Blues Year-End Report Card: Forwards

Jonathan Daniel

It's the end of the season, and we've all had time to sit back and evaluate the team. Who made the mark? Who needs to be held back? The answers may (not) surprise you.

We've waited a sufficient amount of time after the end of the Blues' season to discuss their performance. The wounds have healed, the anger and irritation have (kind of) subsided, and we as writers on St. Louis Game Time can now approach these ratings objectively and -

Oh, who am I kidding? Screw that.

I've asked the writers on this fine blog to grade the players' performances this season. Like a group of teachers forced to collaborate, they've sat down and compared students' grades, and have come to different conclusions. That, right there, is why collaboration is useless and should never be done. Ever.

I don't play well with others (no way), ergo I have decided to give this entirely over to the gang here. There've been some disagreements, and those'll be hammered out between writers (which explains the unique formatting - I let them handle it in their own style). You may agree or disagree as well, and you know just what you can do with that? Put it in the comments.

Today we're looking at the top forwards for the Blues, or the guys who are usually put in the top six.

Donut King:

Alexander Steen

· Regular Season Numbers: 68 GP, 33 G, 29 A, +17

· Postseason Numbers: 6 GP, 1 G, 2 A, -2

· Analysis: His play in October and November earned him a nice contract extension for the next five seasons, and his steady defensive play never really fell off. For all intents and purposes, this was Steen’s breakout season. I am still concerned about his concussion history (he had another one this year) and his postseason left much to be desired, but he should continue to contribute highly to this team’s success.

· GRADE: A

T.J. Oshie

· Regular Season Numbers: 79 GP, 21 G, 39 A, +19

· Postseason Numbers: 5 GP, 2 G, 0 A, -3

· Analysis: Speaking of breakout years . . . Timothy Leif Oshie, Jr. had that and more this year. Incredible setup plays on the top line (leading to his first 60+ point season), stellar forechecking and backchecking, becoming a father and being engaged to be married and . . . oh yeah, that Olympic thing was pretty neat. At age 27, he’s just now reaching his prime, and he seems to have this hockey thing figured out. Again, though, that postseason was a downer.

· GRADE: A

David Backes

· Regular Season Numbers: 74 GP, 27 G, 30 A, +14

· Postseason Numbers: 4 GP, 0 G, 1 A, -3

· Analysis: He’s yet to instill himself as the kind of Captain Brian Sutter was, but if he keeps having seasons like this, he will very soon. He was perhaps the most important player on the top line night in and night out, and when he was missing (which, unfortunately, happened a few times this season), it was felt pretty deeply. Now over 30, Backes may be on a decline, but he’s still pretty damn good. Now, if he only hadn’t broken a toe blocking a shot late in the season . . . .

· GRADE: A-

Jaden Schwartz

· Regular Season Numbers: 80 GP, 25 G, 31 A, +28

· Postseason Numbers: 6 GP, 1 G,2 A, -4

· Analysis: Jaden Schwartz established himself firmly as a part of the Top Six of this franchise for many years to come with his play this season, not only on the opponents’ side of the blue line but on the back end as well. He’s diminutive, sure, but he’s stocky and showed he would not get pushed around. And he’s only 21. What a future for this kid.

· GRADE: A-

Vladimir Tarasenko

· Regular Season Numbers: 64 GP, 21 G, 22 A, +20

· Postseason Numbers: 6 GP, 4 G, 0 A, +1

· Analysis: Far and away, Tarasenko was the best forward the Blues had in the postseason, and he did this despite having a cast on his still-healing broken hand. His regular season wasn’t too damn shabby either. And like Schwartz, he’s still very young with plenty of room to grow, and he seems to have taken to Ken Hitchcock’s system quite well while still being able to play his brand of hockey.

· GRADE: A-

Vladimir Sobotka

· Regular Season Numbers: 61 GP, 9 G, 24 A, +14

· Postseason Numbers: 6 GP, 0 G, 3 A, +2

· Analysis: He just now reached the peak years of his career. He’s shown himself to be an incredible face-off winner and defensive player. He may be overplayed as a second-line center and hopefully the team will find someone better suited for that role this offseason, but the notion that he embarrassed himself in such a role is well overstated. Also, hopefully he can stay healthy for once.

· GRADE: A-

CCR:

Alexander Steen

A

Career year, a repeat is too much to expect next year, but should be team-leader again. consistency/ staying healthy will be needed next year

T.J. Oshie

A+

Career year, looking forward to next year as role expands,

David Backes

A-

2nd best year of career, good rebound, still a problem w/ PIMS

Jaden Schwartz

A+

Career year, continues to impress. more on the way

Vladimir Tarasenko

A+

career year, best possession player all year. Opponents will be playing him tougher next year


Vladimir Sobotka

B+

career year, #1 in faceoffs,one of the best possession players on team, though sometimes miscast

RobbTufts:

My grades were based on the player usage chart data.  Players that went up against tougher competition, had positive possession numbers, and scored at least 2 goals per 60 minutes of 5v5 ice time got A’s. Positive possession against tough competition and at least 1 goal per 60 received B’s. The rest got C’s.  I only graded players who had played at least 41 games.

Backes

A

Oshie

A

Schwartz

A

Sobotka

B

Steen

A

Tarasenko

A

CanesAndBluesFan:

Vladimir Tarasenko

64

20

18.62

0.581

1040

900k

Alexander Steen

68

17

16.16

0.571

990

3.4m

Vladimir Sobotka

61

14

15.32

0.567

995

1.3m

Jaden Schwartz

80

28

13.75

0.565

1035

830k

David Backes

74

14

11.45

0.555

1011

4.5m

T.J. Oshie

79

19

9.15

0.545

1014

4.18m

Overall, I would give the Blues' forwards a C-. Seventh in the NHL in Goals For but 22nd in the league in total Shots For. At Even Strength, 13th in Corsi For, 15th in Fenwick For, and 19th in Shots For.

Tarasenko I would give an A. His +/- is inflated by his high PDO. Pretty much the only guy who seemed to be a threat to score in the playoffs.

Steen gets an A-. Over the last several years, he has been one of the very best two-way forwards in the league. At $3.4m he's a steal. I've seen some complaining on SLGT about his new deal. $5.8m seems about right to me.

Sobotka seems to get less love than I would expect. His Corsi numbers are better than Schwartz and his cap hit is half-way between Morrow and Lapierre. Add in 61.9% on faceoffs and he gets an A- from me.

Schwartz, like Tarasenko, had his +/- inflated by his high PDO. Still, for $830k, good possession numbers. An A- for Schwartz.

B+ for Backes. Good but not great numbers.

B+ for Oshie. His possession numbers look about like Bergy, but Oshie had 60 points, Bergy 32. Plus, I don't think I have ever yelled "C'mon, Oshie! Do something!"

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