The Need to Knows
The Time: 5:00 pm PT / 8:00 pm ET
The Place: Enterprise Center, St. Louis, MO
Where to Watch: ROOT Northwest, ESPN+ for all other markets
Place to Listen: KJR 93.3fm
Know Your Enemy
Take anything I say about who’s on the St. Louis Blues’ roster with a grain of salt, because not only is the NHL in the thick of the trade deadline, but the Blues have been one of the busier teams as of late when it comes to wheeling and dealing.
The 2019 Stanley Cup champions are proving to the league just how small a window of opportunity can sometimes be. Only four years after their run, the Blues are currently sitting at 57 points — the Kraken, in wild card spot number 2, have 70. St. Louis hasn’t reached the official point of elimination yet, but the writing is on wall. They responded accordingly by not only becoming trade deadline sellers, but by getting ahead of the curve and shipping players out early.
First to go was Vladimir Tarasenko to the New York Rangers. Frankly, it was smart to jump ship while they still could, because Tarasenko isn’t exactly the player he once was. Thankfully, Ron Francis seemed to this one coming. That expansion draft is making a little more sense in retrospect, isn’t it?
January 31, 2023
After that came trading captain Ryan O’Rielly to the Maple Leafs. To me, that was the biggest sign that this team is gearing up to do some level of a reset. While the Kraken know what it’s like to trade away a captain, shipping off Mark Giordano was because Seattle needed to make a choice as to which was more important to building the right foundation for the team. Having a captain in the first season was nice, but more draft capital was better. The Blues, however, are an already established team. Trading away O’Reilly seems to signify that, despite him leading St. Louis to their first ever Stanley Cup, that glorious era for that team is no more. Rebuilding requires not being sentimental.
Plus, if Craig Berube’s quotes hold any weight, the locker room could be in need of a major attitude shift. After an overtime loss to the Canucks, Berube called out his best players for not having enough “passion,” for not playing “inspired hockey” and saying “they’re getting paid lots of money and they’re not doing the job.” Robert Thomas, however, publicly disagreed with the sentiment. I guess you could say this drama is a hot one, like seven inches from the midday sun.
It hasn’t all been bad though. They’ll have a Blues debut tomorrow in Kasperi Kapenen, who was claimed off the waiver wire from the Penguins. It’s exactly what a team ready to throw in the towel and rebuild needs, a reclamation project to try out.
Kasperi Kapanen has been placed on waivers. #LetsGoPens pic.twitter.com/uYFbbsqcDr— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) February 24, 2023
So far, the Kraken have managed to split the season series with the Blues with one overtime loss and one win. In the Kraken’s win, they had some of the usual goal scoring suspects find the back of the net (Jared McCann and Daniel Sprong), but they also won due to depth contributions from Carson Soucy, Ryan Donato, and Brandon Tanev.
In theory, this should be a winnable game for the Kraken. It’s not like the Blues’ lineup is completely depleted of talent — the Blues’ point leader, Jordan Kyrou, has more points than either O’Reilly or Tarasenko — but it’s still a significant shake up to the roster.
However, the Kraken need to springboard back into action. They’ve lost three games in a row now. While the Boston game certainly wasn’t for lack of trying (despite the end result it was one of the best games of hockey all season), being shut out against the Sharks and the lackluster performance against the Maple Leafs are games that don’t inspire confidence. (Though, those losses also had a factor in common called afternoon start times. Maybe it’s just a small fluke thanks to scheduling.)
A win isn’t just important to the tight race that is the Western Conference standings, but it also helps Ron Francis solidify his plans as the March 3rd trade deadline inches ever closer.