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LeBrun: Excessive NHL streaking, why coaches take the blame and extra with Blues GM Doug Armstrong

Within the immortal phrases of Frank the Tank: “We’re going streaking!”

New slogan for the St. Louis Blues this season?

They have been 3-0 to start out the season, then misplaced eight straight (all in regulation) and now have pulled off seven consecutive victories.

Do you suppose KFC remains to be open? OK, sufficient with the “Previous Faculty” traces.

However critically, how will we make sense of such a streaky group or the variety of different streaks happening throughout the NHL this season — from Calgary and Edmonton to Chicago and Pittsburgh?

“I personally see loads of that across the league proper now,” veteran Blues basic supervisor Doug Armstrong instructed The Athletic on Wednesday morning. “The dynamics of the league have modified, the place the detailed a part of defending leads and clock administration should not what they have been prior to now.

“I believe with youthful gamers, the talent stage has by no means been larger, and the sport administration has in all probability taken a step again.”

It is a captivating approach to consider what we’re seeing. No query, the NHL is a youthful league than prior to now, and I’d argue it is also extra loaded with talent, however to Armstrong’s level, it is also the type of talent that thinks offense first in lots of circumstances earlier than the defensive half will get honed.

“It is nice for the followers,” Armstrong mentioned. “It is all the time thrilling. But it surely’s a special model of hockey.”

As he says, individuals of his classic aren’t fairly used to it. And I am with him there, as a 50-year-old hockey scribe. This is not the NHL I began overlaying 28 years in the past (and that is OK). There is a sure approach hockey individuals have all the time been used to in terms of puck administration to guard a lead, and many others.

“The group that I take pleasure in watching probably the most this season, and I used to be fortunate to see their first recreation of the yr, is Boston,” Armstrong mentioned. “I noticed them play Washington. The Bruins are so structured they usually’re so detailed and their finest gamers are their finest puck-management gamers. They’re only a pleasure to look at.

“As a result of they play to get the lead, after which they play to increase the lead, they usually additionally play to ensure they do not give the opposite group hope. And that is a rarity proper now within the recreation.”

And, once more, as Armstrong mentioned, this all results in a enjoyable model of hockey to look at for followers. No query about it.

“It’s entertaining,” he mentioned. “A two-goal lead was: ‘Flip the lights out.’ And I perceive gamers desirous to make it a three-goal lead. However when it would not go that approach, it is a one-goal lead and then you definitely’re simply an empty-netter away from being tied.

“I see veteran gamers now getting sucked into that vortex.”

Fascinating ideas from a GM who has been round a very long time. And I imply, there is not any turning again the clock. The path of the NHL is about youth and talent, and that is what the followers need, justifiably so.

However a bit extra managed recreation administration can be good for the coaches and the managers, to make certain.

Which will get us to the Blues, who after shedding eight straight video games have utterly rotated their season and set an obscure NHL file in doing so.

It was again on Nov. 1, after the fifth straight loss, that Armstrong met along with his group, then with the media in St. Louis, and put the strain on to show issues round.

His message was direct and did not depart any room for confusion: The gamers have been going to determine if the group was nonetheless a contender or if the GM ought to begin tearing it aside.

“I believed it was two-fold,” Armstrong mentioned as to why he spoke that day. “One, after we had misplaced 5 in a row. I actually felt that the media that lined our group and fairly actually the coach and our gamers have been bored with speaking about it. And I believe the message that the media have been getting from the coach and the gamers was the identical day by day. So I simply thought I’d give them a break for a day.

“However the different one was, and it wasn’t a hearth and brimstone or risk, it was simply extra the fact that you just see groups undergo cycles and our hope is to increase our decade-long cycle of fine play and playoff hockey one other yr or two or three; however finally the gamers let you know once they haven’t got it in them anymore.”

The assembly with the gamers wasn’t a dressing down, both.

“I have been round the place you elevate your voice. This wasn’t that,” Armstrong mentioned. “This was extra of a actuality verify on a group that we thought was going to be good, that was good final yr, that proper, mistaken or detached, we made choices over the summer time and we needed to both carry out or not carry out.

“However the feeling was, there was loads of perception. I’ve a ton of perception in our gamers. They’ve made my profession a blessing for the final decade. And I owe it to them to present them the chance to see the place they’re at. And to their credit score, they’ve taken it.”

The opposite factor Armstrong did on the time was completely again his head coach, Craig Berube. And I do know it is simple to say, “Nicely, what else is he going to say?” However this felt actually real on the time, that he did not imagine there was a training concern.

It is one thing that I appreciated seeing, as a result of in so many circumstances over the previous few years, you see coaches lose their jobs as a result of, in a flat-cap setting, it is simpler than making in-season roster strikes.

Armstrong was adamant in backing his coach, who helped ship the franchise’s first and solely Stanley Cup in 2019.

“What I used to be attempting to get forward of is that if we did lose one other two or three in a row, that is all the time the lowest-hanging fruit for individuals to speak about, is the coach,” Armstrong mentioned. “And I wished to only try to get rid of that, at that time, as a result of we did lose one other couple.

“During the last variety of years, the lowest-hanging fruit (across the NHL) has been the coach. I imagine in Craig, I believe Craig has accomplished a superb job. However I imagine within the gamers, too. So the entire hope was that we’re not going to make a training change — I do not need to make any participant adjustments, both. We simply need to win.”

A lot hockey remains to be left in what has already been such a whacky season for this Blues group. However in the meanwhile, the gamers have answered their GM: They are not accomplished being a contender.

(Prime picture of Brandon Saad: Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Photos)

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