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Grading The Blues: Forwards

David Backes broke out this year for the Blues.

<em>Photo by A.J. D'Angelo</em>
David Backes broke out this year for the Blues. Photo by A.J. D'Angelo

Honestly, we'd rather be writing up silly One Act Theater pieces and posting goofy video, but with the end of the season, there's always the obligation to look back at the players and how they did last year. In addition, we always have to look forward to next season and anticipate what the team will look like when they line up for game one in October.

Thus, the third part of our grading series, this time we will look at all of the forwards* and evaluate them in terms of three categories:

What we know

What we think we know

What we wish we knew

*not all the forwards. Sometimes we lie. Sorry.

David Backes

#42 / Right Wing / St. Louis Blues



May 01, 1984

2008 - David Backes 82 31 23 54 -3 165 6 2 1 2 208 14.9

What we know: David Backes is all that is man. When the Canucks offered him a contract last summer as a restricted free agent, the $7.5 million, three-year deal looked to be exorbitant. Without the offer, it looked like the Blues would have signed Backes for between $1.5 and $1.8 million a season, not $2.5. For a player coming off a career-high 13 goal, 31 point season, it seemed ridiculous, but the Blues quickly matched the offer.


Clearly, the Canucks and Blues both knew what they were doing.

Backes immediately started earning his new, higher pay with a break-out season where he more than doubled his career goals total with 31, tallied a career-high 54 points, piled up a power-forward expected 165 PIM and led the team with 204 hits, 77 more than the next closest Blue (Brad Winchester) and good for 18th in the league.

On top of all of that, he was openly discussed as a potential future team captain. $2.5 million is starting to look like a bargain.

What we think we know: Backes' performance doesn't look to be a fluke, because he did the little things that lead to the big things so well. There's no reason to believe that Backes will start to shy away from his hitting game, which causes turnovers and sends messages. Most of his goals are scored in deep and there's no reason to believe that he'll suddenly believe himself to be the Brad Boyes sniper-type.

David Backes is going to likely continue to stay at these types of totals and continue to play this type of game. We'd love to say he's going to get better, but it makes us giggle like a little girl just to consider that, so we just hope it happens rather than allow ourselves to believe it.

What we wish we knew: Why people continue to deny the irresistable force that is Backes. Just this week someone said to us, "He's no 30 goal scorer; four of them came in one game."

Besides the bad math, those four came in a win against Detroit. A 31-goal scorer who can put up four in Detroit seems like a positive, not a negative.

Patrik Berglund

#21 / Center / St. Louis Blues



Jun 02, 1988

2008 - Patrik Berglund 76 21 26 47 19 16 7 0 1 0 143 14.7

What we know: Berglund was at times inspiring, at times very good, at times mediocre and at times invisible. In other words, he was a rookie. Lucky for Blues fans, he was a very good rookie. Finishing fourth in the NHL with 47 points in 76 games he staked his claim to the second line center spot for years to come.


Berglund played his best when on the ice with fellow rookie TJ Oshie and sophomore David Perron, which is another great sign for Blues fans who want to see the kids grow together.

What we think we know: Berglund was shut out and marginalized during the playoffs. We like to think that a competitor who became a first-round draftee and a highly touted rookie will be embarrassed by his playoff no-show. In a perfect world, his first taste of playoff disappointment will make Berglund that much more dangerous next year and beyond.

What we wish we knew: Berglund looked to be an excellent second-line center, a job he could hold in St. Louis for a long time. Does he have the drive and skill to go beyond that? Can he becoem the elusive first-line center that the team so desperately needs? 

Brad Boyes

#22 / Right Wing / St. Louis Blues



Apr 17, 1982

2008 - Brad Boyes 82 33 39 72 -20 26 16 0 11 0 220 15.0

What we know:
Brad Boyes backed up the promise of last season's breakout 42-goal season with another 33 this time around. On top of that, Boyes scored clutch goals, tallying over 25% of the game-winning goals for the Blues this year (11 GWG; Blues won 41 games).

Boyes is supposedly a center, but the Blues have made Toronto, San Jose and Boston all wish that maybe they should have tried him at wing. Already dismissed from the discussions of "the young Blues" Boyes is just 27 years old and coming into his prime.

We all expect more from Boyes next year, not less. He wasn't getting the headlines this year, but he took another step in making himself a legitimate NHL first-liner.

