The St. Louis Blues made some moves in the off season in hopes of bolstering their team for a deep playoff run. With the season playing out well, more moves were made at the trade deadline. They acquired some old heroes and some pests, but exactly how good did they do?
This is an inexact science, thanks to coach Hitchcock. He mixes lines and players positions left and right. The natural winger Backes plays center, for instance. The emergence of Schwartz and Tarasenko have skewed the minutes of the new arrivals, but the comparisons are still relevant, though imperfect. For the purpose of this article, these are the players I will be comparing.
David Perron - Brenden Morrow
Andy Mcdonald - Derek Roy
Scotty Nichol - Maxim Lapierre
Chris Stewart - Steve Ott
I will not be looking at players such as Magnus Paajarvi, who took the place of the likes of Adam Cracknell and Chris Porter. I feel the stretch of comparing 1 player with minimal playing time over the course of the season to 2 players who split time would be difficult and inaccurate. What I am focusing on is how a player himself was replaced as much as that player's roll on the team. Let's jump in.
David Perron - Brenden Morrow
The Blues replaced the young Perron with the aging Morrow. Over his career, Morrow has been a powerful player. He has scored at least 20 goals 7 times since 1999. David Perron is 10 years Morrow's younger. He too has had a strong scoring career, he has never scored less than 10 goals in any of his 7 seasons, sans a 10 game season in 2010. Perron was traded to Edmonton for Magnus Paajarvi and a 2nd round pick. Though he wasn't directly replaced by Morrow, the players comparisons are the closest available. So how do Morrow and Perron stack up? This season Morrow has played 66 games, compared to Perron's 48 last season. I have taken the liberty of averaging Morrow's numbers as if he had played only 48 games this season, matching the number Perron played previously. When compared, Perron beats out Morrow in every major category but 1. Perron scored 1 more goal and 7 more assists on 17 more shots. These numbers seem minimal, but they do contribute to the Blues lack of scoring this season. Points aren't the only way Perron won out. His face-off win percentage is 4.3% better. Neither player took many face-offs, both being in the single digits. Neither player helped the team in penalties, with Perron committing 7 more than he drew over the course of the season. Morrow hasn't been far behind, averaging 5 more committed than drawn over the same time frame. The stat where Morrow excels is the hit. Morrow plays more physical than Perron. Morrow has 23 more hits than his predecessor. It's common knowledge that Hitch plays a forechecking, puck possession game. It could be argued that Morrow's extra hits make up for his lack of goals, but that's not true either. The new trendy stat in hockey is the corsi. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, its the number of shots your team puts up while a player on the ice compared to the number of shots the opposing team puts up. This stat measures puck possession and scoring chances, which over the course of a season translates to a more accurate depiction of play than the +/- stat. Perron's corsi for percentage was 52.6%. Meaning when he was on the ice, his team put up 2.6% more shots than the opposing team. When Morrow is on the ice, his corsi for percentage is 47.4%. Even with the extra hits, the Blues are shooting less and getting shot at more often with Morrow on the ice. It is hard to see much upside, by the looks of things, the Perron for Morrow swap was a downgrade.
Andy McDonald - Derek Roy
McDonald retired at the end of last season due to concussions. This is a stark difference in the Roy for McDonald swap. Instead of trading away a young player with many good years ahead of him, the Blues replaced an old veteran with a slightly younger veteran. Roy is no spring chicken at 30. McDonald saw his best offensive years with the Blues, but he had begun to fade with age. His story is very much like Roy, who's best years are behind him. McDonald's last season with the Blues was by far his worst with the club. Yet still, he compares favorably to Roy. The same mathematics were applied, equaling the number of games played between the two skaters. In the same time frame, McDonald scored 1 more goal, but tallied 1 fewer assists. The theory that Roy is better at setting up goals, even marginally, is also false. Roy had 1 fewer primary assist in the time frame. I think all will agree that secondary assists are a marginal stat, and the primary assist is far more important in most cases. Roy has also taken 29 fewer shots than McDonald. So he is not just scoring less, he is creating fewer scoring chances. Roy and McDonald both took similar number of face-offs. Roy again pales in comparison, winning 2.5% fewer times in the face-off circle. When McDonald announced his retirement due to concussions, it was speculated that he was tentative to lay hits, especially in the playoffs. Yet comparatively, he hits exactly twice as frequently as Roy. There is one stat where Roy has an advantage, the corsi. Roy's corsi percentage is 51%, which is 1.4% higher than McDonald. This may not be all Roy; however. A players "corsi percentage relative" shows how much better or worse a team's corsi is when that player is on the ice compared to when that player is off the ice. The Blues corsi percentage relative with Roy on the ice is -2.4%, whereas the same stat with McDonald on the ice is -1.9%. So while Roy has a slightly better corsi, the Blues on the whole were relatively better with McDonald on the ice. This swap smells very similar to that of Perron/Morrow. The only difference seems to be the ages.
