Ultimate Standings: Coaching concerns make Blues' ranking shaky

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St. Louis Blues

Overall: 43
Title track: 103
Ownership: 33
Coaching: 80
Players: 85
Fan relations: 26
Affordability: 35
Stadium experience: 71
Bang for the buck: 25
Change from last year: -32

After climbing to No. 11 overall in the standings last season, the Blues dropped to No. 43 after another first-round playoff exit. Large drops in coaching, players and stadium experience explain the fall, although the team still remains in the top third of all NHL franchises.

What's good

The Blues are a perennial playoff team and remain a relatively cheap ticket, which helped St. Louis maintain its relatively strong standing in the affordability and bang for the buck categories. The team's average ticket price of $53.34 is nearly $10 below the league average. That, combined with near-average parking and concessions, led to a respectable 35th overall finish in affordability, although a 10 percent increase from last year did result in a drop from 16th. The Blues are making good use of revenue generated by the fans with four straight playoff runs and a Central title last year (with an impressive 109 points), earning a strong 25th-place finish in bang for the buck, sixth best in the NHL.

What's bad

After entering the NHL as an expansion team in 1967, the Blues advanced to the Stanley Cup finals in three straight years. They haven't been back since. That lack of a championship -- or even a conference title; their last conference finals appearance was 2001 -- pushed them down to 103 in title track. And it's fair to question whether the Stanley Cup window is closing with the current core group of players. Too often in this franchise's history, the Blues have been good but not great, and that legacy still seems to haunt the team.

What's new

The drop from No. 28 to No. 80 in coaching suggests fans have lost faith in Ken Hitchcock's ability to lead this group to a Stanley Cup. Questions surrounded Hitchcock's job security after the Blues were knocked out of the playoffs in the first round last spring, but GM Doug Armstrong brought him back on a one-year contract. The Blues have been eliminated in the first round in each of the past three postseasons, and they've managed to win just six games in that span. Hitchcock, who won a Stanley Cup with the Dallas Stars in 1999, has a career winning percentage of .514 in the regular season, but he's averaging just .370 in the playoffs.

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