Editorials

Chicago Blackhawks Should Be All In Again With Blues’ Bumpy Road

By Aaron Goldschmidt
Jan 2, 2017; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock during the first period in the 2016 Winter Classic ice hockey game against the Chicago Blackhawks at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 2, 2017; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock during the first period in the 2016 Winter Classic ice hockey game against the Chicago Blackhawks at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /
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NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs at St. Louis Blues
NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs at St. Louis Blues /

Ken Hitchcock/Mike Yeo

As many of you know by now, Ken Hitchcock was relieved of his coaching duties by the Blues earlier this month. In a strange situation where Hitchcock previously announced this will be his final year behind the St Louis bench, former Minnesota Wild coach Mike Yeo was brought in to be his successor.

As much as I hate the Blues, I admire Hitchcock. After years of battling the Blackhawks and gameplanning for superstars like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, Hitchcock knew exactly what his team needed to do to slay the dragon.

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During every intermission interview, he preached getting in deeper on the forecheck and making opposing teams make mistakes in their own zone. The physicality of his players made the game tighter and threw skilled players off their game.

He also knew that you could never count out the Blackhawks. You needed to get a lead on them and squash them dead until the clock hit 00:00.

With Yeo behind the bench now, it could give the Blues a jumpstart — as it has with the team’s three-game win streak — but there are several other problems they are experiencing.

If they do end up as a playoff bubble team, it will be interesting to see if certain players are moved or retained. It’s just amazing what 8-9 months can do to your team after being so successful. But with misfortune comes opportunity for someone (’Hawks).

Kevin Shattenkirk

Shattenkirk has been the topic of many trade rumors the past couple seasons. A UFA after this season, Shattenkirk currently makes $4.25 AAV and will look for a long-term deal during the offseason.

With the emergence of young defenseman Colton Parayko, it doesn’t look like the Blues are going to extend Shattenkirk, otherwise the deal would’ve probably been done by now. The question for the Blues is whether to trade him to get a return on an expiring contract or to keep him with hopes of making the playoffs.

Shattenkirk is a solid defenseman with a right-handed shot who is still young enough to be productive on a long-term deal. The Oilers have been mentioned to be interested in Shattenkirk’s services, but his availability is yet to be known.

Robby Fabbri

It has been announced that the Blues will be without young forward Robby Fabbri for the remainder of the season due to season ending ACL surgery. As one of the few supporting players that were productive on the Blues, Fabbri was having a great season, scoring 11 goals with 18 assists.

Fabbri was a big contributor in last year’s playoff series against the Blackhawks. His value increased when he combined his skill with the physicality of the Blues. Fabbri is listed at only 195 pounds, but that didn’t stop him from laying out big hits.

This is a huge loss for the Blues, but Fabbri’s shoes could quickly be filled. Blues prospect Kenny Agostino was recalled from the Chicago Wolves to help fill the roster spot. Agostino led the AHL in scoring with 18 goals and 42 assists at the time of his call-up.

NHL: St. Louis Blues at Ottawa Senators
NHL: St. Louis Blues at Ottawa Senators /

Goaltending: Jake Allen/Carter Hutton

Jake Allen‘s struggles in net have been a topic around the NHL as he hasn’t found his grove yet this season. Allen is 20-14-3 with a save percentage of .903 and a GAA of 2.69, boosted heavily by allowing just one goal over his last two starts.

The Blues are hoping goalie coach Martin Brodeur can help Allen get back to playing at a high level after being fresh off signing a four-year extension with an AAV of $4.35M.

Because of Allen’s struggles, former Blackhawks prospect Carter Hutton has been called upon to see if he can do any better in net. Hutton is 8-7-2 with a .902 save percentage and a GAA of 2.65.

Next: Blackhawks Move Up As Races Tighten

Conclusion

All in all, it doesn’t look like the Blues will be contending for a Stanley Cup this year. It’s amazing that less than a year after they dethroned the ’Hawks, their captain and head coach are gone.

It’s going to be tough to catch the Wild for the division lead, but the ’Hawks have been a good road team in the playoffs. If the Wild have home ice, there will be a lot of pressure on them to close out the ’Hawks, something they haven’t been able to do in the post season recently.

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