By Patrick Kelly
In a season where the Blues looked to build a lot of promise, they were hit with repeated doses of bad news.
It started during the regular season with players consistently going down with injuries. In a year of COVID still around, you would expect that to be the culprit, but alas it was freak injuries along with some cheap hits like Mark Stones on Tyler Bozak, which sidelined him for a while. The nail in the coffin seemed to come when David Perron tested positive for COVID right before the series with the Colorado Avalanche started. When guys went down throughout the year, Perron was the man to step up and because of that he led the team in points. The series with the Avalanche was already expected to be an uphill battle, but without Perron it seemed close to impossible.
While the Blues were able to skate with the Avalanche for portions of every game, they led in the series only once. That was in Game 4 before the Avalanche roared back to cap off the series. It was obvious to anyone watching, the Avalanche were just a step ahead in all facets against the Blues. In all four games, the Blues struggled not only to get shots on goaltender Philip Grubauer, but they weren’t able to maintain solid zone pressure that is typical of Blues teams in the playoffs.
For the Blues, it’s their first time being swept since the 2012 playoffs when they were swept by the Los Angeles Kings, who went on to win the Stanley Cup. The Avalanche have also swept two series during their history in Colorado and on both occasions they went on to win the Stanley Cup.
Now with the season over, it’s time for general manager Doug Armstrong and the Blues to let the dust settle and look forward to the offseason. One of the first things that needs to get covered is the Blues protected list for the Seattle Kraken expansion team. With players like Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou needing to be protected, it appears someone like Jaden Schwartz, Mike Hoffman or Vince Dunn could become casualties in the expansion draft. If the Kraken were to take one of those players, it would be a blow to the Blues but it could also be a blessing in disguise. The Blues have their work cut out for them this summer, with Schwartz, Hoffman and Bozak all coming off the books as unrestricted free agents and the Blues have to crunch the cap while also taking on Jordan Binnington’s additional salary.
With the first-round exit, the Blues have time to think about their moves. The more seasons that pass from the 2019 season, the more it looks like a miracle season where the Blues narrowly avoided an early first- or second-round exit. For the team to get back to the promised land going forward they need to take a long hard look at this team. A lot of the pieces up and down the lineup are still there and with young players like Klim Kostin and Niko Mikkola coming up, the lineup has a way to be tweaked for the better.