What we think we know: On the down side, Boyes too many times tried to make the perfect shot and wound up missing the scoring opportunity completely. Coming into the season he said in an interview that he watched tape from the previous year and realized he tried to pick the top corners too often, rather than just getting the puck on net. He then said he was going to make an effort to hit the 4-by-6 more often than trying for the corners.

This year Boyes reverted to picking corners, which are pretty when they hit, but when they miss usually end up rimming around and out of the offensive zone. Boyes needs to try to be less perfect and he might find that either he'll hit net more often or that his shots will turn into dangerous rebounds.

What we wish we knew: Despite leading the Blues in goals and assists, the first time one player has led both categories for the team since Pavol Demitra did it in 2002-03. And still, he found himself taking a back seat in popularity and in media coverage to the Kid Line.

Here's hoping that Boyes is comfortable enough with who he is and what his role on the team is to ignore that, because short of a 50-goal season, that's the way it's going to go for the forseeable future.

B.J. Crombeen

#26 / Right Wing / St. Louis Blues



Jul 10, 1985

2008 - B.J. Crombeen 81 12 10 22 -9 148 0 1 3 0 124 9.7

What we know: When the Blues picked Crombeen off waivers from the Stars there were two prevailing storylines; the Stars and their players were not happy to lose their former second-round pick and the Blues were happy to grab another scion of a former Blue. It looked like another PR opportunity for a team desperate to sell tickets.


Crombeen, however, proved to be a good pick-up and far more valuable than just a PR move. His hat trick against Nashville in December may have been a fluke, but his every-game hustle and willingness to hit, punish and give up the body for the team's greater good  made him a favorite of many fans.

What we think we know: Crombeen had a sketchy playoff series, taking a couple bad penalties, but he has plenty going for him. First off, he's the son of former Blue Mike Crombeen, who scored a double-overtime winner against the Pens in 1981 that is still well-remembered by the long-time fans. Second, he's just 23 years old and fits well with the Blues in terms of age, mentality and salary. Three, as the Blues' depth fills out, a future, long-term line of Crombeen, McClement and Winchester sounds so great it's shocking they're with the Note.

What we wish we knew: Which Crombeen can we expect to see in the playoffs next year; the hard-charging smart-playing Crombeen of the regular season or the hard-charging, poor-decision-making Crombeen of this year's playoffs?

Lars Eller

#61 / Center / St. Louis Blues



May 08, 1989

What we know: Eller has been a boy playing with men for a couple seasons now, and everyone within the Blues organization and everyone who watches the Blues organization hopes that means a smooth transition to the NHL.


Eller, by most accounts, should be even better than Patrik Berglund.

Eller has also undergone two major surgeries since being drafted by the Note, once for a broken wrist and this year for a separated shoulder.

What we think we know: Two things we know about what we think we know. First, we never take too much stock in injuries, illness and other health factors that people use to evaluate players. We don't care that people thing TJ Oshie's game is too rambunctious for a small player and could get him killed one day. We couldn't care less that Alex Pietrangelo had mono during his draft year.

Likewise, we don't care that Eller seems 'injury-prone' to some folks. We care how he stands up and how he plays when he's wearing the Note. Hopefully he's getting all his bad injuries out of the way before it matters.

Second, we're slow to believe the hype on prospects. Better than Patrik Berglund? Man, we hope so. Better than Patrik Berglund? Man, show us so. If it happens, we'll be right in line to order that Eller jersey and annoint him as the first-line center. But as a Blues fan, we've been told about the next best thing too many times before. Come in and show us, Eller. We're ready to believe. We just have to see it first.

What we wish we knew: Lars is a Dane and Danes are from Holland which is also the Netherlands. We hate to be so fucking American, but couldn't he just be a Danish Dane from Daneland or a Hollish Holl from Holland or a Nethish Netherlander from NeverNeverland?

Dan Hinote

#13 / Right Wing / St. Louis Blues



Jan 30, 1977

2008 - Dan Hinote 51 1 4 5 -7 64 0 0 0 0 24 4.2

What we know: The three best things about Dan Hinote are 1) His wife is turbo-hot. 2) He lives near me. 3) Numbers one and two combine to mean that one day I might see his turbo-hot wife.


