This past summer has had one main theme for the Blues, change. Not so much in that the roster has a ton of new faces, which there are a few. The big change was the roles a number of the players were moving into. Young players who are still learning their craft individually, also had to make sure their role in the team stepped up that much more. Whether it's Colton Parayko, Robby Fabbri, or Joel Edmundson younger players have been placed in roles possibly sooner than expected.
Despite the praise those players have gotten(and deserve), the fourth line has quietly been one of the most consistent aspects of the team.
Currently if you count the players who are often healthy scratches sitting in the press box, the Blues have nine players that are 25 years old or younger. With an average age of 27.5, they are just a tad under the league average. Then you take a look at the fourth line and their youngest line-mate being in Ryan Reaves at 29.
More then just putting points in the box score, they provide the team vital minutes of not only giving the top-six forwards time to rest, but also create chances of their own. When you really think about it what they are asked to do isn't easy for the amount of time they are given on the ice. Even when you include special team situations, Scottie Upshall leads his line with an average of 10:00 minutes of ice time. Kyle Brodziak sits in the middle at 8:30 while Reaves finishes at the bottom with 6:27. Though more importantly than the time on the ice given is what they do with the opportunity.
There are the normal stats you'd expect them to make a difference in like the hits. Which to no surprise Reaves leads the team currently with 14. But where the line really shines is the ability to bring that same quality regardless of the score, period or whatever else is going on in the game. It never has been flashy nor will they ever have a sexy play you'll see in anyone's "top ten goals" list. Having a reliable fourth line that rarely puts you in bad situations allows a team to roll four lines. Those critical 45 second long shifts where the bottom line hits the ice really helps out in the later stages of the game. That means fresher legs for the likes of Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz, and Nail Yakupov.
We also tend to forget that Upshall, Brodziak, and Reaves have been in this league for quite a number of years. You take into account that in each and every season there are highs and lows. The first two players listed at one point had much bigger roles in the earlier stages of their careers. To have guys of their experience sitting side by side with the Blues younger core is essential for a player like Robby Fabbri who hasn't even come close to his full potential.
The role of the fourth line has drastically changed in the NHL, it's completely different than what it was even 10 years ago. It's a huge plus that the Blues have continued to find a way to make their bottom tier players useful.