Following a shutout loss to the lowly Los Angeles Kings—the first team to fire their coach this year—the St. Louis Blues announced that they were ditching head coach Mike Yeo, who helmed the team for two full seasons with very limited success. Yeo leaves the Blues in the season after he piloted the team to their first missed postseason since 2011, which happened when the Blues lost five of their last six games to finish just one point out of the final wild card spot. This season, they sit last in the Central with 17 points from 19 games.
“Everything bothers me right now,” Yeo said after the loss and before he was fired. Having underachieved with both the Wild, in his first NHL job, and now the Blues, it was clear that Yeo wasn’t the man for St. Louis’s present, and on a veteran-heavy team with the fourth-highest payroll in the league, there wasn’t any benefit to keeping him for St. Louis’s future.
Offseason acquisition and top center Ryan O’Reilly has been carrying the scoring load for a sluggish offensive squad, putting up even better numbers than he did for another losing franchise in Buffalo. Sniper Vladimir Tarasenko—the best reason to watch the Blues—has been a little slow with the goals so far, racking just six in his 19 games, but his team-leading 75 shots bode well for an improvement. Goaltender Jake Allen still looks shaky, and given the choice I’m sure plenty of Blues fans would prefer the team had retained Carter Hutton, who’s continued his late-career success with the Sabres. But since returning from a benching Allen has held strong in three straight performances, even as the forwards have failed to support him. And along with captain Alex Pietrangelo, younger defenders like Vince Dunn and Colton Parayko have at least managed to keep the team’s shots allowed below league average.
So, the Blues aren’t a contender right now, but there are some pieces in St. Louis that, with a new coach, could be jump-started into competitiveness. Interim coach Craig Berube, whose only previous experience came in two forgettable seasons with the Flyers, will get first crack. But Yeo’s firing has stirred up rumors about a longshot but potentially game-changing replacement: recently fired Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville, the second-winningest coach in NHL history and winner of three Stanley Cups.
Luring Quenneville to the Blues appears to be a bit of a pipe dream. That’s mainly because Quenneville is getting $6 million per year from the Blackhawks through next season—which he’d give up if he took a new job—so there isn’t a ton of incentive for him to get off his ass and coach again. So far, he’s seemingly content to tailgate at Bears games and keep media silence. But while any team with a coaching vacancy would love to have him, it’s St. Louis who likely presents the most intriguing destination.
Quenneville started his head coaching career with the Blues back in 1996, taking them to the playoffs seven straight years but never advancing beyond the conference finals before getting fired in his eighth season. After some time in the woods with Colorado, Quenneville moved to a Blackhawks franchise starving for success and helped create a dynasty. One might think that the allure of finishing his coaching career by returning to the city where it began and delivering its first-ever championship might be too great to resist. Is it more appealing than $6 million and lots of free time? Maybe not. But if the Blues can steady themselves—and possibly deal some mid-tier assets like Parayko at the deadline for a youthful haul from a contender—they might at least have the pieces to be the most appealing job in the offseason.