During the final four days of the NHL’s annual trading-post craze, league franchises moved 59 players and a massive stack of draft choices to in completing 37 transactions.

The Blues did not participate in the swap meet.

Their available merchandise was defective, uninspiring, too costly, or all of the above. General manager Doug Armstrong probably would have made better use of his time by browsing on the Temu app.

The Blues’ absence from the trade-deadline delirium was a confirmation of the obvious: this roster reeks. We can blame the Blues players for the failure, but that’s the easy way out. The players did not draft themselves into the organization or trade themselves to St. Louis. The players do not control the team payroll and make spending decisions. They are here because Blues management wanted them, Invested in them, and overpaid them.

Armstrong was generous to a fault, giving these mopes the courtesy of seven full no-trade protection – and three other players have a limited no-trade shelter. Why would we expect Craig Berube, Drew Bannister or any other coach to motivate a  core group that (1) is short on overall talent, (2) financially comfortable, and (3) has the power to block trades?

The Blues can just go lazing about without fear of repercussions. Benchings haven’t worked. They aren’t embarrassed when called out by Armstrong. Putting them through punishing “bag” skates – as Bannister did on Friday in New Jersey – has no effect. Bannister used that traditional message-sending drill in an attempt to get the players’ attention. Their response? Nothing. Just another abysmal effort and a 4-0 loss to the NY Rangers.

The fellas are lazing about. These handsome men of wealth have healthy bank accounts but struggle to deposit goals in the opponent’s net.

Here’s what the Blues have looked like during their recent work stoppage that’s left them sputtering with a 3-7-1 record in the last 11 games.

The plunge began with a no-compete 5-2 loss at home to Nashville on Feb. 17.

Starting there …

* The Blues are 1-5-1 on the road and do not have a single third-period goal in the seven away games. No fight. No mas. They don’t show up ready to go and don’t exactly storm the ramparts to make a comeback.

* In the 1-5-1 road wreck, the Blues have been outscored 19-3 in the first and third periods combined. Including the four contests at Enterprise Center, the Blues have been outscored 26-9 in the first-and-third periods.

* The Blues have scored the fewest five-on-five goals (12) in the NHL since Feb. 17. They’ve been outscored by 10 goals at five-on-five, and by 15 goals overall. They’ve averaged only 1.35 goals per 60 minutes at five-on-five, the worst rate in the league over that time. Their expected goal-share at five-on-five (37.7%) is last in the league.

* The Blues have been held to two or fewer goals in nine of the 11 tests. Part of the reason is a faltering power play that’s converted five of 35 opportunities (14 percent) over the last 11 games.

* When the Blues are playing at five-on-five, Pavel Buchnevich has scored four times during the 3-7-1 downturn. The other 11 Blues forwards have combined for eight goals in the last 11 at five-on-five.

* Staying with five-on-five statistics over the last 11 games, Nathan Walker has as many goals (1) as Jordan Kyrou and one more than Robert Thomas (0).

* Captain Brayden Schenn hasn’t scored a five-on-five goal since Jan. 9. That’s 25 games ago. In the last 25 games Schenn has no goals and only 15 shots on goal in 320 minutes and 31 seconds at five-on-five. And Schenn’s overall scoreless streak has stretched to 16 games.

* During the 3-7-1 collapse, no Blues defenseman has scored a goal at five-on-five. With Tory Krug on the ice at five-on-five the Blues have been outscored 9-2 in the last 11 games.

Kudos to No. 1 goaltender Jordan Binnington. He’s been the only true bright spot during this lousy time. Binnington has done just about everything possible to prevent the landslide.

In his seven starts during his team’s 3-7-1 depreciation, Binnington has come up with an exceptional .944 save percentage at five-on-five. Over the last 11 games. Binnington’s save rate on slot shots is a remarkable .897 at five-on-five, and .845 at all strengths. Simply tremendous, but Binnington can’t do this alone.

The Blues close their five-game road trip on Monday night at Boston. The visit will bring back fond memories of Game 7 on June 12, 2019. But only six players remain from the postseason roster that seized the only Stanley Cup triumph in franchise history: Binnington, Schenn, Thomas, Colton Parayko, Sammy Blais and Oskar Sundqvist. Kyrou, a lad of 20, played 16 regular-season games for the Blues in 2018-2019 but wasn’t used in the playoffs.

Back then the team song was “Gloria.”

These days, the appropriate team soundtrack would be “Take It Easy” by the Eagles.

The new-coach jolt has faded. The Blues have a better overall record (19-15-2) since the coaching change, but take a closer look. After speeding out to a hopeful 15-7-1 restart in Bannister’s first 23 games, the Blues have slowed to 4-8-1 in their last 13 and gotten outscored 43-28.

Evolving Hockey projects the Blues to finish with 84 points and out of the playoffs for a second consecutive season. Their postseason probability is down to 2.1 percent, with only Arizona, Chicago, Anaheim and San Jose sitting more hopeless among Western Conference members.

This isn’t on Bannister. It wasn’t on Berube. All of the responsibility lands in Armstrong’s office because these are his players, and they signed contract extensions that he negotiated. It was an Armstrong-directed hockey operation in 2019, and he richly deserved all of the credit that came his way. But this is a different time, and a different team. It’s a long way down from Armstrong’s peak. He knows this and owns this.

Thanks for reading …


A 2023 inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, Bernie hosts an opinionated and analytical sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS. It airs 3-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 4-6 p.m. on Friday. Stream it live or grab the show podcast on 590thefan.com or through the 590 The Fan St. Louis app.

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Stats used in this column were sourced from Evolving Hockey and Natural Stat Trick.