When Hinote came to the Blues we all hoped he'd becoem a fan-favorite. Not a scorer, Hinote could eat up important minutes and not be a liability, which is a great role for winning teams.

Unfortunately, Hinote would have probably been better off elsewhere during this time. We wanted to like Hinote. We wanted him to be a great role player. we wanted to hope the Blues would re-sign him.

We don't anymore.

What we think we know: "Thanks for the service, Dan. best of luck to you in your future endeavors. Let us know if we can ever help out with a positive recommendation."

What we wish we knew: Why don't you bring your wife when you're at the local Best Buy picking out DVDs in the "new Releases" aisle?

Cam Janssen

#55 / Right Wing / St. Louis Blues



Apr 15, 1984

2008 - Cam Janssen 56 1 3 4 -5 131 0 0 0 0 22 4.5

What we know: Cam SMASH! Cam KILL! Pride of Eureka Janssen made good this year. When he was acquired at the deadline in 2008 most Blues fans saw right throught the transaction: let's get the St. Louis kid and we'll sell more jerseys and tickets!


Since then, however, Janssen has been great. Somewhere between the end of last year and the start of this year either Janssen figured out how to play the game or someone on the coaching staff showed him the way. This year, Janssen hit when it was right to hit, fought when it was time to fight and, more importantly, avoided both when it wasn't appropriate.

Plus, he scored his first goal as a Blue this season, which must have been an amazing moment for a kid who grew up as a Blues fan and made his way through the local hockey programs.

What we think we know: Unless Gary Bettman finishes the job he was charged with completing and completely piussifies the NHL, there will always be a roster spot for a guy like Cam Janssen. If he continues to play smart and play his role we hope he has a long and distinguished career in the Note.

In fact, we hope to be at the game 15 years from now when his No. 55 is raised to the rafters as the first fighter and first St. Louis kid to have his number retired by the Blues.

What we wish we knew: Earlier this year Erik Johnson told the broadcast team that Janssen has the "biggest posse of anyone" on the team. Holy shit do we wish that was a reality TV show.

Paul Kariya

#9 / Left Wing / St. Louis Blues



Oct 16, 1974


2008 - Paul Kariya 11 2 13 15 1 2 0 0 0 1 31 6.5

What we know: Paul Kariya, you are a giant (tiny) cocktease.


Kariya played 11 games this year, scoring 15 points before he was knocked out of the lineup. He then had surgery on his hip which went so well that he had surgery on his other hip.

As the Blues then improved from 15th place to sixth place, Kariya came out of the shadows to tease fans with his potential return to the lineup.

It never happened and the Blues, short on offense against the Canucks, fell in the first round of the playoffs.

What we think we know: Kariya says he feels better physically than he has in years. He'll also be turning 35 early in the season, his last under contract. If Kariya can put up good numbers he will guarantee himself another two or three years worth of millions of dollars in salary either here or elsewhere.

We expect a good season out of him.

What we wish we knew: The Blues were the best team in 2009 until the playoffs. Would he have been enough of a difference against the Canucks?

D.J. King

#19 / Left Wing / St. Louis Blues



Jan 27, 1984

2008 - D.J. King 1 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.0

What we know: There's a reason everyone loves the fighters. King is a good guy, a good citizen, a good teammate and a fearless fighter. It's too bad that he missed all of the season with shoulder surgery. Even worse, it's too bad that NHL teams can't dress two fighters anymore, because a King/Janssen team would be a beautiful throwback to the days of Twist and Chase.


What we think we know: King and Janssen are both under contract for next year only. Unfortunately for King, NHL teams are like The Highlander now; there can be only one. Janssen's willingness to go, cheaper contract and higher PR value mean that he's the guy who will stay and King will be the guy who goes.

The Deej has one year to prove to another NHL team that he's worth having around or he'll be out of the big leagues. Here's hoping he does.

What we wish we knew: When the Blues clinched a playoff berth, King was in the owners' box, hanging right next to Dave Checketts. Seriously, how uncomfortable was he and , unrelatedly, how many toasted ravs did he knock down that night?

Jay McClement

#18 / Center / St. Louis Blues



Mar 02, 1983

2008 - Jay McClement 82 12 14 26 -10 29 0 3 3 1 137 8.8

What we know: Silent Jay became the player this year that we'd always hoped for him. We never wanted McClement to be a top-line guy. We wanted people to stop expecting McClement to be a 20-plus goal scorer and second-line pivot. We wanted McClement to be what he is now: a hard-skating penalty killer who can pot 10-15 goals a year and 20-30 points.


