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Blues fire Yeo after loss to Kings

October 21, 2018 | Blog, Sports | No Comments

Mike Yeo is out as Blues coach. Not long after the Blues were shut out for the third time in four games, general manager Doug Armstrong decided it was time to make a coaching change.

The team relieved Yeo of his duties following a 2-0 loss Monday to the Los Angeles Kings at Enterprise Center. Associate coach Craig Berube takes over immediately as the team’s interim head coach.

The Blues fell to 7-9-3 on the season with Monday’s loss. Only the team that defeated them Monday, the Kings, has fewer points in the entire National Hockey League at 7-12-1.

Monday’s result extended the Blues’ scoreless streak to 142 minutes 48 seconds — or more than seven periods without scoring a goal.

Over the first few weeks of the season, the Blues were among the league’s highest-scoring teams but couldn’t prevent a goal to save their lives. Lately, they’ve been very good on defense, but couldn’t score a goal to save their lives.

Or save Yeo’s job.

The Blues made the announcement 90 minutes after Monday’s game with a seven-paragraph press release that included no statement by Armstrong and notice of a 10 a.m. press conference Tuesday.

If Yeo knew of his fate during his postgame media session, he did a great cover-up job.

Speaking of the team’s scoring woes, he said: “We’ve just got to find a way. That’s what we’ve got to do. It’s frustrating. It’s maddening because we can’t seem to put it all together at the same time right now.

“We do the odd game now, and in the beginning of the year we were scoring goals. The defensive game wasn’t there and we’ve cleaned up the defensive game and now we’re not scoring goals. Now we’ve got to put it all together.”

But it’s no longer his problem.

Berube, 52, joined the Blues on June 15, 2017, after coaching what was then the team’s American Hockey League affiliate — the Chicago Wolves — to a 44-19-13 record and the AHL’s Central Division title during the 2016-17 season.

Prior to that, Berube spent two seasons as head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers, posting a 75-58-28 regular-season record from 2013-15. The Flyers made the playoffs during the 2013-14 season but lost in the first round.

Known as the “Chief” because of his First Nations ancestry, he’s a native of Calahoo, Alberta, who also spent seven seasons as an assistant coach for Philadelphia and five seasons with the Flyers’ AHL affiliate — the Philadelphia Phantoms — first as an assistant and then as head coach.

From 1986-2004, Berube played forward in the NHL and was known as an enforcer. When he retired, he ranked seventh all-time in penalty minutes (3,149) over a career that spanned 1,054 games.

Yeo, 45, was hired June 13, 2016 as head coach-in-waiting. He was to replace Ken Hitchcock following the ’16-17 season. But Yeo took over Feb. 1, 2017 when Hitchcock was fired, guiding the Blues to a 22-8-2 record over the remainder of the regular season and to the second round of the playoffs.

But that was as good as it got for the Blues under Yeo. After a terrific start last season — the Blues were 20-8-2 and tied for the overall league lead in points in early December, the Blues missed the playoffs by one point.

Despite the plethora of offseason moves made by Armstrong this past offseason, the Blues never gained traction under Yeo this season. They started the year with only one win in their first six games, never won more than two games in a row, and were never more than one game above .500.

Yeo’s overall record as Blues head coach was 73-49-11.

Monday’s loss added more frustration to the season. Less than a week ago, the Blues surely didn’t want to be the team that “snapped” the Chicago Blackhawks’ eight-game losing streak. But the Blues lost a 1-0 squeaker.

The challenge Monday at Enterprise Center was to avoid losing to the NHL’s worst team — the 13-point Los Angeles Kings. As in, 13 points for the entire season.

But it happened again. After a disappointing three-game road trip that saw the Blues lose twice on shutouts, they couldn’t get back on script, losing 2-0 to the lowly Kings before 16,860 disgruntled spectators.

“We have a lot of chances,” Vladimir Tarasenko said. “You can see it from upstairs too. Chances come off of hard work. It’s not from fancy chances or good plays.”

But as Tarasenko succinctly put it: “It’s hard to win when you don’t score goals.”

The Blues know that all too well.

“Yeah, it’s frustrating,” Alex Pietrangelo said. “We had some good looks, especially there at the end. But gotta find ways to score. You can’t win hockey games without scoring goals.”

With five veterans sidelined with injuries, including forwards Jaden Schwartz, Alexander Steen and Pat Maroon, the Blues’ goal-scoring woes continued. Their scoreless streak stands at 142 minutes 48 seconds.

The Blues hadn’t been shut out in back-to-back games since last February — 4-0 losses to Winnipeg and Nashville during the darkest part of that season. Those goose-egg games came during a seven-game winless streak.

All told they were shut out eight times last season. Now they’ve been shut out three times in their last four games.

After the team’s Monday morning skate, Yeo called on his healthy veterans to rise to the occasion, and called on the young players in the lineup to do more than just take up space. But the Blues just couldn’t solve rookie goalie Calvin Petersen, making just his third NHL start.

Rookie Matt Luff scored his first NHL goal for the Kings, capping a two-on-one break at the 8:18 mark of the second period. Anze Kopitar sent the fans home booing with an empty-net goal with 30 seconds left in the game.

Jake Allen played well, allowing only one goal for the third game in a row, stopping 25 of 26 goals. But he has only one victory to show for that recent run of good play.

The Blues’ record fell to 0-6-2 when trailing after two periods. Only Kopitar’s empty-netter with 30 seconds left prevented the Blues from falling to 0-5-3 in one-goal games this season.

It does not add up at the moment.

We’re not talking about why they should, or should not. (One man’s humble opinion: They should.)

We’re talking about if they will, or will not, and why so many people think they won’t.

If the Cardinals are truly out on the notion of pursuing superstar free agent Bryce Harper, as it has been reported, would it not make sense to send up some sort of flare?

Think about it.

There are multiple teams pondering the Harper market at the moment. Nearly every one of those teams is going to feel uncomfortable in such deep waters when it comes to the cost and duration of the contract Harper and super agent Scott Boras hope to hook. If the Cardinals are one of those teams that sees more risk than reward on the radar, why are they determined to remain in the mix?

Here’s why I ask: If there is one fan base that is likely to be more agitated by another seemingly close second-place finish on a premier free agent than an early and public pivot to other avenues of improvement, is it not Cardinals fans? The Cardinals no longer get participation points for close misses. Close misses have become the Achilles’ heel to their offseasons.

There is a belief by some that the pragmatic Cardinals simply will not go long enough or big enough to buy Harper. There’s even a headline: “Cardinals’ plans do not include Harper,” read the title of a Ken Rosenthal column at The Athletic earlier this month. Here is a chance to focus the attention elsewhere. The Cardinals have essentially been offered an out.

Yet they keep talking like they might be in.

“I would characterize it as, there is a lot of open-mindedness as we enter this offseason, and we just want to explore all of our opportunities,” Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said Monday morning, after the Cardinals debuted new throwback uniforms.

“These kind of questions are a little awkward to answer, because it’s obviously one-player specific,” Mozeliak said when asked about going above and beyond on a mega contract for a player like Harper. “For us, as I said, we are going to be open-minded as we look at how to make this club better. Certainly, there is a long view and a short view. We will decide which is the best for us.”

Specifically, Mozeliak was asked if he had thoughts on the Cardinals being written off as players for any player at this point.

“Again, whatever rumors that are out there are just that,” Mozeliak said.

When it comes to predicting where a star free agent will land, it’s always easier to predict where he won’t. And it’s true the Cardinals don’t have the best history of success in this department. The picture will grow clearer at next month’s winter meetings.

On Monday, it seemed premature to cut Harper out of that picture.