The last week of play has summed up the season of Blues power forward Chris Stewart to a tee.
Inconsistency reigns supreme. Stewart, 24, had a goal and an assist against New Jersey on Feb. 9th followed by three games of no production and a -1 plus/minus rating.
This is the point in the season in which the Blues need Stewart to get on a run, find his game and help carry a team that has cases of scoring woes. Those woes which are currently magnified by injuries to Alex Steen, Jason Arnott and Andy McDonald, who was just activated from injured reserve after missing 51 games.
Last year after being part of the Erik Johnson trade, Stewart took off in a big way. His impact was immediate and helped surge the normally average scoring ability of the Blues into a top 10 scoring club at year’s end. He tallied 15 goals and added 8 assists in just 26 games with St. Louis. He was the talk of the team and was scoring in bunches. Stewart would assert himself into the flow early in the game and even dropped the mitts a time or two.
Stewart started to became the talk of the town as well as the team’s playoff hopes became dashed and only pride was on the line.
Could he score 40, even 50 goals? The sky seemed to be the limit and the question was legitimate.
In the 2011-2012 season, Stewart has been the epitome of inconsistency. On Tuesday night, on a loose puck battle in front of the net, Stewart pulled a loose puck free and back-handed the puck at the wide open net as Blue Jackets goalie Steve Mason was down and out. It was the kind of opportunity that Stewart puts home every time last year. This time a failure to lift the puck resulted in defensemen James Wisniewski making a frantic goal line save.
Is Stewart’s confidence lagging?
In Stewart’s short career he has gained the reputation as a power forward that is tough to move and is lethal when presented around-the-net scoring opportunities. The sort of player St. Louis fans got to know well during Keith Tkachuk’s tenure wearing the Note. This year we have seen a Stewart that is playing more of an outside game and seems to pass up prime scoring opportunities with unnecessary extra passes. He just hasn’t had the magic touch with the puck on his stick.
Stewart is in the last season of a restricted free agent deal he signed with Colorado. So the motivation is there to go out and have a career year on the doorstep of back-to-back 28 goal seasons. Head coach Ken Hitchcock is clearly struggling to find a niche for Stewart and now comes the news of a move to the fourth line.
The 24-year-old winger is at a bit of a cross roads. The role he began carving out last year as an impact scorer now seems more up in the air. And that recent demotion to fourth line duty further complicates the road back to scoring goals in bunches.
The fire has been lit and now it’s up to Stewart to get back to the impact level he has displayed in his career.