It would seem. This late stand minus Stastny, Bouwmeester and now Gunnarsson is impressive. Lost Carter Hutton when he was hot, too, and No. 91 missed a bit of time. The team responded well to the leadership, both the coaching staff and the team veterans.
He was always throwing pucks toward the goal. And his shots on goal are at the career norms. Moving him up with better linemates helped, as did the improved play of other forwards like Sobotka. Oh, and the power play had a bit of success as well.
He is a keeper. Where did the bust talk come from? He got rushed a bit this season by necessity. He needs to get stronger and more time in the AHL would have done him some good. Big forwards can take some time to develop because they are used to using their size advantage to make plays. They aren't used to moving their feet -- at least not at the brisk NHL pace.
This team's strength is on defense. There is no need to spend assets at that position. They need to add at least one Top 6 forward, preferably a center, in addition to letting a bunchy of young forwards fight for Top 9 roles.
Both could be fourth-line guys. Sundqvist is sound defensively and he offers some appealing size down the middle. It's a shame he lacks Brodziak's offensive skills. The Blues bent over backwards to keep him off waivers this season, so they see some value. Soshnikov throws himself into the fray. He may also have a bit of offensive potential as well. This team has a lot of third- and fourth-line caliber guys, so the status of these two could be determined by what happens with others via trades.
Having an AHL team could help eventually woo a guy like Niko Mikkola, a 2015 draft pick, over from Finland. He's 21 and he is heading toward the second year of his two-year deal over there.
Right now the team is really sheltering Schmaltz, limiting his minutes and matchups. And Bortuzzo is not 100 percent. So this team is leaning hard on its Top 4. That could take a toll, especially with the Blues forced to go all out to make the playoffs.
The numbers say the Blues don't have much of a home-ice advantage right. Anecdotally, Nashville, Winnipeg and Minnesota are really tough places to play as far as atmosphere.
Butler, if heathy, would be the next man up. And he has been healthy for San Antonio.
Forwards almost never move to the defense at the pro level. Sure, there are Brent Burns and Dustin Byfuglien as high-end examples of wingers capable of stepping back, but that is a hard, hard transition. It is much easier for a D-man to step up and fill in on the wing. They love the opportunity to mostly skate forward for a change. Turning and recovering is a challenge for forwards, as is defending the rush on the back pedal. Penalty killers exposing forward who play the point on the power play, let pucks out of the zone and are forced to defend like a defenseman.
The golden ticket is the second wild slot. That likely sets up a date with Vegas and the Golden Knights have been playing .500 hockey for some time now. That will be the best matchup among the higher Western Conference seeds. The Blues would be underdogs to anybody else.
The Blues don't undervalue Brodziak. Yeo had him in Minnesota and hasn't been shy about playing him up in the lineup. The Blues initially buckled without Stastny, but credit the team for rallying in the face of adversity and making their stand. But don't confuse that with the team being better without Stastny, who played very well this season.
Reinke was a free agent, so he could command a NHL contract immediately. And Stevens could have become a free agent later in the summer, so he had leverage as well. Also, they are mature players capable of gaining from the additional time around NHL players. Foley's only leverage was to return to school for another year, so the ATO contract for the rest of this season and a NHL starting next season made sense for him.
If they can play Vegas instead of Nashville, they would rather face Vegas. But like you say, first things first -- clinch a playoff spot and then decide whether to empty the bench.
He will be one of the few free agent centers available, so, sure, for the right dollars that could happen. His exit from here was handled professionally on both sides. It became Paul's call. Let's see where the market for him goes with years and dollars.
Actually, Walman might have been a bit ahead of Dunn coming into camp and Dunn passed him. Then Schmaltz passed him with strong AHL play. The Blues moved Walman from Chicago of the AHL to Binghamton to get more playing time this season. He was a casualty in the team's muddled minor league scenario this season.
Right, Vegas took some injury hits and suffered a late-season reality check.
Duchene has settled in nicely for Ottawa. And Turris has settled in at Nashville, just as Schenn has settled in here. All those were good trades. Is there another good trade for a center for the Blues? That seems preferable to some of the free agent possibilities. A guy like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins would be great here.
Good point on those veterans. Mix in the fact that Walman had a bit of a lost AHL season and, yes, Bortuzzo and Gunnarsson still have value here.
I don't know that Jaskin was hyped to that level, but he did raise expectations with a strong rookie season. After that, it was easier to project 20-goal seasons for him. But he really plateaued. And like you say, he has found a niche as a blue collar grinder.