Thursday evening provided a less than stellar opening to the 2018-19 campaign for the St. Louis Blues, and it didn’t take long for questions to be asked about the team’s goaltending.
During a Friday morning radio hit for Bob McKenzie on Montreal’s TSN 690, the Insider was asked “how short is the leash on Jake Allen, and is it really Chad Johnson the potential savior for the Blues, or are they going to have to look at someone else if he falls short once again?”
“Well, it’s never a good situation when you’re starting off the way the Blues did, or the way Jake Allen did, with the fans,” began McKenzie, alluding to Allen having allowed five goals on 25 shots against the Winnipeg Jets. “The fans are already predisposed to not like Allen because of what’s happened in the past. And Allen’s had some real highs, but some real lows as a starting goaltender for the St. Louis Blues. And it’s obvious that the fans come in with a lot of trepidation on their goaltender, so in a game when the Blues couldn’t score - which is a problem, but they were letting in goals - the entire focal point ended up being on their goaltender, and that’s not good.
“We’ve seen it in Montreal where a player gets on the wrong side of the equation, and it’s so hard to get back on the other side. I remember Larry Murphy in Toronto, no matter what he did - I mean, he’s a Hall of Fame defenseman, and the Toronto Maple Leafs fans thought Larry Murphy was like the worst player ever, and treated him as such.
“I fear for a guy like Jake Allen that because he’s had such an uneven run of it in St. Louis, that he’s not going to be given a chance to work his way through whatever problems need to be worked through. And by no means was he the only problem in last night’s game.
“It’ll be fascinating to see how that plays out, and obviously Chad Johnson is the other guy. For now, if Allen’s not going then Johnson’s the plan. We’ll see where they go from there.”
Allen has three seasons left on his four-year, $17.4 million contract, which carries a $4.35 million cap hit.
Johnson was signed to a one-year, $1.75 million pact during free agency.
As the segment on 690 continued, it was noted to McKenzie how the Blues had moved “big players at the trade deadline, even though they were in the mix for a playoff spot,” and was asked if his sense was that the Blues had a plan of being “more of a Stanley Cup aspirational team” this season, or if they were “still a year or two away.”
“I think they’re just on the early part of the cusp of that,” indicated McKenzie. “I don’t think they’re sitting here saying, ‘We can hardly wait to get to the trade deadline so we can move some more veterans and keep going,’ but depending on where they are in the standings, I suppose that could happen.
“But all things being equal… I mean, Doug Armstrong made a subjective decision at the deadline last year when he traded Stastny, one of their better players, and they were a playoff team. But he looked at his team and he’s like, ‘Nah, you know what? We’re not that good. I’m just being real here. I know this team better than anybody else, and trading Paul Stastny is not the difference between winning the Cup or not winning the Cup. And I want to win Cups, and if we trade Stastny and get the assets for that, that’s going to help us sustain a period of time where we are true contenders.’
“I think they expect to be good this year. I don’t think they expect to offload at the deadline. But they’re very early in the stages of building a team around Schwartz and Tarasenko up front, with all of these young players like Kyrou and Thomas and maybe down the road Klim Kostin and some others.”
The Blues will next be in action Saturday against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Contract-related info via CapFriendly