The blockbuster trade of the NHL deadline saw Ryan Miller and Steve Ott pack their bags and head to the Gateway to the west. Fans reactions vary across the board, but no one seems to be excited to see Steve Ott. Ryan Miller has been described as an All-World goalie. His play is certainly on par with Jaro Halak, who he replaces. The difference being that Miller was doing so with the leagues 2nd worst defense. Halak had the luxury of sitting behind the leagues 2nd best defense. People will question whether or not the move was worth it. They will ask if Miller is really the answer when scoring goals was our problem against the LA Kings.
Their argument is valid. We gave away Chris Stewart, who at times was a dominant force on the ice. His biggest problem was if he wasn't lighting the lamps at breakneck speed, he wasn't doing anything at all. Had he gone on a streak of goals during the playoffs, he could have been what the Blues needed to get over the hump. The strategy of betting on a streaky player to get hot a just the right time, however, is a recipe for failure.
I have heard the argument that our grind it out style of play simply doesn't work against the Kings. From the looks of our recent record against them, I would agree. There is part of that puzzle that is missing, however. Against teams the Blues are able to overpower and bully, we always seem to find a way to win, regardless if we do not match up to their skill level. A team I liken this to is the Chicago Blackhawks. Chicago has arguably the most talented team in all of hockey, but this season they are winless against St Louis. Each of these games has been a hard fought, playoff style game. Though they were all close games, the Blues were able to muscle their way through.
Will one more hard nosed hockey player make the difference when we're talking about LA instead of Chicago? I would like to highlight one reason that it just might. I present to you, the case of Andy McDonald. He was a great player who even had the honor of raising a Stanley Cup during his time with the Ducks. Why then am I pointing to him in our own loss on the road to the cup? Shortly after the season and our loss to the Kings, McDonald hung up his skates. The reason he cited was concussions. They are a monster hiding in the dark, waiting to take gifted athletes away from the game. No one cam blame him for his decision to retire, and I personally wish Andy the very best.
In his final playoff run with the Blues, McDonald had 0 points in 6 games against the Kings. I can recall at the time of his retirement that press articles read he seemed to take a step back against the aggressive play of the Kings. He seemed worried one more hit might be his last. In the 2011-2012 season, McDonald played 9 games in the playoffs with the Blues. He scored 10 points in those games, with only 2 of them coming against the physical play of the Kings.
Steve Ott, for all of the negative feedback, is 6th in the NHL in hits, behind David Backes at #5. I can't say I have followed his career in depth, nor do I claim to be a Steve Ott homer, nor an expert. From what I have read, seen with my own eyes from games this season and in the past, Steve Ott doesn't seem to be the kind of player who would wilt in the face of the LA Kings. When we needed our players to step up their physicality and not be bowled over by an equally physical force, some responded, some did not. While there have been multiple changes to the roster since last season, I for one see Steve Ott as an asset. In all the games leading up to our almost inevitable collision with the Kings in the playoffs, Steve Ott might be nothing less than a goon, an after thought to the trade that brought us a big name goalie. I don't want to see the Blues try to change who they are. We are a working class team from a working class town. We are a team built on tough, working, players. They find a way to win when no one flinches, and they all go to work together. I can't imagine Steve Ott, of all players, deciding not to show up for work because someone is bigger than him.Maybe, just maybe, Steve Ott could be a silver lining that no one saw.