By now, most people have heard about the fight at St. Louis Blues practice between Robert Bortuzzo and Zach Sanford. Tensions simmered over to such a point that the team is materially turning against itself.
A little background, first.
The Blues are 10-14-4 after the Vancouver Canucks blasted them 6-1 at home on Sunday. They’ve scored a paltry 78 goals for while allowing 94 goals against. Even the lowly Chicago Blackhawks have scored more goals, although they’ve allowed more goals against.
“I apologize to all our fans,” said Vladimir Tarasenko after the loss to the Canucks. “We can’t play at home like this.”
Subsequent the concession came the fight, which tapered the lens more on this Blues club. Bortuzzo, for the record, seemed to be getting the better of Sanford during Monday’s practice. That’s kind of an interesting detail, as Bortuzzo was at one point a bit of a scrapper. He hasn’t had a bout this year and had just one last season, but he’s got 22 in his NHL career.
There’s no word on what specifically started the tilt, but head coach Craig Berube was straightforward.
“That happens,” he said. “Guys are frustrated and they should be. So sometimes in practice in boils over and things happen. That’s what happens because they do care and they want to be successful and they want to win.”
That frustration isn’t helped by the level of injuries that has, well, levelled this team.
Jaden Schwartz, Alex Pietrangelo, Carl Gunnarsson, and Robby Fabbri are all out of action. The word is that Schwartz will be the first to return, which is good news for the spluttering St. Louis offence.
The bad news is that Pietrangelo has been tied to a pile of trade rumours as of late, which may or may not have substance but certainly have to hurt the overall flow of the team. That lack of stability isn’t helped by not-so-whispered reverberations of the team captain moving on.
The Blues are already a team in crisis mode, having binned their head coach a month ago and picking up Berube to fill in the gaps. So far, that bench change hasn’t helped and something else has to give. You have to wonder if that’s going to push St. Louis into full-blown panic mode, at which point the Pietrangelo trade becomes far likelier.
By the way, the Blues also put goalie Chad Johnson on waivers and called up minor league starter Jordan Binnington, who is the rare bright spot on the troubled San Antonio Rampage. The Blues are relatively okay with Jake Allen as the starter, which means this move really is about shifting around backups.
Will that help? Probably not. The Blues are in trouble as the Bortuzzo/Sanford scrap illustrates and there’s more going on than an intransigent trade or minor swap will solve.
The Blues meet the Panthers Tuesday and could use a confidence win. They may get one, with Florida coming off back-to-back losses and going 1-4 in their last five away games. Unfortunately, St. Louis has just one win in their last five home games.