams they should not, but they are resoundingly beaten.
They cannot string passes together. They cannot hit the broad side of a barn, let alone a net.
St. Louis cannot defend, they cannot hang on to the puck, nor can they keep it away from their opponents. It is not hyperbole to say when the Blues have been at their worst, they might be the worst team in the NHL – they are at least close to it.
So, what is the cause of this? How could they go from a team that was likely one of the best five in the NHL one season ago to such an enigma?
The answer, according to a very vocal portion of the fan base, is David Perron. That simply cannot be the entire reason, or else this team is quite pathetic, to put it harshly.
The struggles on the power play can be tracked back to a lack of Perron. Perron had 11 of his 27 goals on the power play last season. He also picked up half of his 30 assists (15) on the power play.
The Blues clearly miss his skill and threat there. With no clear and present shooting threat, teams are emboldened to challenge the Blues on every pass, shot attempt or even zone entry, despite being a man short.
Beyond that, it just cannot be Perron’s absence alone. If people think clearly, you had better hope that is not the reason.
Social media, particularly Facebook, is strewn with posts about Ryan O’Reilly missing Perron. If he misses him personally, that’s fine, but if it is honestly the reason he has looked so out of sorts, then he’s not the captain this team needs.
How can a man lead his team if he can’t live up to his own standards without one teammate? O’Reilly made a name for himself in Colorado, got picked up with high hopes in Buffalo and then lifted spirits in St. Louis all before he even played a shift with David Perron.
Now, you honestly expect me to believe that his beard is full of tears and he can barely keep himself from stumbling down the ice after a turnover because he misses his buddy? I refuse to believe that. If it’s true, he’s not a professional.
If O’Reilly is the leader they say and this piece that would be unfathomable to let leave in the coming offseason, how can you say in the same breath that he’s lesser without Perron? The one worry we should all have about O’Reilly is that it does deem harder to find compatible wingers for him than it should for an elite centerman.
Yet, the same goes for the entire team.
Perron was not a physical forechecker. Where has that aspect of the Blues game gone? It should not have left with him when he did not do it in the first place.
Why has the scoring and shooting become such an enigma? Perron’s 27 goals were important, but even if you remove those numbers from last year, the Blues are still third best in the division for goals and fifth in the entire conference.
No offense to the guy, because he did put his heart and soul into his time in St. Louis, but Perron is just not that kind of transformative player. He’s not Brett Hull or Wayne Gretzky or Alex Ovechkin. He’s just not the guy that should completely derail a team if and when removed from a roster.
For the sake of argument, let’s say it is because of his absence. That’s not a good reason, but maybe it explains O’Reilly’s topsy turvey season so far.
What about Ivan Barbashev? Hopes were high after 26 goals and 60 points. He rarely played with Perron to acquire those points, so why is he on pace for around 12 goals and 40 points?
The funny thing is the goal totals per individual aren’t that bad. Everyone in on this argument was pointing to Perron’s hot start, but he has six goals.
Jordan Kyrou has nine goals. Pavel Buchnevich, Brayden Schenn and even O’Reilly have six to this point as well. Vladimir Tarasenko has five and even Robert “I rarely shoot” Thomas has four goals.
Perron improved his game as his Blues career went on, but he was not exactly a shut-down defender. Why has the Blues forward and defender’s defensive game gone down the drain in his absence?
Honestly, nobody has any good answers, including myself. I don’t know what the reasons are.
Everything is a domino effect, but in an infinity loop. Any goaltending issue stems from poor defending, which stems from miscues that often lead to odd-man rushes or breakaways. Lack of shots seems to boil down to lack of confidence, which is a vicious circle because guys don’t shoot since they’re afraid the shot will miss or get blocked and go the other way (which ends up happening anyway since they turn it over).
The main issue seems to be that guys you needed to step up haven’t. We all point the finger at the stars, and they should do more. However, this team was predicated on the idea that guys like Jake Neighbours, Logan Brown or Alexey Toropchenko would fill their roles to a tee and also play above themselves from time to time.
Those three names, among others, have been in an out of the lineup instead of stalwarts. The Blues were going to be a bottom six by committee and the committee has been out to lunch so far.
However, try as we might to blame individuals, this is an entire team issue.
The 2021-22 Blues had a toughness and a will to never give up. You practically expected them to come back from any deficit.
Now, if they get down by two goals, you expect the game to be over. The comeback against Florida was the exception, not the rule.
This current team hangs it’s head too often and thinks every play will lead to a catastrophic mistake. Sadly, it often does.
Yet, that’s just a weak mindset. If David Perron is or was the only voice in that locker room that was capable of snapping guys out of a funk, then they’re weaker minded as a collective than any of us could imagine.
Having a guy like Perron right now would do wonders for this team in terms of depth. But if we are honestly saying that a second or third line forward is the linchpin between a team that was a Cup contender and one that looks like it could miss the playoffs, then perhaps the roster does need an overhaul.
Perron is and was a good player. He’s not that kind of player though. And if the Blues relied on him that much, then this team was never as close to being a contender as I thought they might have been.