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After tough love from Blues fans, Jordan Kyrou might now get it

Dec 16, 2023; St. Louis, Missouri, USA; St. Louis Blues center Jordan Kyrou (25) salutes the fans after he was named first star of the game after an overtime victory against the Dallas Stars at Enterprise Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

It was quite the week for Jordan Kyrou, the very talented but still incomplete 25-year-old St. Louis Blues forward in whom GM Doug Armstrong invested an eight-year commitment to help lead the team’s next generation.

As so often seems to happen today (see: John Tavares, New York Islanders), outsiders who are completely clueless to the local context tsk-tsk’d Blues fans for having the nerve to boo Kyrou on the evening after he seemed to gloss over the significance of coach Craig Berube’s firing.

Most know, or should know, the story: Kyrou was one of — okay, by far the most prominent — young forward under Berube who had lots of talent but persistently failed to pick up the “complete game” traits necessary, who was often seen being too casual on the defensive side of the puck, whose performance outside of the offensive side left many wondering whether it was hockey IQ or effort that was lacking. (Or, ye gods, hopefully not both.)

This impression is not new, and it built up over a period of years — so people who clutched their pearls about Kyrou being booed Thursday are clueless. When Armstrong went into the offseason saying he needed to learn more about what makes young players tick, everyone knew he was thinking first and foremost of Kyrou, who scored lots of goals last year but was on the ice for far more against. When in post-loss pressers Berube or new captain Brayden Schenn or other leaders referenced guys needing to step up, to show full commitment, etc. … many fans would be certain Kyrou was who they had in mind.

So while outsiders thought it an atrocity that Blues fans booed Kyrou’s introduction and booed him when he carried the puck on Thursday night after Berube’s firing — and after he gave the unfortunate “No comment, he’s not my coach anymore” while teammates were giving proper Berube eulogies — many around St. Louis saw it for what it was: The fanbase’s best, and perhaps last, opportunity to deliver Kyrou some tough love: What you’re doing, it’s not good enough.

Truly, this doesn’t have much to do with his scoring slump this season. His shooting percentage is lower and it’s likely to level out…and he’s even made strides in his all-around game (at Berube’s long, repeated, persistent urging) so he can be forgiven for losing some offense as he makes that adjustment. No, this was a message to a guy for whom the franchise has been veeeerry patient.

There’s a reason Robert Thomas had a role on the Blues’ 2019 Stanley Cup team, and it wasn’t for a lack of desire on the franchise’s part. Thomas’ game matured much earlier; Kyrou’s game clearly needed more time. And more time. And yet more time.

Is This the Kyrou Redemption?

After Kyrou was audibly booed during Thursday’s game, the first under interim coach Drew Bannister, the Blues and Kyrou did a few important things. First, they made him available to face the music in the post-game. He was allowed to answer questions about the booing and afforded a second chance to acknowledge that Berube, you know, kind of had an impact here.

Second, Kyrou addressed the situation head-on. Sure, it may be complete bullshit that he meant no swipe or brush-aside by his “no comment, not my coach” from earlier that day; but he said how much the booing hurt, how much he loves playing here, and he acknowledged Berube’s impact.

Judging by his near-tears and conceding it was his toughest game as a Blue, perhaps the booing shook Kyrou awake in a way Berube never could.

Hopefully he, and certainly the team, is now well aware that there are many who perceive Kyrou’s inconsistent effort and failure to develop into a player to be trusted in all three zones was one of the leading causes for the symptoms that prompted Berube’s firing.

The final step to getting this redemption arc on the right foot was Kyrou’s performance against the Dallas Stars on Saturday night, an overtime win. Kyrou scored a goal using his strength — breakaway speed down the outside — and he also assisted on the OT winner by driving down the right wing to create the rebound that Colton Parayko converted.

He received ovations and love from Blues fans on both occasions, and after he was named first star, he followed it up with an epic post-game interview that will surely endear him to the Blues faithful.

This equation isn’t hard. Give full effort (in all phases of the game), reap the rewards of a blue collar-oriented fanbase. But it has taken several seasons to sink in, and perhaps it took a chiding from the fanbase, too.

Here’s hoping it lasts. Bannister took the opportunity to praise Kyrou after the game, and elaborated on how he displayed attention to some video work they discussed prior to the game.

Good of him to take that coaching to heart this time.