So, another season has came and gone, full of highs, lows, shocking trades, and Vancouver blowing it. So, more or less just a regular season I suppose.
So, on the dawning of a new year, I say we take a look at the Blues current crop of players, both on the active roster and youngsters. So, I’m going to go over what I feel like are the Blues most valuable commodities. 20 Forwards, 10 Defensemen, 3 Goalies. Feel free to state your own opinions on who should be higher, lower, not on the list at all, what have you.
1. Chris Stewart- Okay, I think the safe assumption here is to assume every Blues fan reading this just about shat themselves when the Blues made the trade to acquire Stew and Kirk, right? I can’t exactly remember what my first thought about this trade was, but I think it was something similar to “Wait, we traded Johnson and McClement!? This is god damn bullshit!” However, a good percentage of us looked at that trade a while, and thought “You know, this isn’t a bad move. Lets hope it works out” Then we saw both Stewart and Kirk play for us for a couple months. And I don’t want to be putting the horse in front of the carriage here, but I’m going to call it like I see it. If you asked yourself about that trade now, you’d probably say “I think we got a steal on this one”. Stewart was the best player in the trade, at least right now, and I don’t think there’s any debating that. And while Avalanche fans like to think that he’s already reached his upside, honestly, I think Stew is not only a perennial 30 goal scorer barring injury, I wouldn’t be surprised for him to get to the 40 range before it’s all said and done. He had 28 goals last year despite missing 20 games. He’s 23. And he’s also our franchise RW. Thanks Avs!
2. Patrick Berglund- It’s never been a matter of talent with Berglund. He has every single tool you’d want out of a potential first line C. But last year, the production was dreadful (26 points in 71 games), and on multiple occasions he was a healthy scratch. His name was coming up in trade talks. Then, in the second half, he fucking woke up with a bang. Berglund ended up with 52 points in 81 games, still not an amazing tally, but his impact in the last couple months post the Stewart trade isn’t debatable. Whether it was watching a fellow “alleged” party boy be traded that sobered him up, or if was simply that Berglund is going to be able to play the Stastny to Stewart’s… well, Stewart, I’m not sure, but it didn’t lie. And then, just to make me a bit more excited, he goes out and leads the World Championships in goals. And if you are worried about how slowly he’s developing, remember he has more points then either Sedin Twin in their first 3 years. Barring injury, anything out of Berglund below 60 points next year is a let down.
3. David Backes- Oh Captain my unofficial Captain! Backes was exactly what we wanted him to be this year. 31 Goals. 31 Assists. +32. 213 hits. Backes was unquestionably the MVP of the forward group (and Petro while adding a bit of a “what about me” isn’t enough to catch up total), Backes has to be one of the best power forwards in the game, and the expected pick to wear the C on day one next season.
4. Alex Steen- Alex Steen is as unsexy a player as the Blues have (no offense Alex). We got him basically as an afterthought in the trade to get Carlo Coliacovo. Toronto had given up on him. And when he started here, he was just a 4th line player. Then he started to earn a bit bigger role with the good play of the Mc-Steen-Been line. He showed a willingness to just shut up and shoot the puck. He put up 24 goals and 47 points in his second year in the Note, despite playing in only 68 games. He was called by some *cough cough* the team MVP. But he still went into the year considered a 3rd line player. So what did he do? Just kept plugging along, playing his incredibly unsexy but effective game. 20 goals, 51 points. Steen is versatile, has played PP and PK in his time here. More or less, he’s a perfect 2nd line winger.
5. Vladimir Tarasenko- So yes, Vlad isn’t coming over this year. That sucks. But, lets face facts here. The Tank is still a huge part of our building plans, potentially a 3rd truly elite Power Forward in the Blues grasp. Hockey’s Future has him ranked as the 6th best prospect (pre-draft) in the league, 3rd among forwards, 1st among wingers. His numbers dipped a bit this year, but it’s worth mentioning that he had more points in his first 3 years in the KHL then Ovechkin did. I didn’t fucking stutter, that’s a legit fucking stat. Also, Vladdy was the Cap of the Russian team that sent the Canadians home weeping in the World Juniors, proclaiming some of his teammates to call him “The best captain they’ve had in their life”. And, if you believe the rumors, despite having a decently bad injury, told his coach he wasn’t leaving the game in the 1st period, before getting points on the tieing and winning goals. And while I’m not going to get my hopes on with the Ovie comparison, I will say that if Tank had agreed to come over for this season, I’d have had him in the top 3.
6. David Perron- This writeup is depressing to write. If I knew for a fact if you told me Perron was going to be in the lineup day one with no problems, he’d be top 3. But I can’t tell you that. I can’t even tell you we will see Perron at all this year. Concussions are fucking scary things. I’ll keep the negative short and say if Perron comes back fully healthy, he’s a very very legit piece of the puzzle. First Line LW with Berglund and Stewart sounds terrific to me. Now, we just have to hope and prey.
7. TJ Oshie- I’m going to be honest here. I really like TJ Oshie. I do. But if we let him get to RFA and someone goes past that mark that means we get a 1st and 3rd for him (assuming it’s not from a constant powerhouse)? I let him walk. Now now, calm down with the pitchforks my friends, here me out. As much as you love TJ Oshie, look yourself in the mirror and ask yourself: Do you think TJ Oshie will ever be a legitimate 1st line player. If you just said yes, you’re either incredibly optimistic or a kool-aid drinker. I love Teej’s effort, but he screams “good 2nd line player” to me. And, honestly? We have a guy that’s just like that in Alex Steen. Right now, I consider TJ a 3rd liner for us, assuming Perron’s health. I can’t in good conscience place him above Stew, Berg, Perron, Steen, Backes, or McDonald. That makes him our 7th forward. If someone offers him 3 million plus a season, are you willing to match that to keep a 3rd liner here and turn down a 1st and 3rd in exchange? Just a question for you guys to consider. Though, I’d renew in a heartbeat if they just stick to the 2nd rounder area.
