Again Singing The Blues

This year St. Louis is singing the blues, instead of singing the Blues praises.

The St. Louis Blues finish their disappointing 2009-10 campaign with a disappointing 90 points, two off of last years total, at least 4 points out of the 8th and final playoff spot, and tied for 9th.

What a difference a year makes?

The Blues last year finished with 92 points, winning 24 of their last 38 games, and streaking into the playoffs. But that all came to an abrupt end with a sweep from the hands of a Canuck.

So then we come to this season, the Blues had a plethora of talent returning, and two key players healthy in Erik Johnson and Paul Kariya.

Obviously this team will be in the playoffs and compete for the Central division right?

Well the two games in Sweden sure this reassure us of that.

The Blues scored 9 goals and everyone was chipping in, but even more important the veterans, Keith Tkachuk and Paul Kariya had four points a piece.

This was just the start they wanted, get the fear of Detroit out this young teams head and start their push for the division title……..WRONG!

The roller coaster ride was on from there, in the first deep valley for the Blues, October 24th until November 14th, this team only gained 6 out of a possible 22 points in the standings. During this time those same veterans that succeeded during their time in Sweden had a combined 3 points! Kariya played in 10 of the 11 games and had one assist, while Walt had a total of 2 assist in the 11 game stretch.

It doesn’t stop there Patrik Berglund pitch in one assist, while David Backes had an assist and Brad Boyes finally grabbed five points but not until the 2 of the last three games in that 11 game demise, including one game in a 6-1 victory at home over the Canucks in which he had a goal and three assist.

Enough with those depressing nu,ber let’s move on, the Blues had signs where you thought it was going to start the turn-a-round, such as November 10th when the Blues finally break through at home with 6 goals against Vancouver for only their 2nd win at home in eight tries. Brad Boyes had a phenomenal four point out burst, nearly doubling his out put from the first 15 games.

But that game was yet another tease, as the Blues drop their next two at home and 6 of their next eight games at the ole barn.

The goaltending was stellar, allowing only four 5 goal games in their first two months, a 25 game span. This team was top in goaltending throughout most of the first few months and yes, they do play more than those 25 games, but you cannot continue to put it on the goaltenders shoulders, unless it Martin Brodeur, and no offense to the goaltenders of the Blues but Brodeur is not on this team. But the goaltending continue their good play throughout December with allowing 5+ goals in one game.

December saw the Blues first winning streak of more than two games! But followed that up with an impressive seven game losing streak in which they grabbed four out of a possible 14 points. They will miss the playoffs by how many points, four or six, depending on the outcome of the Colorado Avalanche’s last game.

During that losing streak head coach Andy Murray, who went 118-102-40, lost his job because he was not getting everything out of their young players. “We feel going forward that we really need to get our young people to be better players,” team president John Davidson said.

Andy Murray was not the reason for this teams down fall, I will say it until the day I die, the St. Louis Blues were 6-13-3 at home under Coach Murray. But miraculously had an 11-4-3 record on the road. This team quit on him, he was too tough for the prima donna players.

Sources close to the locker room told me that there was a lot of scrutiny about the way Andy treated players such as Berglund, but 12 points with 6 goals, I guess had nothing to do with the way Murray treated this guy, who later over slept a practice, right in the midst of a playoff run.

Maybe the hard nose style of Murray was necessary for players such as Perron, but I will give credit where credit is due, in the last 42 games under Interim Davis Payne, T.J. Oshie had 28 points compared to the 19 he had in the first 40 under Murray, Perron had 25 under Payne after 22 under Murray, and finally Berglund had 14 points under Payne after 12 under Murray.

So yes there was improvement, but how much did that have to do with the effort level this team gave under Coach Payne?

Also under Coach Payne the Blues had their first 4 game winning streak, five game winning streak, and finish 23-15-6 under the interim.

Does this warrant a full-time head coach tag being handed out to Coach Payne? We will have to wait to see, as this is just one of a long line of questions awaiting the Blues during the off-season.

So we have heard of sophomore slumps for players in their 2nd year of professional sport, but I am not sure I have seen many 2nd year slumps from a team that was looking to return to prominence. Which is the reason I continue to say, making the playoffs last year was the biggest set back this team encountered in their rebuilding project, because it set expectations that much higher.

The Blues regressed in wins, in losses, and in goals. They allowed 10 less goals while scoring 8 less as well. Last year they were 72 of 351 for 20.5% on the Power Play, and this year regressed to 53 of 306 for 17.2%.

But the Blues were first in the league on the Penalty Kill with an outstanding 86.8% pk percentage. This was one of the few bright spots.

And again I will end in a negative, Let’s look at Brad Boyes, Patrik Berglund, and David Backes’ production from last year to this year, and this will easily void out the 3rd period collapses from this team. Boyes: 72 points in 08/09 this year 41, his passing ability was still there but with only 14 goals this year this was a big part of our production, on a bright note he improved his +/- improved by +19. Berglund: he put the definition to Sophomore slump with 47 points last year to 26 this year, he played better at the end but then decided to sleep through a practice. And Backes: everyone’s captain in waiting, only a 7 point difference with 54 points last year and 47 this year, yes not a huge drop off but if you are going to have an A on your jersey and hoping to turn it into a C, you must prove your worth a show progress, something him and this team failed to do!

For this team to have success they need to have the “Killer B’s” buzzing around the net producing points on the board and in the Standings.

Finally let’s look at the questions that must be answered over the off-season:

– What to do with Davis Payne?

– Will the Blues make a splash in Free Agency?

– Who is the goalie next season? Do they bring up Jake Allen or Ben Bishop?

– What do the Blues do with the vast amount of defenders on this team? Is Barrett Jackman going to be wearing a Blue Note?

– Do you resign Paul Kariya? How about Carlo Colaiacovo, Mike Weaver, or Chris Mason?

– How big is the deal you sign Erik Johnson to?

– Finally, how do you get the fans to believe that this team is capable of a playoff run? Not just the playoffs, but a run in the playoffs?

These are just a few questions they must answered, but this is why they make the big bucks!


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