Out to a 7-9-3 start and sitting in last place in the Central Division, the Blues decided to make a change late Monday night. St. Louis announced the firing of head coach Mike Yeo, with Craig Berube taking over as the interim coach. This was only Yeo’s third season as the head coach, his second full season. So what led to Yeo’s firing, and is there a way for Berube and the Blues to salvage their season?
A Failure From the Start
Yeo was the head coach for the Wild for five seasons, making the playoffs in three of them. After he was fired during the 2015-16 campaign, St. Louis quickly snatched him up as an assistant coach, and even dubbed him as the eventual successor to Ken Hitchcock. Hitchcock was fired in February of 2017, allowing Yeo to take over as the permanent coach. In the final two and a half months of the 2017 season, the Blues played well under Yeo, going 22-8-2 and making it to the playoffs before being eliminated in the second round.
Last season was Yeo’s first full season as the head coach. In a very up and down year, the Blues finished fifth in the division with 94 points and fell just shy of the playoffs. It was the first time St. Louis did not qualify for the postseason since the 2010-11 season with coach Davis Payne.
The struggles for Yeo and the Blues carried over into this season. St. Louis has lost four of their last five games, and have been shut out three of the last four games. The most recent loss, a 2-0 loss at home to the league-worst Kings, was enough for general manager Doug Armstrong to make the move and fire Yeo.
Not Just the Coach
While the coach will always be the first one to go during the bad times, the players are not playing anywhere close to expectations. The Blues were one of the most aggressive teams this offseason in terms of improving their roster, and on paper looked to be poised and ready to return to the postseason. So far, the new-look Blues are just 19th in goals per game, as well as 19th in goals against.
Ryan O’Reilly, St. Louis’ biggest acquisition over the summer, has been the best player for the Blues. O’Reilly is leading the team 10 goals and 13 assists in his first season with St. Louis. His solid two-way game has been a huge addition for the team.
He is, however, the only Blues player putting up great numbers this season. Prolific goal-scorer Vladimir Tarasenko has just six goals despite leading the team in shots on goal by a wide margin. New acquisitions Tyler Bozak and David Perron each have 11 points, tied for third on the team. To put that into perspective, their 11 points would rank seventh on the first place Nashville Predators. Brayden Schenn, Alexander Steen, and Jaden Schwartz are all having down years as well.
The biggest disappointment has been in net, where goaltender Jake Allen has had a miserable season. The 28-year old is 5-5-3 with a 3.33 GAA and a .895 save percentage. While his play has improved over the last three games, Allen will need to show a lot more consistency if the Blues are going to get back on track.
The interim head coach, Craig Berube, has his work cut out for him. Berube joined the Blues as an associate head coach in June of 2017, previously serving as the head coach of the Flyers for two seasons. Berube will be tasked with taking a St. Louis team that has the fourth-highest payroll in the NHL and turning their season around. The talent is certainly there, but the hole just may be a little too deep to dig out of.
Berube and the Blues will look to break the cycle of losing when they head to Nashville on Wednesday to take on the Predators. Then it’s another game against the Predators, this time in St. Louis, before welcoming the Jets into town.