The St. Louis Blues are in a “transition year”, yet the younger players are still not being featured. It’s time to let them loose.
Kevin Shattenkirk has been traded and the St. Louis Blues are in yet another tailspin. The team is trying to make the playoffs and at the same time trying to figure out their identity moving forward.
They have called up top prospects Ivan Barbashev and Jordan Schmaltz and have acquired Zach Sanford. However, Barbashev has had a hard time cracking any line beyond the fourth line and is playing out of position on the wing. Alternatively, Jori Lehtera must have found his scholarship papers from his signing that state he has to be featured alongside Vladimir Tarasenko and it is hampering the team.
So far, in 57 games this season, Lehtera has amassed a total of six goals. But, in 44 fewer games (playing primarily on the 4th line) Barbashev has amassed 1/3 of the goals that Lehtera has. Not to mention that Barbashev has amassed nearly double Lehtera’s point total in the AHL this season in 11 fewer games.
Now, I am no expert at hockey, but it seems as if one player has a little more ability than the other. We all know how much Tarasenko speaks on the chemistry with Lehtera, but it’s time to try things out with the fellow Russian Barbashev. Most importantly, he wasn’t drafted to play as a 4th line winger, he was drafted to develop into a top-six forward and he’s not going to do so on the fourth line.
At this point, it doesn’t seem as if it’s a coaching thing. It’s as if it’s coming down from the top. In an interview with Bernie Miklasz on “The Bernie Miklasz Show” yesterday, Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch said that Blues’ GM Doug Armstrong specifically stated that he wanted Sanford to get some time in practice before he would be comfortable getting him in game time. Unfortunately, this would likely mean getting him comfortable with Kyle Brodziak and Scottie Upshall on the fourth line. [mojoitem platform=’wordpress’ type=’themes’ item=’popular’ quantity=’3′ seller=” aff=’steve.mcneil87′]
Not only that, Rutherford also stated it isn’t likely that Schmaltz will get a shot to play in tonight’s game and that moving forward he will likely be the team’s seventh defensemen. Yeah, I forgot about that world beater that is Robert Bortuzzo. You can’t possibly take him out and risk this team losing out on the wonderful effectiveness of Bortuzzo.
I am not stating that Schmaltz is going to come in and be a Shattenkirk replacement right away. He is a talented player wxho simply needs a shot, just like Kevin Shattenkirk was when he was with the Avalanche. Now, Shattenkirk didn’t have someone like himself blocking him like Schmaltz had and so Schmaltz has actually spent more AHL time than Shattenkirk did, so their stats at that level cannot be compared.
However, if you look at their collegiate statistics you see a lot of similarity between the two. They both played at prestigious and successful schools and both posted between 20-30 pts in their prime years. Now, Schmaltz could have some better numbers with Chicago, but the defensemen did struggle with an injury.
At this point, the St. Louis Blues have nothing to lose. Yes, they are technically in a playoff race, but they are currently in a free fall. So, it’s time to switch things up a bit and add to their talent level a bit. Most of all, what they have now clearly is not working, so getting Schmaltz, Barbashev, and Sanford involved in a prominent role won’t hurt.