Biggest 180s: Blues go from last in NHL to Stanley Cup champs

By WEEI 93.7

In January, the St. Louis Blues held a record of 17-20-4 at the exact halfway point in the season. The Blues were also in last place in the NHL. With a very slim chance of even making the playoffs, and in pure hockey fashion, the Blues didn’t just give up to tank for the first overall pick.

Mike Yeo, the then-head coach, was fired and Craig Berube was brought in as an interim head coach to finish the season. Berube had previously been a head coach for the Philadelphia Flyers and the Blues’ farm team (at the time), the Chicago Wolves. At the time, it seemed like a new head coach couldn’t do much to improve the talent level of the roster and an immediate turnaround seemed bleak.

In Dec. 2018, Blues forward Patrick Maroon told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “I don’t have answers anymore. It’s just kind of embarrassing, to be honest with you.” 

It was a perfectly eloquent answer for a guy playing on the worst team in the league. 

The problem with St. Louis back in January was they were too good and had too many strong pieces to be in dead last. Vladimir Tarasenko, Alex Pietrangelo, and Ryan O’Reilly all belong on championship pedigree teams. 

January was a major turning point for the team. For starters, Berube removed the board displaying the league standings from the locker room, spelling out the negative effects it had on the team’s morale. Rebuilding can often be a long, grueling process. The Blues managed to turn things around in a matter of a few months. 

Another defining moment back in January happened at a nightclub in Philadelphia the night before a non-conference game. The 1982 hit song “Gloria” by Laura Branigan came on and a few of the guys decided in that moment it would become their new anthem -- after every Blues win, it was blaring in the locker room. 

The last major defining moment in the month of January was a major coaching decision from the interim head coach. Berube had started Jake Allen in net for 14 straight games, but chose to put the young-gun Jordan Binnington between the pipes for a road game against the Flyers. Binnington saw 25 shots and didn’t let a single one through. Binnington went on to have a great second half and was a major reason the Blues made the playoffs.

In February, general manager Doug Armstrong had an opportunity to start from scratch and make some major moves before the trade deadline. Rather, he made just one deal, bringing in Ducks defenseman Michael Del Zotto. 

There were seven NHL coaching changes last season. Berube was the only one to make the playoffs. The Blues finished with a record of 45-28-9 on their way to a playoff berth. St. Louis trounced Winnipeg, Dallas, and San Jose before meeting meeting up with the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Final.

For the first time in 49 years, St. Louis had a chance to hoist the Stanley Cup Trophy. Their last chance came in 1970, also against the Bruins, a series that lasted four games and ended with Bobby Orr’s famous diving goal at the Boston Garden. 

In a back-and-forth series, the Blues won in seven games, hoisting the Stanley Cup at TD Garden to complete their remarkable 180-degree turnaround of a season.