The St. Louis Blues are an absolute mess of a hockey team. Let’s just get that out of the way right now.
Ever since their shocking Stanley Cup Run in 2018-19, what once looked to be a promising future for a young and talented St. Louis team has quickly dissolved into an ongoing identity crisis with one big shiny, whiny sticker plastered to the front of it. That being goaltender Jordan Binnington.
Now, in saying that, obviously, there are other elements to the Blues’ gradual downfall that have already begun to play themselves out. In spite of undergoing surgery for a broken finger, Ryan O’Reilly looked solid in his first eight games with the Toronto Maple Leafs and should be a factor for them in the Playoffs if he’s healthy.
The writing was on the wall for the once Blues Captain, Selke, and Conn Smythe award winner after a rough start to the season, and it was clear his time with the Blues was running out. What was once seen as a horribly lopsided trade for the Buffalo Sabres ultimately netted them Tage Thompson, who, after struggling in Ralph Krueger’s terrible “defensive” system, has absolutely flourished under head coach Don Granato, exploding for 89 points in 72 games this season, as the Sabres have become one of, if not the most offensively potent team in the NHL.
Ivan Barbashev has fit perfectly into the Golden Knights system and should be a big factor for them in the Playoffs, and Ville Husso and Jake Allen have both found roles on respective teams after seeing themselves forced out of St. Louis. Husso was ultimately the reason the Blues made the playoffs last year to begin with, as Binnington dealt with extremely up-and-down play throughout the season. However, in spite of that, Husso was ultimately dealt to the Detroit Red Wings in the off-season for little return, a third-round pick, leading many Blues fans to wonder why.
Well, there’s a simple answer. It begins with Jordan, and it ends with Binnington. At one point, the Richmond Hill, Ontario native was seen as the future of the Blues net, posting a sparkling 1.89 GAA and .927 SVP after being a mid-season call-up, ultimately leading the Blues to hockey’s ultimate prize.
And yet, for as much good as that Cup win ultimately did for the city, it seems that Binnington has simultaneously set the Blues back 15 years in the process. With a 3.38 GAA and .892 SVP this season, at an AAV of $6 million over the next four years with up to an 18-team no-trade list, Binnington is quite simply untradeable. His contract does not help, carrying an AAV of $6 million over the next four years with a no-trade clause until 2024, when he submits an 18-team no-trade list for 2024-25, 14-team list in 2025-26 and a 10-team list in 2026-27 via CapFriendly. Unless an Erik Karlsson-like resurgence occurs, I don’t see the Blues getting rid of him anytime soon.
Ultimately, this has forced the Blues hand into getting rid of any other slightly competitive goalies out of not being able to pay them, and with it looking like the Blues are heading towards a gradual rebuild, I have absolutely no clue how Binnington will factor into those plans.
Early on in his career, the former AHL farmhand was praised for his cool, calm, and collected nature, but ultimately, that turned out to be nothing more than a pipe dream. Binnington simply can’t keep his cool when his emotions get the better of him, and what was once seen as him simply being a competitor has dissolved into childlike temper tantrums.
With a rebuild seemingly on the horizon for the St. Louis Blues and fresh off of a two-game suspension, what’s next for goaltender Jordan Binnington?
When you’re a competitive NHL team with a presence like Binnington’s, a lot of the issues that come with such a volatile personality are swept under the rug simply because the team keeps winning.
Others know how to manage that delicate balance between being an agitator and being an idiot. Brad Marchand is an instigator through and through, but he (for the most part) doesn’t cross the line into straight-up idiotic play that hurts his team. Being a top player and leader for the Bruins, he knows he can’t let his ego and his pride get in the way of that.
Sometimes the best form of revenge is simply making a solid play. In the case of Binnington, however, it seems like he thinks he’s the only player that matters on the Blues more often than not, which spoiler, with his recent play, is far from the case if it was even in the case, to begin with.
With him now returning to play following a two-game suspension after an incident with Wild forward Ryan Hartman, the Blues are hoping Binnington can put these antics behind him and move forward, but you, me, and every other hockey, sports, or just general fan of anything that exists in our world knows that isn’t going to happen.
In the aftermath of the incident, Hartman was quoted as saying he expected Binnington to lash out when he did, which says a lot more about Binnington than it does about Hartman. To put things into perspective a bit, Binnington toiled in the AHL for years before getting his shot with the Blues. Had the goaltending situation with Jake Allen not fallen apart the way it had, he might’ve never gotten one. He was a career AHLer through and through, and with all the controversy he’s been in, maybe there’s ultimately a reason the Blues were hesitant to give him an opportunity.
At the end of the day, the Blues’ playoff hopes for the future seem questionable at best as they slowly move on from what remains of their Stanley Cup-winning squad. As a potential rebuild draws closer and closer, one hurdle prevents them from moving on from an ultimately tumultuous era. And as long as Jordan Binnington is making $6 million AAV, it doesn’t seem like that hurdle will be cleared anytime soon.