As I sit at home, iced in during what some have dubbed the “ice-pocalypse” of 2017, I am left with the bitter taste in my mouth from the brutal 5-1 beatdown the Blues had last night at the hands of the LA Kings. As the season has progressed, the Blues look more and more like an average team, and we see fewer glimpses of the team that stormed into the Western Conference Finals just a year ago, I am left to wonder how the team got to this situation.
Buckle up kids, we’re about to go take a deep look into the signings, trades and moves everyone’s favorite GM has made these past couple of years.
Everyone loves a good trade, right? The excitement of a shiny new player joining your team, the limitless possibilities you can come up with in NHL 17 (Lehtera + Yakupov 4 Tavares pls), or the fun of hearing a GM say the price for Dougie Hamilton was “20 first round picks“. It’s just so much fun.
Until the cold reality of many trades settles in and you realize you gave up multiple players for a rental.
THE TRADE: Jaroslav Halak, Chris Stewart, William Carrier, 2015 1st round pick, 2016 conditional 3rd round pick <- Sabres -> Ryan Miller, Steve Ott
Whoo, that was a doozy to type out. I think we were all on the Ryan Miller hype train, I’ll be the first to admit I was pumped about this trade.
As we all know Ryan Miller’s trip to St. Louis ended with another 1st round exit by the Blues, at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks no less, Ryan Miller became a free agent and Armstrong extended Steve Ott’s contract and gave us years of material to power our parody website with, so our sincere thanks for that, Doug.
Miller played well during his time in STL, but at the end of the day, you traded 3 players and 2 picks and the only thing that stuck around long term was Steve Ott. Ouch.
THE TRADE: David Perron <- Oilers -> Magnus Paajarvi + 2014 2nd round draft pick
Don’t even get me started on this one.
THE VERDICT: DON’T YOU HAVE TO BE STUPID SOMEWHERE ELSE?
THE TRADE: Ben Bishop <- Senators -> 2nd round draft pick
Ben Bishop was one of the guys that when you knew his story, you just had to root for him, he grew up playing hockey at the Kirkwood ice rink, where his jersey still hangs at the entrance to the rink today. He played for the St. Louis AAA Blues in 2003-04, and was drafted by St. Louis in the 2005 entry draft. Truly a home-grown talent.
At the time of the trade, Bishop was viewed as one of the best goalies in the AHL, going 24-14-0, with a 2.26 GAA and .928 save percentage, he also led the AHL with six shutouts. This talent translated into the NHL when he found himself with the Tampa Bay Lightning and in his first ever NHL playoff appearance led the Lightning to the Stanley Cup Finals with a 2.18 GAA and a .921 save percentage, in the end losing in 6 games to the Chicago Blackhawks.
Bishop is a 2 time Vezina Trophy finalist and Stanley Cup contender that the Blues let go for a 2nd round draft pick, because at the time they favored Jake Allen in the system, who that same year had gone 13-20-2, with a 2.93 GAA and a .915 save percentage.
THE VERDICT: LIFE IS GOOD! *TRADES BISHOP* EASY COME EASY GO.
THE TRADE: Brian Elliott <- Flames -> 2nd round draft pick and a conditional 3rd round pick
What is it with Doug Armstrong and goalie trades anyway? It just never works out well for us.
Brian Elliott was the franchise leader in Shutouts, (25) Save Percentage, (.925) Goals Against Average, (2.01) and 4th on the all-time Blues win list. (104) Elliott had just taken the Blues to their first Western Conference Finals in 15 years. 2-time NHL All-Star and Jennings Trophy winner. Elliott requested a trade after talking to the Blues when the incredible Playoff run had come to a close, only to find out that it still wasn’t enough to solidify him as the #1 starter and the team would prefer to go with the 1a/1b tandem once again.
Elliott has struggled early in Calgary, adjusting to a new system and a defensive corps not nearly as good as he had grown accustomed to in St. Louis, but has turned it around and is on a hot streak now, winning 4 of his last 5 games.
THE VERDICT: MOOOOOOOOOO- Aw crap he traded our best goalie in franchise history.
