By Brad Lee
Blues fans have seen a glimpse of the future since the Dallas Stars game Feb. 3. Andy Murray has mixed the lines up to a degree and has placed center Jay McClement, a second-year player, between wingers Lee Stempniak, a fellow sophomore, and rookie David Backes. When the defensive rotation has been right at times, the defensemen behind them have been second-year man Dennis Wideman and quasi second-year player Jeff Woywitka (he played 26 games for the Blues last season and 12 this year). That's a combined 422 games of experience for five players. Keith Tkachuk and Bill Guerin have played in more than 1,960 combined games.
But as we've discussed, Guerin and Tkachuk most likely won't be Blues players in two weeks. These five guys could be here for several seasons to come. Stempniak turned 24 Feb. 4 and is the oldest player of the five.
It's been a good week for the five youngsters. Backes had two goals including the game winner Wednesday at Columbus. In the last five games the five have combined for four goals and six assists. The three forwards had a rough game in the 6-5 loss to San Jose Tuesday with each posting a -3 rating, but they bounced back with the strong performance in Columbus.
As this team moves closer to the deadline and players are inevitably moved for prospects and picks, these five will be counted on to play even larger roles moving forward. It should be interesting to see how close to 30 goals Stempniak can get (he has 17 before Friday's game against Nashville). Backes will have more than half a season under his belt before embarking on his first full NHL campaign next year. McClement needs to stay strong defensively. Woywitka has show flashes of being an important contributor moving foward. Wideman has shown he can be a major contributor on the power play and pinching in on the offensive end, but he still has a penchant for taking too many chances in his own end.
These five represent where this team is now and where it's going. They are the building blocks of the St. Louis Blues.