Tuesday night the Blues will be back in town for the first home game since January 18th. They’ll be welcoming the Carolina Hurricanes into town, and if you’re interested in going, you can probably snag an aftermarket ticket on StubHub.
Why be interested in going? Joel Edmundson is probably going to get a tribute video, and there will be many more tweeted as the game continues. Blues fans don’t seem to be happy about the trade that brought Justin Faulk to St. Louis, and they’re even less thrilled about how much the team is paying him. When he came to St. Louis this summer, the former co-captain of the Hurricanes (yeah, that was a thing that happened), was viewed as a trade coup and upgrade over Edmundson. Doug Armstrong signed Faulk to an extension of seven years at a $6.5 million cap hit with a NTC that turns into a modified NTC his last two years.
The Blues are locked in to a player whose paycheck may make it difficult to re-sign the captain, Alex Pietrangelo, to a raise and long term contract. And, let’s be clear, Pietrangelo is a more effective player - especially this year. Whether it’s the change in the conference, the difference between the Blues and Hurricanes system, or the new teammates, Faulk has had problems adjusting.
Or has he?
Here are his career individual numbers from NHL.com:
It looks like people expect him to play at the level he was playing between 2014 through 2017. His production is still fine, though this year it looks like he’ll be falling below last year’s totals, but he’s not scoring on the power play much.
And when he’s on the ice? The team’s no better or worse with him off it as far as GF/GA. From HockeyReference.com, here are his PDO stats. Pay attention to his oiGF and oiGA (goals for/against when he’s on the ice in all situations):
Last season, there was an obvious difference in both directions when he was on the ice. This year, so far, it’s dead even. In the past, his stats tend to be closer to where he is so far this season than where they were last year.
Did Doug Armstrong pay too much attention to his last season and not the player as a whole? Probably, though you could argue if you want a picture of where someone is now, you need to look at where they just were, not where they were ten years ago.
Where fans are getting upset (ok, they’re getting upset about a lot of things, because you hear Faulk’s name mentioned on broadcasts in negative scenarios more often than any time else) is that the team is paying $6.5 million a season for play that the Hurricanes paid $4.8 million for, and they’ll be paying that for the next seven seasons unless he waives his NTC at some point. In a normal situation this would be a pretty typical hockey fan concern, but when the first thing people thought of when Faulk was acquired was “will he be Pietrangelo’s replacement/insurance if Pietrangelo doesn’t stay/reason Petro leaves?” you have a lot of baggage and expectations placed on the new guy.
Faulk is playing, based on the numbers, about like he always has. The real issue is that he was overpaid to do it, and that’s not his fault. Time will tell if it works out, but for now, all we can do is watch him play against his old team for the first time since the trade. Here’s hoping Tuesday night’s game is a good one for him.