Armstrong addressed the media on Tuesday after a grueling training session at the Centene Community Ice Center, a day after the Blues suffered a fifth straight loss, 5-1 at home to the Los Angeles Kings, a day after players and coach Craig Berube were questioned. The team’s efforts and rained booooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo fans present.
Armstrong didn’t want to sound the fire alarm yet, but he’s starting to light up the team with 10 percent of his season and meeting the players before training.
“I know we’re only 10 per cent on the season, which is a small sample size, but I thought you might have heard enough from the coach and the players, give them some time to think about where we are and kind of answer any of your questions from a different point of view as a manager (general).” Obviously we’re not in a place we’d like to be in. We haven’t been into Craig’s tenure, losing five in a row has become something new to us and not something we want to gain a taste of. We had a meeting with the guys today, more than…not a fire meeting And sulfur, just a test of reality.”
In light of losing five in a row in regulation for the first time under Birubi and for the first time since losing seven consecutive (0-6-1) runs from March 22 to April 5, 2021, Armstrong said the coach’s job is safe.
Berube signed a three-year contract on February 9, 2022.
“Well I told the players the coach is not going anywhere because the coach came from the MHL where he coached young players and made them better and trained the veteran players and made them win here,” Armstrong said. So he can do both.
“I believe in the coach, I believe in the system. This is not a problem with the system, it’s a competitive issue. We have to correct that, and I say I believe in the group. This is a very self-serving thing to say because I brought the group together, and it is ultimately my responsibility to judge what they do.”
Armstrong has gone through a range of elements with the team, including stats showing that the Blues, who have edged out 25-8 in their losing streak, aren’t very good at some of the highest prevailing numbers to win.
“We’re in the bottom quadrant of anything significant in the NHL right now and that’s our best, bottom quadrant,” Armstrong said. “We’re in the bottom 10% in a few areas as well. You’re looking for goals against goals against the average, we’re at the bottom. You look at the goal difference, we’re at the bottom. Our own teams aren’t special (ranked 11th in the strength game, 23.8 percent and 20 on the penalty kick, 79 percent) and so we need to make sure that’s ground zero and start working our way through, and what I told the players, we may or may not win on Thursday (at home against the New Yorkers.) Obviously we’re in the winning business. “But what we need to see is a higher level of competition than we have now. What we have to find a part of our game that we can build on when things don’t go well. The NHL is a very competitive industry and if you play teams we’ll call it rebuild mode or something.” “They are proud athletes, they are proud coaches. They don’t agree with what the top management wants is to rebuild because they are proud. If you give teams such hope, they will take it and they will win those matches. What we have to do now is put our stake on the ground we want.” Go back to it and be in that competitive nature.
“When I look at the league in general at the moment, the teams that are rebuilding are moving faster than the big teams are regressing, so the league is going to be squeezed. So what we have to do is go backwards on the pressure part of it. We are not in the part of it. The pressure from it so far, which means there are 25 teams now in the NHL I think this morning is 0.500 or better. That means another 25 percent that we’re not one of them. So we have to find a way to get back into that.”
By doing so, the Blues will need their best players, their top players, to pick up the slack, because the players at the bottom of the ledger, their fourth-line guys, are making a difference and putting in the effort needed.
“If you had to pick a positive out of the first 10 percent of the season, I liked our fourth streak,” Armstrong said. “I think they come in, they give us energy. What I find and what Craig finds, and what the players have found is that we don’t have that… When they make that good turn, we don’t follow it up with another good fit. We follow it with sloppy play or transitions or things that allow the other team to By gaining momentum When you have a group of players that change momentum, the next group has to maintain that momentum and we don’t have that now.
“It’s 10 per cent of the season, so I don’t want to overreact, but we certainly can’t overreact either.”
So why is the level of competition so low? If this group of players is close to the ice, why doesn’t that translate to the ice?
“That’s what we’re trying to figure out because it’s how we lose,” Armstrong said. “We don’t lose proudly, and that means we expose our goalkeepers.
“If you look at goalkeepers in the last three or four games, there have to be at least two-thirds or three-quarters of the goals coming through a back door. That’s not on the goalkeeper. The goalkeeper has to face what he’s facing, so we don’t compete in our net. And we don’t compete at their nets. We seem to get frustrated too easily, and I think the competition builds our body language. When we’re not scoring, we talk to the players about… We have a group of guys who believe, “I can’t believe this happens to me,” and a group of guys Who think they are not part of the problem when in fact, we are all part of the problem, starting with me.But we are all part of the solution too.
“Why don’t we compete? I don’t know. The guys tell me how close the group is to the ice and that’s reassuring, but you should be much closer on the ice. They have to play for each other… I wish I got your answer, I don’t really have an answer for why not We competed. I just know we don’t compete at the level necessary to compete.”
Armstrong made a similar speech about the league after firing coach and friend Ken Hitchcock in the middle of the 2016-17 season and promoting Mike Yu, calling players “independent contractors” who play only for themselves. This is not the same, Armstrong said.
“For me, that’s completely different,” he said. “It feels like an organizational problem we’re in, or something organizational that I’m responsible for finding a way out of. I don’t think it’s one or two players.
“I would say the difference from anything in the past is that I really think there are guys out there who do more than necessary to try to get him out, not less than required to try to get him out. But playing hard is just playing dumb. Like, he’s a fast skater, but he’s always in the wrong place so you’re just the fastest guy in the wrong place right now we need to raise our competitive level and we need to level up our hockey sense now hockey is a tide and when you get the momentum you want to push for as long as possible And when you don’t have it, you want to get it back as fast as we can, and now we’re not keeping it long enough and we’re not getting it back fast enough.”
The Blues cannot continue down this path of absurdity, or else going up again would be arduous if they slipped further. And there are only too many 2019’s in their arsenal, and this particular track isn’t ideal, even though this one ended up standing on top of the mountain.
If they keep falling, it could lead to change, at some point.
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“I don’t think there’s a number,” Armstrong said. “I think it’s a feeling.” “I think it’s a feeling you have that it’s not a decision driven by analysis. It’s things you see with your own eyes. If you don’t see the level of competition. I’ve had a long time. I’ve followed a team that was relatively stable for many years, but you’ve seen us play a lot of unstable teams. Unsettled long enough, I think everyone will know.”