St. Louis Blues Will Decide Next Few Years Over Last 20 Games Of 2022-23

St. Louis BluesMandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
St. Louis BluesMandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports /

The St. Louis Blues are in a disappointing position in the last third of 2022-23. Their chances of making the playoffs were slim anyway, but then they traded away their team captain, one of the franchise’s best goal scorers and a spark-plug player with the departures of Ryan O’Reilly, Vladimir Tarasenko and Noel Acciari.

Much of the fan base is in panic mode, having decided the Blues are going full rebuild. This is not true – not yet anyway.

Yes, the team has traded away talent and star power. However, many are quick to forget how much is still there.

The 2022-23 Blues have not become the Chicago Blackhawks of the last few years. They are not stripped down to Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toewes and nothing else.

The team still has Brayden Schenn, Pavel Buchnevich, Jordan Kyrou, Robert Thomas, Justin Faulk and Jordan Binnington. Three of those guys are Stanley Cup champions and the others are more than capable of producing on a championship team.

The team still has other decent players that may, or may not, still be around come next season. I won’t name names, but you can fill in the blanks, I’m sure.

So, what is left to be decided in 2022-23? The team is clearly going the lottery route, yes? No.

While clearly diminished, the current group of Blues still has a lot to play for. How they finish the last 28 games of the season might determine what route Doug Armstrong takes over the next few years.

If the Blues can continue to compete, and perhaps win, as they have done after the All-Star break, then Armstrong has every reason to go all in as they have been. The team will have a different look and feel going into 2023-24, but it won’t be a rebuild as so many think.

The Blues are stockpiling draft picks, but that doesn’t automatically mean they will use them. After the first two big trades by the Blues, they now have three first-round draft picks in the summer of 2023 (two from trades and one of their own).

The end of this season will determine what Armstrong does with those picks.

My contention is that I highly doubt Armstrong keeps all those picks. It’s up to the current group to prove that theory correct.

If they crash and burn over the final portion of the season, perhaps Armstrong does look more to the future. It is supposed to be a deep draft, so if the current group does not seem that cohesive and ready to compete, it might be time to push the reset button.

If they compete, regardless of result, and show some fight and an ability to buy into Craig Berube’s system again, then all that is needed is a refresh. St. Louis can go .500 over the last portion of 2022-23 and still have hope for the near future.

As fans, we tend to have short memories. Many have forgotten that the 2017-18 Blues missed the playoffs.

The popular idea at the time was the Blues needed to offload payroll and reset themselves for the future. Instead, Armstrong made big deals in the offseason and brought in O’Reilly, Tyler Bozak, Pat Maroon and brought back David Perron.

Ending 2017-18, nobody would have thought they could bring in all those players. St. Louis is always up against the cap. But, they cleared room by trading away albatross contracts of Patrik Berglund and Vladimir Sobotka and made wise choices in free agency.

It’s a similar thing now as we head into the end of 2022-23. If the Blues don’t fall to pieces, Armstrong will be emboldened to make similar moves in the forthcoming offseason.

If I had to put money on it, I believe the Blues do not make all their draft picks. I think they make one selection in the first round and package the other two to acquire a top forward or defenseman. Armstrong then makes smart decisions in the free agent market to fill out the roster and the Blues are back in business.

Every time a team, whether it’s the Cardinals or Blues, miss the playoffs, people seem to think it’s time to rip it all down to the studs. The teams are never as far off as the naysayers want to believe.

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It’s up to the guys still around now. Continue the strong push in the last third of the season and Armstrong will reward the franchise with a refreshed push for next season. Take an early vacation and he might look to clear the cupboards instead.