Jake Allen key to Ken Hitchcock's early dismissal
The situation behind St. Louis' bench this season was a bit odd to begin with.
Early in the offseason, the Blues added Mike Yeo - former head coach of the Minnesota Wild - to serve as an assistant to longtime bench boss Ken Hitchcock. There was nothing odd about that, except for the fact it was concurrently announced that Yeo would take over for Hitchcock at the end of 2016-17.
The best laid plans often go awry, as they say, and on Wednesday the club decided to expedite the succession process, relieving Hitchcock of his duties and promoting Yeo to the head coach position effective immediately.
And so ends a successful run for one of the NHL's most experienced head coaches.
The move comes with the Blues sitting in the Western Conference's second wild-card spot, albeit with a record of 24-21-5 and a minus-16 goal differential with 32 games remaining on the schedule. This after St. Louis finished third in the league last season with 107 points before advancing to the Western Conference Final, where they lost to San Jose in six games.
So what went wrong?
It doesn't take too much digging to see one of the major issues that plagued Hitchcock this season, and that Yeo will now have to contend with.
Following the trade of Brian Elliott to Calgary, the goaltending duties were handed to Jake Allen, with Carter Hutton brought in to serve as backup. The results to date have been disastrous.
These numbers come in a season where the Blues are allowing the fifth-fewest shots per game (27.6), but also the third-most goals per game (3.12). Looking a bit deeper, they rank fifth with a Corsi rating of 51.68 in five-on-five play, and 28th in save percentage (90.67) in the same situation.
In other words, they're regularly recording more shot attempts than the opposition, but simply unable to keep the puck out of their own net.
That imbalance - in conjunction with a slightly above average 11th-ranked offense in terms of goals per game - is enough to make even the best of coaches want to tear their hair out.
This falls largely on Allen, to whom general manager Doug Armstrong handed a six-year contract extension worth $17.4 million based on the belief he could carry the load as a bona fide starting goalie. It wasn't without merit, as Allen started 44 games for the Blues last season, posting a .920 save percentage.
The 26-year-old, however, has taken a big step back, costing Hitchcock his job and leaving Yeo hoping he can turn things around, and fast.