The NHL Draft is here. Teams are attempting to secure and rebuild their rosters. After another stunning first round exit, many fans are calling for changes. While I will leave my opinions of Hitchcock for another time, I will discuss some "core" players and whether they should stay or go. I am not a GM, nor do I pretend to know the inner workings of NHL trades. This is not an article projecting who we should target to get in return if a player is moved, but simply should we try to move them.
We looked previously at Jay Bouwmeester here. Our next player is fan favorite TJ Oshie. I have only followed hockey for a few years, attending my first game in 2012. At that game I learned 2 players by name: David Backes and TJ Oshie. Since then I have fallen head over heels for the sport. Oshie came to town in 2008 and has been a big part of the Blues ever since. The big question is, should he be a big part of the future going forward? Oshie is under contract for 2 more seasons before he hits unrestricted free agency.
After watching the Hawks win yet another cup, its difficult not to compare ourselves to them and ask "why not us?". The Hawks are anchored by Toews and Kane. The Blues by Backes and Oshie. The comparisons to Backes and Toews will be covered in depth in another article, so today we will look at Oshie and Kane. In 11 less games Kane scored 8 more goals and 1 more assist than Oshie. The stats only tell part of the story. Kane is a threat anytime he has the puck on his stick (See: Tarasenko). TJ Oshie has been called a swiss army knife and a firecracker. Let's look at these analogies. A swiss army knife is great, you can do nearly anything with it. It has scissors, toothpicks tweezers, maybe even a sandwich in there somewhere. Problem is, as much as it can do about anything, its not great at doing any of them. A firecracker is a fun childhood firework that's more noise than show. You love them until you find an M-80 or go see a real pyrotechnics show. Oshie has one true talent: the shootout. He won us a lot of games last season, but he didn't do so in regulation. Those points helped crown us as central division champs, but did nothing to help us get out of the first round, where there are no shootouts.
Oshie is a great player and has years of good play left ahead of him. So why would we ever consider moving him? The same reason that Sobotka leaving helped us. Sobotka is a good hockey player. He wins faceoffs and board battles regularly at the NHL level. He would have a place on any NHL roster, same with Oshie. The problem is Sobotka isn't a great scoring threat, nor is he a set up man like Stastny who is always sniffing out plays for his teammates. Sobotka played on a line with Tarasenko and Schwartz. His lack of offensive skill held the line back. Enter Jori Lehtera, a set up man. We all saw the results. As long as Hitchcock is behind the bench Oshie will be a top line player, but skills aren't top line quality. On the team we used to be, a team similar to Columbus, with no true superstars, Oshie was fine as a top line winger. We are no longer a blue collar working class team. Our roster now has players on it that are true scoring threats.
TJ Oshie has some of the sickest hands in the NHL, no one can deny that. He can curve his way around a defense better than anyone I've had the pleasure to watch. The problem is, his shooting is sub par. He gets himself into position, and doesn't have the sniper ability to put the puck in the net after all his pretty dekes and dances. TJ Oshie also falls over more than any professional athlete I have ever seen, soccer (futbol) included. In a sport based on speed and positioning, any player laying on the ice is a liability for his team. I was told on twitter that Oshie also creates turnovers. As easy as it is to compare us to the Hawks, its even easier to compare us to ourselves. There is a player on the roster who creates way more turn overs than TJ Oshie: Jaden Schwartz. He is ferocious on the forecheck. What else does he do better than Oshie? Score. Jaden Schwartz played in more games this season that Oshie, but he was on the ice only 12 more total minutes throughout the season. In those 12 extra minutes, he scored 9 more goals. In the playoffs, when we were struggling to score, Oshie averaged roughly an extra minute on the ice per game than Schwartz, and 2 minutes per game more than Tarasenko (you know, the guy with the hat trick).
TJ Oshie is one of the few players without a no trade clause in his contract. This makes him far easier to trade. There was a time when the whole nation loved and wanted TJ. After another poor playoff performance, the return on his trade would be slim. Oshie's points per season have held nearly the same throughout his career. He isn't getting noticeably better or worse. The chance of a breakout season to up his trade value after next season is slim. With age, he will only net us less and less in return the longer he is on our roster. So, what should we do in the case of TJ Oshie?
This was by far the hardest decision in this series. TJ Oshie still has worth on our roster. He is no were near our worst forward. He is still better than Rattie, who would be our first call up, and Fabbri isn't ready yet. If we can find a player in a trade of equal value and skill, I could see how shipping Oshie out of town would be beneficial, but I don't see that happening. I hope and pray that after this season Hitchcock is shipped out of town. With a new coach, hopefully TJ Oshie would be moved to where he should be, the 2nd or 3rd line. He has 2 years left on his contract, and far more than 2 years left in his career. I would be fine keeping him around on a smaller contract and playing him on a lower line for some time to come. There is a chance another team outbids us in free agency, but with his current trade market, I don't see teams beating down his door. TJ Oshie should stay a Saint Louis Blue, but he should no longer be considered a "core" player.