The stage was set. Last July, after extended negotiations, Pat Maroon and the St. Louis Blues came to an agreement on a one year/$1.75 million dollar deal. A play for a big contract type wager that the Oakville product took willingly, having produced in Edmonton and New Jersey.
Everything would fall into place. Maroon would skate in front of the newly revamped Enterprise Center crowd, and bury goals in the net and bodies into the boards. He’s hop on the ice, and spring loose like a b-side track version of Keith Tkachuk and David Backes. He could play on any line, and be a sense of protection for Vladimir Tarasenko while providing soft hands in front of the net. It was going to be perfect for a team that lacked size the past two seasons.
Things haven’t gone as planned. They often don’t in the brutally harsh world of sports competition. Maroon got off to a chilly start, finally finding the back of the net in his 16th game as a Blue. Overall, he has four goals and eight assists, with a fugly -13 rating. The power play presence was there early on, but disappeared before Thanksgiving.
Maroon found himself a healthy scratch a couple of times before the end of 2018, and a couple more in the new year. If anyone had the Big Rig sitting out four games not due to injury (he recovered from back surgery last summer) before the puck dropped against Winnipeg back in October, buy a lottery ticket. Few, if anyone, saw the production being this low.
What’s wrong? A variety of things that I am sure won’t satisfy everyone. One of the warning signs around signing Maroon back in June was the fear that the pressure of playing in front of his hometown would put a stranglehold on his production. I balked at the idea, thinking a seasoned veteran like Maroon would be able to handle it. Perhaps the pressure has gotten to him, especially when you bring in the rough first half for the team and under-performance of guys like Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz. Those factors play a part.
Maroon’s lack of speed is evident no matter what line he is paired on. If you put him on a top line, he is spinning around in circles out there. If he is paired with younger guys, he skates like his skates are stuck to the ice. He’s constantly behind the play, and when he gets the puck, it doesn’t stay on his stick for long.
That’s another thing. Maroon is losing more puck battles in front of the net and on the boards than I expected. You’d think the leg strength and hands Maroon has in tow would be able to create plays and push off defenders easier, but it has been difficult.
All around, it hasn’t gone as expected. Jeremy Rutherford of The Athletic reported last week that Maroon was likely to be traded sometime soon. With younger talents like Zach Sanford putting in valuable minutes and the Blues needing every advantage they can get in order to climb back into the race, there’s no time for experiments.
Could Maroon recover and finish with around 10-12 goals somewhere else? Yes. The right situation and out-of-town spark could see him finish strong. It’s also important to remember that Maroon is a slow starter in his career.
In the 2014-15 season, he had just 2 goals in 31 games, and then proceeded to score 7 goals and put up 19 points in the final 35.
In the 2015-16 season, he has 1 goal and 7 points on Feb. 1, and finished with 12 goals and 27 points.
In the 2016-17 season, Maroon had 11 goals in the first 39 games, and scored 16 goals during the rest of the season.
In the 2017-18 season, he scored 9 goals during the last 38 games of the season.
Maroon can still lturn it around, but it’s not likely to happen here though. The goal Maroon scored on Saturday against Dallas was his first point in six games, and his goals seem to happen in between stretches of play. There’s little consistency in his play, and he isn’t contributing much to the current winning streak. Maybe he can turn it on like a switch.
Could the Saturday game against Ottawa be Maroon’s last time playing in St. Louis as a Blue? I think there’s a good chance. The team doesn’t return home until Feb. 9th against Nashville, which seems like an eternity from now.
I’ll be honest and say I wanted it to work out. I still do. When Maroon was brought home and reunited with his son, Anthony, and family, it was an impossible to hate feel-good story. People mentioned the hometown angle that it was toxic, and I never understood. When David Freese triumphed here, it was championed and he was held up high. Maroon struggled, and people laid waste to everything he did before he got here. Maroon produced elsewhere, but has found a brick wall at home.
Most of the time, things don’t work out the way they should. There were talks of an extension being negotiated once Jan. 1 rolled around. Instead, there are talks of his imminent departure. Sports are a devilish bag to get addicted to. More often than not, they let you down while retaining your undying interest.
This isn’t a major meltdown type ordeal. Maroon is making a quarter of what Alexander Steen and Schwartz are making. Stop complaining. Less than $2 million won’t hurt much if it departs early. After all, this was an experiment to see if it worked. Clearly, it hasn’t. You make a trade and move on.
I don’t think Maroon will finish the season in St. Louis. I do think he will flourish elsewhere in a different system. He turned down better offers and more money to come home to St. Louis, and it bit him in the ass this time. Maybe he’ll go back to New Jersey and forge something there. He’s not done yet.
The Pat Maroon story in St. Louis is proof that fairy tales don’t happen often in professional sports, and when they do, you don’t see them coming.
Now, if you would excuse me, I need to day drink after writing this.