GM Doug Armstrong says COVID-19 affected Blues in return to play

St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong. (Jeff Roberson/AP)

St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong revealed on Wednesday that several members of team contracted COVID-19 during the league hiatus earlier this year, which he believes ultimately affected their performance in the Edmonton bubble.

“Of our regular players I think we had like 20 per cent of those guys that had COVID at some point,” Armstrong told reporters on Wednesday during his end-of-season media availability, also stating that those who tested positive experienced some symptoms.

“When they were quarantining, they couldn’t go to the gym, they couldn’t do certain things,” he explained. “It affected each of the players differently. Some lost a considerable amount of weight. They all felt some form of a symptom. It wasn’t that they had it and they didn’t feel anything.”

In early July, during Phase 2 of the NHL’s return to play plan, the Blues were forced to close their training facility for a few days after multiple players tested positive for COVID-19.

Armstrong acknowledged a number of factors that potentially played into the team falling short, saying they “had a lot going on around them.”

“The mindset was always to be competitive and to play hard, but they had a lot going on around them. I think four or five guys just had babies or were going to have babies,” he said. “The information on the COVID was changing every day on who it was going to affect — you know, older people, younger people, babies. And it took us a while . . . I thought we got the most comfortable when we finally got to Edmonton. I don’t think we were comfortable leading into Edmonton. And I think that showed early on in our first couple weeks there.”

The Blues, who sat atop the Western Conference at the time of the season suspension, struggled to hit their stride once competition resumed earlier this month. They went winless in round-robin play, falling to the fourth seed, and were eliminated by the Vancouver Canucks in Game 6 of Round 1.

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