The 2022-23 NHL season opened up with lots of promise for the St. Louis Blues and for the first few games, this team seemed like it was on fire. After all, re-signing star winger Jordan Kyrou to a big $65 million dollar contract looked like a huge investment in the future. Having both Kyrou and Robert Thomas together on the same line with Pavel Buchnevich looks to be a winning combination, right? What could possibly go wrong? Well, after initial success, the Blues dropped eight games in a row early on and looked like their budding season was over before it really even began.
The Blues biggest enemy this season has been consistency… or, rather, a lack of consistency. Now sitting at 17-17-3 which means a flat .500 in the tough Central Division, the Blues are mired in mediocrity and with a team that has a roster including Kyrou, Thomas, Buchnevich, team captain Ryan O’Reilly, Vladimir Tarasenko and solid goaltender Jordan Binnington you would expect this team to be lighting up the scoreboards every night and be in control of their playoff destiny as the New Year has arrived.
For the Blues, that’s not the case so far. In fact, a better key phrase to sum up the Blues’ performance this season should be streaky. Yes, injuries have impacted this franchise but so have injuries caused problems for just about every NHL team to this point. If you could describe what the Blues have done this season, picture a bathroom faucet and continually moving the hot and cold water handles off and on and you would get a solid image of how the Blues play from game to game. In the last ten games, St. Louis has a record of 5-2-3 which in itself isn’t horrible but losing three out of the last ten games in overtime means that the Blues have a current problem of finishing off games and collecting two points each night.
At this point in the season, the Blues need to be winning almost two-thirds of their remaining games to be in true playoff contention. For a team stuck in perpetual mediocrity right now, that sounds like a tall order. The 2017-18 Blues finished up 44-32-6 and missed the playoffs by just one point and if things don’t turn around, this season could possibly be a repeat of that same scenario.
The Blues have contract issues to contend with as well.
One of the other areas that the St. Louis Blues need to contend with between the New Year and the March 3rd NHL trade deadline is their salary cap issues. The Blues currently don’t have any cap space to work with and the Jordan Kyrou extension put a serious dent into the Blues’ cash flow. So far, the Kyrou extension has been a blessing to this franchise as he’s leading the team with 17 goals and 16 assists and along with Robert Thomas (eight goals, 25 assists) and Pavel Buchnevich (12 goals, 16 assists) this top line has been highly productive in keeping the Blues relevant so far this season.
The Blues will no doubt have to make some hard decisions on what to do with all of their UFA’s (Unrestricted Free Agents) as both team captain Ryan O’Reilly and veteran winger Vladimir Tarasenko are in the final year of their contracts and with both players having a $7.5 million dollar price tag each annually, the Blues may soon be in a trading mood to unload these salaries on to a team with more cap space. Additional UFA’s Ivan Barbashev, Noel Acciari, Josh Leivo, Tyler Pitlick and goaltender Thomas Greiss could also be considered trade fodder before the March 3rd deadline. While trading away Ryan O’Reilly or Vladimir Tarasenko may seen like gutting the heart and soul of the team, please remember that NHL franchises are at the core big businesses and that any possible trade is just that – a business deal.