Scotty Nichol - Maxim Lapierre
Lapierre was brought in with far less fanfare than Morrow or Roy. Lapierre is a pest. His job is to anger the other team, draw penalties, and check. He currently reigns as the 4th line center, often working with the least skilled players on the team. Nichol wasn't the picture of pest, like Lapierre, but he too was known for being more bad than good. Nichol made headlines often for late hits and injuring other players with dirty play. One such player was none other than Maxim Lapierre. Both players have served suspensions for dangerous foul play over the course of their careers. Unlike the previous moves, this is one the Blues got right. In the same time span, Lapierre has scored 2 more goals, and 2 more assists. Nichol scored only one goal last season, with no assists. Lapierre, for all his hatred as a pest, has dished some very fine pucks to the improving young talent that is Magnus Paajarvi. There is one big knock on Maxim, his impotence on the face-off. He has won 10% less face-offs than Nichol, who won 60.6% of his. Maxim has played a more physical game, notching 12 more hits. The fact that Lapierre has done more with relatively less is surprising when the corsi is brought to the table. Lapierre brings a 44.9% corsi, while Nichol registered 49.3%. Lapierre and the 4th line have produced more offense than Nichol's unit, but they have done so with a worse shot differential. Whether that is attributed to more skill, or blind luck, there is no way to know for certain.
Chris Stewart - Steve Ott
While they play different roles on the team, Chris Stewart was shipped to Buffalo with goalie Jaro Halak for Steve Ott and goalie Ryan Miller. Thus, they will be linked, as Stewart was removed and Ott was added. Stewart was a very hot and cold player. He is famous for being unstoppable, followed by the complete inability to make a dent. Many Blues fans continually hoped that Stewart would put it all together, but it never happened. His scoring ability seems to be missed, as Ott the grinder has yet to make any dent at all. In fact, he has yet to score a goal, so instead of trying to average his stats over the same number of games as Stewart played with the Blues, I averaged what Stewart's numbers would be over the same 15 game span Ott has played with the Blues. In the same time span, Stewart scored 3 more goals with the same number of assists, 2. Another stark difference between the two players is the fact that Stewart rarely took face-offs. When he did, he was far less effective than Ott. Ott has won a stellar 60.4% of his face-off's as a Blue. Ott has spent his time as a Blue smashing into the competition, he has registered 17 more hits, 2 shy of doubling Stewart's number. In this case, his physical play has helped the Blues. While he is not scoring the goals, Ott has a 50% corsi percentage. Stewart wasn't as much of a 2 way player, even with his scoring prowess, his corsi was 48.4%. This means Stewart's goalie was seeing more shots than the opposing team's goalie was while Stewie was on the ice. For all of Ott's inability to score, his bulldozing type of play seems to be slowing the opposing team down, and evening the playing field.
The Blues made a few moves to try and push their way deeper into the playoffs. The biggest may have been Ryan Miller for Jaro Halak, but it takes goalies much longer to adapt to their new team than regular players. I feel it's too soon to get a full picture on Ryan Miller the Blue. This season, when the Blues have found themselves on the losing end, more often than not it has been due to their lack of scoring. They have always had superior defense and goaltending. When the moves they made this season are looked at in depth, one might be able to see why they are aching on the scoreboard. The players they brought in show a stark drop-off in scoring from their predecessors. Furthermore, they also often pale in puck possession and shot differential. It seems that the two players who have shown up favorably are the two that fans didn't want. No one was excited to see Steve Orr or Maxim Lapierre, and while they may not be better in all categories than their predecessors, they are at least comparable. Thus far, Brenden Morrow and Derek Roy have failed to live up to their billings. Could this be the reason the Blues can't score? That may be a more complicated subject, but whether this is causation or not, it is definitely correlated. Are these move's going to help the Blues make a deeper push into the playoffs, or hold them back? Only time will tell, but with Tarasenko going down, even more has fallen on the shoulders of those who haven't seemed to step up yet.