What we think we know: Silent Jay can be our version of New Jersey's John Madden; a Selke Tropht nominee, PK specialist and shorthanded scoring threat.

Every championship team needs a John Madden. Every championship team needs a Jay McClement.

What we wish we knew: We'd die laughing if we found out our 'Silent Jay' nickname was the total opposite of his actual persona.

Andy McDonald

#10 / Center / St. Louis Blues



Aug 25, 1977

2008 - Andy McDonald 46 15 29 44 -13 24 6 1 1 1 128 11.7

What we know: When he wasn't injured, Andy McDonald was one of the best players in Blue this year. In the playoffs, he was the best player in Blue.


When McDonald was acquired for Doug Weight last season, it was looked at as a fairly even trade. Both players were struggling, had similar salaries and could be counted on to be decent playmakers when on their games. Weight wasn't re-signed by the Ducks, Happy Meal was extended this season by the Blues.

What we think we know: McGriddles is here for the next four years, which is probably too long, but he'll be expected to be the first-line centerman until someone younger pries it away from him. We're comfortable with that.

What we wish we knew: How the hell a guy who is probably really no taller than 5'10 and 180 is so strong on the puck. Not only is he crazy-fast and silly-visionary with the puck, but the little waterbug is almost never knocked off the puck by determined defensemen. We love Dougie Weight and all, but this trade was damn steal for the Blues.

T.J. Oshie

#74 / Center / St. Louis Blues



Dec 23, 1986

2008 - T.J. Oshie 57 14 25 39 16 30 6 1 1 0 101 13.9

What we know: Look, what are we supposed to say here? TJ Oshie had more hype about him than any first round pick coming to this team, including first-overall selection Erik Johnson, than anyone we can remember (sorry Marty Reasoner).


We have oversold the Teej as much as anyone, calling him the King of St. Louis, printing the supposition that he could mouth-rape the Mayor and get away with it, inspiring someone to start their own site that convinced someone to break the law in his name.

But you know what? Fuck it; this kid is the future. TJ Oshie is this generation's Brian Sutter. He scores, he sets people up. He hits. He leads. Super-scout Jarmo Kekalainen drafted him on spot before the Oilers were ready to shock the world by taking him and grabbing the consensus third or fourth rounder with the 24th overall pick in 2005 has turned out to be a great move.

Let Backes be the captain, Oshie is our King. Long live the king. There are 29 teams that wish they had him in their lineup. Be glad he's in ours.

What we think we know: Everything we've ever heard, seen, written or believed about the Osh fell flat in the playoffs. Our theory? The Bermuda Cup plays every shift and every game at the top level, full bore, full-blast. In the playoffs everyone plays that way, negating his high-octane style.

But if he's really the next Sutter then we know this: the kid will find the next gear. In fact, we expect it. If Berglund is motivated by his poor performance to comeback better than before, we expect Oshie to come back four times better.

What we wish we knew: Seriuously, it's a Bermuda Cup, but it looks like a dish and we have no idea what it's awarded for. We'll trade you as much Jack's buttermilk sauce for the basic info. Name a place and a time, we'll make the trade.

David Perron

#57 / Left Wing / St. Louis Blues



May 28, 1988

2008 - David Perron 81 15 35 50 13 50 4 0 3 0 161 9.3

What we know: No sophomore slump for Perron. Lil Frenchie with the sick hands went from 13 goals and 27 points in 62 games as a Frosh to 15 goals and 50 points in 81 games in his second season. Better than that, Perron was not wilted by the heat of the playoffs. While he didn't exactly explode against Vancouver offensively (2 points in the four games), he did stand up to the more physical play.


What we think we know: Perron was rumored to be part of trade discussions this year but the team resisted moving him. We think that his movement forward this season was a good sign that he'll become a high-quality NHL talent and hopefully the team will resist the temptation to move him before he blossoms.

What we wish we knew: Perron seems to have figured out how to stay out of coach Andy Murray's doghouse, but he was a healthy scratch once and was demoted to the fourth line a couple times this season. We'd like to believe that he won't have any of those issues next year, but we can't say for certain that he's matured beyond the point of getting in trouble with the boss.

