The Blues have completed 10 games on their 2016-17 schedule and it’s time to look back at the good, the bad and the ugly from the early going. You can still make a solid argument that “it’s still early” and you’d be right, but the 10-game mark is usually a decent plateau to start forming some opinions.
Some fans have accused me of being too negative on Twitter and on this blog, so let’s start with some positives. I won’t hit on each and every one, but I will discuss a few of the biggest ones that have been the most impressive.
The Blues have 12 points through 10 games and a 5-3-2 record. Despite the problems I’ll address below, that’s not too bad and has the team right in the thick of the Central Division hunt. Though the team hasn’t played at its best, it has still found ways to tack on points here and there which has been impressive.
The Penalty Kill
If there was a Great section, the PK would belong in it. The penalty kill is sitting at 89.7% which is good enough for second in the NHL. Considering how often the Blues have had to call on their PK unit, it’s actually pretty amazing they have performed so well.
The Blues bought low, hoping the former first overall pick could find some of the skill which earned him that draft selection. The jury is still out on Yakupov, but he has shown he can be the spark the team so desperately needs on offense. The early returns have been pretty encouraging.
All things considered, Allen has been outstanding. When the team’s offense has sputtered, more times than not Allen has been able to at least keep the Blues within striking distance of a win. Allen has been steady as the team’s new number one.
He has nine points in 10 games. He probably should have more than four goals, but it’s hard to complain about the only consistent offensive weapon the Blues have on the roster.
These trends are concerning, but the items in this section don’t deserve to have the panic button hit just yet.
The power play
If you’re going to make it a habit of spending time in the penalty box, you’d better cash in on the power plays you receive. That hasn’t been the case as the Blues are only converting at a 18.9% rate. That’s 17th in the NHL. Definitely an area to work on.
The fourth line
Last season, the fourth line was able to disrupt the opposition while chipping in on offense. So far, they haven’t done much of either in 2016-17. In a league which demands offense across all four lines, the Blues can’t afford to have all of their grinders not helping out on the scoreboard.
Several players have called the fourth line home so far this season, but no one has really found any success. Reaves has zero points in 10 games. Brodziak has zero points in nine games. Jaskin has one point in eight games. Upshall has two points in seven games. Paajarvi had one point in three games and was demoted to the AHL. You get the picture. These skaters aren’t all about the offensive, but they have been mostly invisible which needs to change.
Patrik Berglund’s shooting percentage
Shooting percentages are a fickle beast. They can be all over the map in the early going and they always tend to average out. That being said, Berglund has to find his accuracy. He has a 5.9 shooting percentage which is well below his average of 11.8%.
This section could be lengthy. I’ll try to keep it short.
All of those penalties
The Blues have had 45 penalties (6th in the NHL). Of those 45, 44 were minor penalties (4th in the NHL). That huge lack of discipline has placed a ton of pressure on the team’s penalty killers and it has forced the offense to sit on the bench while the PK unit tries to kill it off. Some of the calls have been light, but the Blues really haven’t done themselves many favors.
Where’s the offense?
Let’s be blunt – the Blues have sucked on offense. They are averaging 2.20 goals per game (26th in the NHL) and are probably pretty lucky to have the record they have considering the complete lack of offense.
The Blues have scored one goal or less in six of their past seven games. No further analysis needed. That’s horrible and has to improve.
I don’t want to call the Blues soft, but the departures of David Backes and Troy Brouwer have been noticeable. No one has been able to mimic their physical style and the fact the Blues are struggling on offense is partially due to the fact no one has been able to plant themselves and cause madness in front of the opposing crease.
Coaching / Management
When you hear a quote like the one below, it’s hard not to worry:
That quote followed the 5-0 loss to the New York Rangers. Why weren’t they ready to play? Maybe we’re reading into a simple quote a bit too far, but the Blues haven’t looked very prepared in several of their games.
Is Ken Hitchcock already in the hot seat? If he isn’t, he should be. His strategies and approaches again look to be flawed. Many believed the team needed a new coach entering 2016-17. That didn’t happen, but the Blues have Mike Yeo ready and waiting so it’s fair to assume the leash is short.
As for Doug Armstrong … what’s there to say? The Yakupov deal was a good one, but you’d have a hard time finding any fans who would say the 2016-17 Blues are an improvement over the 2015-16 version. That’s on Armstrong and his cap management. No one expected the Blues to keep Backes and Brouwer, but to lose both and to not bring in any major upgrades over the summer is a reflection on the cap situation Armstrong created for the Blues.