Blues’ Armstrong: ‘We’ve taken a step back this year’

Coach Mike Yeo takes responsibility for the Blues' poor performance on the power play.
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis Blues are 66-40-8 since Mike Yeo replaced Ken Hitchcock as coach on Feb. 1, 2017. That’s the 10th-best regular-season record in the NHL in that period.

But it’s little consolation for a team missing the playoffs for the first time after six straight seasons. Two years ago, the Blues were playing for the conference championship.

“We understand we’ve taken a step back this year,” general manager Doug Armstrong said. “That lies firmly on my shoulders. My job is to deal in reality. The formula we had this year did not breed success, and we need to find that formula.”

Armstrong said the play of special teams needs to improve.

The Blues were 30th on power-play success at 15.4 percent. They finished 18th in penalty killing at 79.7 percent. During the previous six seasons making the playoffs, the Blues ranked No. 1 in the NHL in penalty killing with a rate of 84.3 percent.

However, the Blues scored only 38 power-play goals.

“As a coaching staff, I promise you we won’t just sit around and just assume things will get better next year,” Yeo said. “We have to look at everything from the way we manage it, operate it and holding guys accountable and the personnel we’re using and the tactics.”

When Yeo coached the Minnesota Wild, the power play also was stagnant.

“I’ll take responsibility for it,” Yeo said. “I don’t dodge that. That’s on me.”

Armstrong backs his coach.

“Mike and I are tethered together and we’re going to figure this thing out,” Armstrong said.

St. Louis was just 24-17 on home ice this season.

“You can’t have the home record we had and be satisfied,” Armstrong said. “The people that come here work for a living, and we need to send them home happy. If we’re in the top 10 in home records, we’re in the playoffs.”

The salary cap should increase about $4 million for next season. Armstrong said the Blues ownership will continue to spend to the cap.

“We spend to the cap,” Armstrong said. “We’ve had a good run here. We’ve got to get back to that.”

Goalie Jake Allen was signed to a four-year, $17.4 million contract on July 1, 2016. He finished with a 27-25-3 record, a 2.75 goals-against average, a .906 save percentage and one shutout.

“I definitely need to be more consistent,” Allen said. “I know I’m capable of it. I don’t think I need to change much. I’m a pretty good goalie.”

Backup goaltender Carter Hutton is an unrestricted free agent. Hutton was 17-7-3 with a 2.09 GAA and a .931 save percentage. He had three shutouts.

Armstrong said he wants to bring Hutton back.