Yan Stastny

#25 / Center / St. Louis Blues



Sep 30, 1982

2008 - Yan Stastny 34 3 4 7 -14 20 0 0 0 0 30 10.0

What we know: He's not his father Peter and he's not his brother Paul, but the guy is all hustle. A useful player, the problem for Stastny is that he fills a role that the Blues already had a couple guys doing this year. He's a hitter and a banger who can play shorthanded and could chip in offensively from time to time.


What we think we know: with the coming exit of Dan Hinote from the roster, there may be a place for Stastny this year. If not, he has passed through waivers before and likely won't be claimed if it happens again this year.

What we wish we knew: We wish that brother Paul, who is signed long-term in Colorado, wanted out of Denver and really wanted to come play with his brother in the town where they spent much of their youth. Of course, we also wish our sink tap ran with beer and that pizza magically made itself around here too.

Alexander Steen

#20 / Left Wing / St. Louis Blues



Mar 01, 1984

2008 - Alexander Steen 81 8 20 28 -10 30 3 1 0 0 148 5.4

What we know: Steen came to St. Louis with Carlo Colaiacovo in the trade with Toronto for Lee Stempniak. At the time he was just one part of the two-for-one "we hope one of these guys pans out" deal. While Colaiacovo became more of an integral part of the team, Steen played excellent third-line minutes, saw some time (though largely unsuccessful) on the power play and showed flashes of offensive skill. He becomes a restricted free agent after next season.


What we think we know: Steen has a huge opportunity in front of him and will hopefully look to capitalize on that. Playing for a new contract, Steen could go one of three ways; 1) Become an offensive force, as he was hoped to be when drafted as a first rounder. 2) Become a great third line checker and penalty killer. 3) Fail to distinguish himself.

Unless he reaches option one, he likely won't be with the Blues beyond next season. He'll either be labeled a bust or will be too expensive to re-sign for defensive duties that can be done by someone cheaper.

What we wish we knew: Those flashes of silly offensive skill; would they appear more if given more time on a top line with better linemates or will they always be just flashes?

Keith Tkachuk

#7 / Center / St. Louis Blues



Mar 28, 1972

2008 - Keith Tkachuk 79 25 24 49 -11 61 14 0 4 0 185 13.5

What we know: Tkachuk, whose offensive numbers in St. Louis will never compare to what he put up in Winnipeg and Phoenix, managed to score 25 goals again this year (a number he has achieved in every NHL season where he he has played more than 50 games) despite spending most of his time with players who are not first-line material. He was also a great influence in the locker room by most accounts and continued to thrive on the power play.


He is an unresticted free agent this summer.

What we think we know: Tkachuk clearly wants to come back for his ninth and maybe even tenth seasons wearing the Bluenote. There are plenty of people who think he should move on down the road, but it's not every day that you can add a veteran leader to your lineup who will score 25 goals and who you know will mesh well with the team mentality.

Signing Tkachuk for two years at around $2 million a season seems to be the numbers everyone is kicking around and those are not unreasonable as it would leave the team plenty of money to go after another high-profile scorer.

What we wish we knew: Why people want to get rid of this guy. He's been a good citizen, a good player and a good teammate. If he's not re-signed the same people who want him gone will be looking for the team to acquire a guy just like him at the trade deadline next year. Why wait? Sign Walt.

Brad Winchester

#15 / Left Wing / St. Louis Blues



Mar 01, 1981

2008 - Brad Winchester 64 13 8 21 -1 89 5 0 3 1 82 15.9

What we know: Winchester, a second round pick of the Oilers in 2000, played a career-high in games this season (64), scored his career-high in goals (13) and tallied his highest number of points (21). He's a big body and he'll play in the dirty areas of the ice near the crease and in the corners.


He is an unrestricted free agent this summer.

What we think we know: If he can continue to play the way he was this year, Winchester can become a solid two-way forward who contributes 15-20 goals a year. He doesn't seem like a prototypical penalty killer and he isn't a first-unit power play guy. But he can play in those situations if needed and he's also a guy who can drop the mitts if required.

What we wish we knew: It's easy to guess the high end of his potential as discussed above. But this is the first time he has had a good, consistent season. He has the skillset but will he repeat that or was it contract year magic?