Since the beginning, sports analysts have always said, “Defense wins championships.”
Well, our St. Louis Blues have proved for the past two seasons that this is not exactly the case. In 2011-2012, they finished the regular season with 109 points, tied for the second most in the entire NHL. The Blues had the top 2 goaltenders in the league last year which lead to some diminutive goals-against averages, but all of this did not amount to much–a second round exit to the dreaded Kings.
This year, for the majority of the season, was much rockier than last season with the Blues digging to find their identity throughout the lockout-shortened 48 game season. It took a late-season surge in April with 12 wins and only 3 losses to not only guarantee a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs but also give them home-ice advantage for the first round. This was viewed as a great advantage to have against the team that swept them out of the playoffs just a year before.
However, the Blues were unable to take advantage of this. They lost last night before they could even get the chance to return home to a rocking Scottrade Center for game 7. The defense looked great for the majority the series, allowing on average 2 goals per game. Sure, Brian Elliott let in some soft goals which killed the team’s momentum–none worse than the goal let up to Dustin Penner with just 0:00.2 left on the clock. But is Elliott the one to blame? No, no he is not.
The front office made some big deals before the deadline to help solidify the defense going into the stretch run and playoffs. They brought in Jordan Leopold first, but they were not satisfied with just that. Soon thereafter, they traded for one of the NHL’s top defensemen in Jay Bouwmeester. Subsequently, they had now put together possibly the best defensive pairing in the entire NHL: Pietrangelo-Bouwmeester.
Those deals worked…to a point. The Blues had a stifling defense now, but they were not dominating games where it matters most. They held the puck longer than most opponents, they had more shots than most opponents, they definitely had more hits than most opponents, but at the end of the day, as exposed in the last 4 games of the Kings series, they lacked a consistent, pure goal scorer.
Thus, if the Blues want to get over the hump and finally compete for a Stanley Cup, they need to address this glaring need. They have not had a true goal scorer since #16 last wore the Blue Note, over 15 years ago.
The Blues may be a smaller market team, but new majority owner, Tom Stillman, along with GM, Doug Armstrong, need to lure pure goal scorers to St. Louis. Anaheim winger Corey Perry (correction: thanks to @lkorac10, I now know Perry is off the market. My apologies), Penguin winger Jarome Iginla, and Brenden Morrow are all potential unrestricted free agents this offseason. They have one major thing in common–they score goals. That is exactly what the team needs. Sure, the Blues may not be able to afford any of these players, but the point is they need to address a need (either through free agency or through the trade market) that they have had for a long time. If it requires the team to part ways with some of the veterans or deal a young playmaker, it still must be done.
The fact is this, if the Blues want to ever truly compete for a Stanley Cup, they must add a player or two (or even three) that do ONE thing–SCORE GOALS.
Until next time…