Doug Armstrong has made some interesting choices in his re-signings and FA pickups over the years, if there is one thing you could accuse Armstrong of right off the bat, it’s overpaying for average players.
PLAYER: Jori Lehtera
Take Jori Lehtera for instance, the beneficiary of the #TarasenkoScholarship (shoutout to @ArtLippo). Everyone’s favorite average NHL center is on a contract until 2018-19 with a cap hit of $4,700,000 a year. Centering a line with arguably the best RW in the league, you’d think he’d have a pretty good point total… Lehtera has put up a grand total of 12pts this year, 8 of those were assists. Last year he put up 34pts in 79 games. Maybe that’s just market value though for an average NHL center though, let’s see what $4,700,000 can get you on the open market.
- Brad Marchand – $4,500,000 cap hit – 38pts this year.
- Mike Fisher – $4,500,000 cap hit – 25pts
- Artem Anisimov – $4,550,000 cap hit – 31pts
- Scott Hartnell – $4,750,000 cap hit – 24pts
Any way you cut it, Lehtera is being woefully overpaid, and what’s worse, him being Tarasenko’s center is limiting the Russian right winger’s effectiveness, if Brett Hull had Kelly Chase as his center, does Hull become the HOF player we know him as today? Highly doubtful.
VERDICT: BAD CONTRACT
PLAYER: Patrick Berglund
Ah yes, the “Big Swede”, as he is affectionately known by Darren Pang. Bergie has 1 year left on his contract before becoming a UFA next season and will have a cap hit of $3,700,000 for this season. He’s put up 15pts in 42 games working on the 3rd line primarily with Jaskin as his most consistent linemate.
Looking around the $3.7MM mark on the contract list we find players like Matt Read (11pts), Mikael Backlund (29pts) and Lars Eller (8pts). Despite being sometimes disappointed as to what many of us thought he could have been after a 52pt campaign early in his career back in 2010-11, Berglund seems to stack up fairly well against others in his pay grade, and it’s not an overly long contract either.
VERDICT: GOOD CONTRACT
PLAYER: Paul Stastny
This is a tough one, Stastny when he was brought in was heralded by most everyone as the 1st line center we’ve been looking for, a center for Tarasenko and someone to lead the team to the next level. His price tag in Free Agency was hefty, clocking in at an even $7,000,000. Which was the highest on the team until Tarasenko’s new deal this past year. (Which by the way we won’t even debate in this article, it’s Vladimir Tarasenko, you lock that man up and build your team around him. SPEED VERDICT: BEST CONTRACT EVER) Stastny and Tarasenko for whatever reason never did seem to get extended time on the same line though, with Hitchcock preferring to keep Lehtera as the #1 center and leaving Stastny with Jaskin for much of last year, with the exciting line of Fabbri – Stastny – Brouwer emerging during the end of the season and sticking together throughout the Playoff run.
This year Stastny has put up 23pts in 41 games and last year came one point shy of a 50pt campaign with 49pts. If you look at other players in the $7,000,000 range you head may start to hurt, however. Names jump out at you like Drew Doughty, Phil Kessel, Johnny Gaudreau, the Sedin
twins sisters, Nicklas Backstrom, Erik Karlsson… All superstars in their own right and certainly a full level above what Paul Stastny is. Despite being a good player, no one could argue he has earned a paycheck the size of league superstars. Yet that is what the Blues are paying him.
BONUS LIGHTNING ROUND: RELEASED PLAYERS
PLAYER: David Backes
Captain of the Blues since the 2011-12 season and was an absolute tear in the Playoffs, he was the perfect captain for St. Louis. Strong power forward who played a physical game and wasn’t afraid to battle in front of the net, one of the best redirect goal scorers in the NHL. He was let go because of a $500K and 1-year difference in what he was asking and what Armstrong was willing to give.
PLAYER: Troy Brouwer
Brouwer found his home on a line with Paul Stastny and rookie Robby Fabbri last season after coming over in the T.J. Oshie trade. Brouwer was much like David Backes in his play style and in the end decided to make his home in Calgary, but to trade T.J. Oshie and just 1 year later have the only remaining item be a goalie prospect by the name of Phonix Copley (which may be the coolest hockey name ever, by the way) is pretty rough.