ST. LOUIS - The St. Louis Blues have agreed to terms on a one-year contract with forward Scottie Upshall.
Upshall, who joined the Blues as a free agent last summer, would have become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
The Fort McMurray, Alberta native played in 70 games for the Blues last season, scoring six goals and eight assists (14 points) to go along with a plus-5 rating.
Overall, Upshall has played in 623 career regular season NHL games, posting 121 goals and 127 assists (248 points).
After years of watching Hitchcock hockey, we've all grown accustomed to his unique quirks. We know how coach loves to jam his hands into his armpits like Molly Shannon in 'Superstar' and we know how coach loves to use mediocre forwards like Scottie Upshall. They are pigeon-holed into shot blocking meat shields for the penalty kill, and tasked with giving the good hockey lines seven-ish minutes of rest per game. Upshall is an ineffective forward, and the Blues shouldn't keep him. Middling NHLer's are usually defended by three basic arguments - they have experience, they are liked in the locker room, and they are excellent penalty killers.
Upshall has experience
The emergence of Fabbri and Parayko should prove to everyone that experience isn't as valuable as many people believe. Build a skilled roster and the wins will follow. A bland forward who nets 14 points over 70 games is not worth retaining simply because he has played in the league for a long time.
Among players who have played at least 70 games in the 2015-2016 season, Upshall's 14 points places him 305th in the league. There are literally hundreds of players in the league that have performed better with the same amount of ice time. Upshall is the definition of an expendable player. Whatever value Upshall brings to the table is simply not worth stifling dynamic prospects with potential.
Upshall is a good locker room guy
I volunteered at a hockey camp in St.Louis as an on-ice instructor, and I got to rub shoulders with some skilled NHL alums for free. It was a blast. Leading the camp was former Minnesota North Stars enforcer Bill Butters. (He has a literal dent in his forehead from a puck, and he was always keen to show it off). He regaled the kids with a story about being cut by Minnesota's general manager, who told him that the "team doesn't have any room for cheerleaders." In your beer league, yeah, stock the roster with your friends and have a good time, but in professional sports, there is no room for a cheerleader. Nothing's better for morale than winning, and besides, there's no reason to pretend this is a metric any of us - outside of the room - could judge anyway.
Upshall is a great penalty killer
Let's get one thing straight - the goaltender and defensemen are the most important players to any penalty kill. St.Louis is great on the penalty kill because of Piertrangelo, Bouwmeester, Parayko, and Shattenkirk. Subtract Brodziak or Upshall and the PK works just as well. Forwards on a penalty kill largely exist to block shots and passes. Penalty kill units should consist of the best puck possession players on your roster. Does Upshall create as many turnovers as other players on this roster? No? Then why is he on the penalty kill? I think it has less to do with his talent and more to do with Hitch not wanting a valuable player breaking his arm blocking a slapper. Anyone killing penalties on one of the best PK units in the league will pass the 'eye test' and look like a great penalty killer, but it doesn't make him a good player.
Poor investment of ice time
Ty Rattie languishes in the AHL because of players like Upshall. If you think tacking on mediocrity doesn't impact your prospect development, think again. When the kids on the farm get a chance, lo and behold, sometimes they break through. Every second of ice time given to a player in the NHL is an investment in an asset, and instead of investing ice time in promising prospects like Rattie and Barbashev, the Blues went all in on washed out, PTO-signers like Scottie Upshall and Martin Havlat.
He's only two seasons removed from a 38 point season with the Panthers, but are you willing to bet he could ever return to that level? Ask anyone in the league, and they will gladly tell you that the age of the enforcer is over. I think the 'checking' and 'energy' lines are also on their way to extinction. Instead of Upshall, Reaves, and Brodziak, what about Barbashev, Rattie, and Jaskin? Why not dress four lines that can all score?
NHL teams don't pursue this philosophy because we've entered the 'dead coach' era. TSN analyst Ray Ferraro said it best - 90% of modern coaching is designed to prevent offense, and 10% is designed to create offense. It's a safe bet if you're an NHL coach. Play a 1-2-2 most of the time, and you'll be on your way to grinding out a winning record. Scottie Upshall (and players like him) thrive in a prevent defense where point production isn't a requirement for a 70 game roster spot.
Scottie Upshall is a great person, no doubt, and his article about the Fort McMurray fire displayed the strength of his character incredibly well. I actually like his style of play, personally. He brings a burst of speed and tenacity to a team prone to in-game naps. I hate taking shots at the guy, but as they're so found of saying - this is a business, and we have to be impartial when we analyze players.