I’m used to things turning ugly when the St. Louis Blues are involved. It’s St. Louis, after all. The NHL must be praying that the Avalanche punt them into space in Game 5 so they can continue to pretty much ignore everything that’s gone on here. It’s what the league does best, considering that David Perron got all of a $5,000 fine today for trying to perform spinal surgery on Nazem Kadri last night while Kadri was prone and facing the other way.
It appears that head coach Craig Berube and the Blues organization would like to pretend that the threats, racism, and unadulterated awfulness that Kadri has faced has nothing to do with them. Here was Berube asked about the threats and slurs that Kadri, a Canadian of Lebanese descent, and his family were subject to on social media before Game 4:
And there’s been no official statement from the Blues either. It’s two days later now, and no one on the Blues anywhere has tried to take any responsibility for the behavior of their fans. Even if it’s the scrapings off the bottom of the bucket of Blues fans, and that’s some bucket, they’re still part of the group.
Berube can think that he’s separated from all that, but given his history, he can’t really. And everything is connected in this world now, given the access that fans have to social media feeds of players that choose to have them. There is no on-ice/off-ice split, especially when it concerns the fallout from something that happened in a game and Berube’s reaction to it.
When Berube insinuates that Kadri’s past actions means that his collision with Jordan Binnington couldn’t have been accidental, it poisons the air. He should be above that, and whatever the truth of Kadri’s actions in Game 3, it’s over. A coach’s job is to get his team to play over it, be better than a call or an injustice. There are bigger things at hand in the playoffs. Clearly it wasn’t over for the Blues, who spent far too much of Game 3 trying to exact some sort of revenge that would make Binnington less hurt somehow, all the while providing Kadri the space to basically end their season and laugh in their face while doing it.
When eschewing the chance to distance himself, the team, and most Blues fans from the truly brain-curdled amongst them before Game 4, Berube only gives it validation. To utter a “no comment” makes it seem unimportant, which it most certainly wasn’t. But it was still important enough to Berube that he at the very least unleashed his players to try and take matters into their own hands, if not without direct instruction from the coach, which only ended up costing them the game.
And where is the Blues PR staff? Where was any rep telling Berube if you’re asked this, all you have to do is say it’s unacceptable and is not part of being a Blues fan (debatable) and we demand better? It’s one sentence. Did they think it wouldn’t come up? Is no one in the PR department in St. Louis on Twitter? I know the city still likes to pretend it’s 1976 in a variety of ways, but…
And again, by uttering a “no comment,” and then sending out his team for vengeance instead of, y’know, winning a hockey game their season depended on, or conflating the two as is Blues tradition, it only gives more credence to those who hurled these atrocities at Kadri. Because no distinction has been made. In their minds, the Blues feel the same way they do (and maybe they do. This is hockey after all). Berube and the Blues gave in to the fantasies of their grossest quotient by letting them see go out for the blood of one player.
The Blues and the NHL are once again flat-footed, and what are they going to do if this series returns to St. Louis for a Game 6? What happens if Game 5 gets out of hand, and given the way the Avs are playing they could easily be up five in the third period, and the Blues don’t have any consequences for settling scores in their own head again? The NHL isn’t interested in finding ways to punish players and teams that are already home for the summer. Because they’ll have gone away without having to do anything, which is always the dream scenario for Gary Bettman and any problem he doesn’t have the capacity to solve. Which is usually all of them that aren’t a lockout.
It’s all so simple, and Berube, the Blues, and the NHL have whiffed on all of it. Luckily for them, the Blues mostly can’t get within touching distance of the Avs when the latter feels like playing anywhere near the top of their game, and they’ll get to move on. Will anything have changed? Of course not. But that’s not really what they’re interested in, so much as just making it go away.