Better Luck Next Year: Bad defense plus bad goaltending equals a bad time for the St. Louis Blues
They used to be one of the NHL's best defensive teams, but those days are long finished.
Welcome to Better Luck Next Season. As each NHL team gets eliminated from Stanley Cup Playoff contention, and then the Stanley Cup Playoffs, we will take a look at what went wrong, what went right, and what sits ahead for them. The St. Louis Blues were the 10th team to be eliminated from playoff contention thanks to a bad defense and even worse goaltending.
Over the past 10 years the St. Louis Blues are sometimes the forgotten of the upper-level teams.
They have not always had a ton of star power, but they have always built an excellent team that competes for a championship. In 2019, they finally won that championship after a mid-season call-up of goalie Jordan Binnington.
But while Binnington was one of the key factors in that team’s championship run, his continued presence on the roster has been one of the biggest issues over the past few years as the Blues have declined to outside of the playoff picture.
The 2022-23 season ended up being just the second time in 12 years that the Blues missed the playoffs, and it resulted in sweeping changes to the roster.
It started before the season even began when they lost David Perron and Ville Husso in free agency.
It continued during the season when Stanley Cup champions and cornerstone players like Vladimir Tarasenko and Ryan O’Reilly were traded as their contracts came to a close, while Ivan Barbashev joined them on their way out of town.
Along with that, they took chances Jakub Vrana (trade) and Kasperi Kapanen (waivers) and added about $5 million in contracts to their salary cap for next season.
The good news for the Blues: They still have a good core of forwards that are signed to long-term contracts and they have three first-round picks to deal from to help get immediate help if they so choose to go in that direction.
The bad news for the Blues: They still have major problems on defense and still have to figure out what to do with Binnington, who has not only become a pain in the ass for his inability to stop shots, but also for his ability to always seem to have a meltdown on the ice.
What Went Wrong For The Blues
For the better part of the past decade the Blues were consistently one of the best defensive teams in the NHL.
They would play suffocating defense, win games by locking teams down, and not allowing anything offensively. It was a big part of their identity and the foundation of what made them a consistent contender. It helped them finally bring the Stanley Cup to St. Louis during the 2019 season.
But over the years they have gradually started to shift in the sort of team they are and the style of play we see from them.
Alex Pietrangelo left in free agency a few years ago, Colton Parayko started to decline, and the team went from from being a defensive juggernaut to a team that started to win games more offensively.
Defense and goaltending were a question coming into the season, and both areas ended up being far worse than could have ever been imagined.
Defensively, the Blues were statistically one of the worst teams in the league. They allowed 2.89 expected goals per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play (29th in the NHL) and were among the bottom-10 in pretty much every other possession-and chance-based metric.
They were consistently bleeding shots and chances against.
That alone would have been a problem. But when you add Binnington’s ineffectiveness to it you have a recipe for disaster defensively.
Ever since winning the Stanley Cup in 2019, Binnington’s play has consistently regressed and reached his lowest individiual numbers this season. Despite the declining play and uncertainty as to how good he actually was, the Blues still made a whopping investment in him a couple of years ago and are now stuck on the hook for a $6 million per year salary cap hit for the next FOUR years.
What do you even do about that?
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