8. Matt D’Agostini- Remember that Aaron Palushaj kid? Wonder what he’s up to about now… So, remember when the Blues took this kid on for Aaron and we all thought “Wait, why the fuck are we doing this?” Then, we traded for Halak and thought “Oh, we wanted to get in their good graces to secure having first crack at whichever goalie they give up. Well played!” Well, no, that wasn’t right either. In his first full season as a Blue, Matt added to our list of “Proof we can make any Canadian team look stupid on a good day” evidence. 21 goals, 25 assists, +8, and played all 82 games for us. Now, he’s going back to the 3rd line role, just like Steen did last year, but… honestly? I’m not sure if I expect him to stay there. He’s another RFA, and another guy I’m letting walk if someone is willing to give up a 1st for him, but hey, if we got a 1st and 3rd round pick turnover on unloading an unproven 2nd rounder, we still come out on top, right? Chances are, he returns with a contract in the 2 mill range, and we get to see if the 24 year old can improve on his breakout year.
9. Andy McDonald- Make no mistake, if this was based on this year alone, McDonald is top 5. But it’s not and A-Mac isn’t a youngster anymore. Make no mistake, that doesn’t take away from his game. 50 points in 58 games and a +19 kinda justifies the contract we gave Mac if he keeps up points at that pace. Now if he can put up that type of PPG production over 82, We’ll really be getting somewhere.
10. Jaden Schwartz- I might have Jaden low here in comparison to Tank, but meh. Jaden is a hell of a prospect. It’s worth noting we took him higher then we took Berglund, Perron, or Osh in fact. Schwartz had a terrific first year in College, with 47 points in 30 games. I got a chance to watch him at the Frozen Four, and while nothing in particular jumped out at me about his game, him being the driving force behind Colarado College destroying defending champ Boston College. Hockeys Future has him ranked the 15th best prospect in the league pre-draft, top 10 among forwards, they say Schwartz has 1st line potential. Time will tell, but his first year of college has left plenty to be optimistic about.
11. Vladimir Sobotka- It’s hard to dislike Vodka. And it’s hard to dislike Vladimir Sobotka too. After hearing how Sobotka “Needed to accept he’s only a 4th line player” from some Boston media types, Vladdy showed he’s a perfectly fine 3rd liner, potentially even a 2nd line talent. 29 points in 65 games is nothing to sneeze at for a guy at only 23. If the season started now, I’d have Vodka centering the 3rd line with Osh and Dags at the wings, but I think most want us to sign another center to push him down to line 4, which I like the idea of. Vodka is a solid top 9 contributer mixed with a very good 4th line energy player that can be bumped up in case of an injury. If you can say Sobotka is your 11th best piece at forward, your doing some things right I say.
12.Phillip McRae- While the -10 in 15 games isn’t very encouraging, it was a solid first year with playing pro hockey for McRae. A solid contributer in Peoria all year long, I think McRae is going to be a fine 3rd line player for us down the road. I don’t think that includes this year, but who knows. I’d like to see Phil get a full year down at Peoria, but possibly joining as a 4th liner for the Blues is possible
13. BJ Crombeen- Lets be honest here. We know what we get with Crombeen. While it would be nice for him to go back to his 12 goal, 22 point 08, He’s basically a guy who will net you a bit more then a handful of goals a year, get around 15 points, hit some people, and have some fights. He’s not a unique player, but I wouldn’t say he’s bad at his job. 4th Line Winger Specialist.
14. Adam Cracknell- You know, while some where throwing around jokes about Adam, I was actually really liking his play basically from the moment he got called up. Now, I’m not saying Cracknell would make a good top 6 forward or anything, but Cracknell seems like a guy I’d really like to stay in a 4th line role personally. Maybe even a little more. In the Blues last 4 games, he was averaging more then 13 minutes per game, and he had 2 goals, an assist, and was +3. I know, small sample size, but I think this kid can play in the NHL right now. I say if we get another forward, he fits on line 4 with Vodka and Been.
15. Sebastion Wannstrom- Bumping him up a few spots since he signed a contract. Wannstrom, the Blues most recent 2nd round pick, didn’t have a great year in the SEL, but he did have a solid run in the World Juniors. Not sure if his new contract means he’ll be in Peoria next year, but keeps your fingers crossed.
16. Ryan Reaves- Well, he’s our next tough guy. Better overall then Cam, though not the showman in fights. He prefers just to bludgeon. I’m a fan of bludgeoning, so that works.
17.Stefan Della Rovere- Basically, Rovere a PK guy/guy the opposing teams fans and players want to maul. A darkhorse candidate to compete for a 4th line job next year, and maybe a 3rd line role down the road.
18.TJ Hensick- Hasn’t played well at this level, but is an important piece in Peoria. Having him to educate some of the younger guys is wise.
19, Nicklas Drazenovic- Has stepped into being a good producer at the AHL level, got a brief look at the NHL and didn’t show much. Will probably be a callup if we have more forward injury problems in the front line next year.
20. Tyler Shattock- To be honest, it’s partially because he’s been impressive at every level so far…. But mostly just because I love his name. Heh heh… Shattock.
Well, that’s the forwards for you. I should be able to post my thoughts on the D-Men and Goalies tomorrow. Discuss or don’t.