To be completely fair in this piece, it’s important to note that the St. Louis Blues have dealt with tons of player absences throughout the season due to injury and COVID-19. They have weathered the storm and players have stepped up, but there is more that can be done, especially by the veteran players on this team.
A lot of the lineup changes have likely affected the chemistry and continuity of this team, but when you have veteran players everywhere in the lineup, they have to step up. They are now coming off of a huge win over the Florida Panthers, but injuries continue to linger. Here are three players who can step up and help the Blues weather this storm.
The offensive production of Brayden Schenn has not been consistent since the pandemic-shortened season. He missed time with an injury this season after playing all 56 games last season. Prior to scoring this week in the Blues’ victory over the Panthers, he had seven straight games without a point. Even with mostly consistent ice time, he has not produced to the level that is expected for him.
Schenn signed an eight-year extension during the 2019-20 season, and it kicked in last season with an annual average value (AAV) of $6.5 million. The cap hit is reasonable for a player like Schenn who produced at a high level with the Blues prior to last season.
The point production is a big issue and seven points in 16 games for Schenn is not good enough, but something has happened to his physicality as well. He has just 22 hits in 16 games this season, which is low for someone who had 119 hits in each of the last two seasons. In 281 games as a Blue prior to this season, he has 503 hits and 218 points, but goal scoring is down.
He has hovered around over 0.30 goals per game or better for most of his career, but he is down to 0.25 this season. He has still scored big goals this season and he’s always been a terrific leader, but there is more in the tank for him. He can take his game to another level and it’s been proven over his entire career.
Similar to the situation with Schenn, the Blues expect more from their veteran leaders, and it probably starts with Ryan O’Reilly. He dealt with COVID-19 early in the season, and he has never gotten back to what he has been in his career. Whether COVID-19 has affected his play or not remains to be seen, but I believe it’s safe to say that it has in some ways. He would never make that excuse, but it’s evident, he just looks a step slow.
There is something to the idea that David Perron’s struggles have affected O’Reilly’s play, and fair or not, he has played better with Perron being hurt. He has stepped up in the last few games, which could be signs of him returning to his two-way dominance.
The Blues’ injuries and COVID issues have caused players like O’Reilly to play up to 23 minutes per game, which is a lot for a forward in every game. He has just 13 points in 21 games, which is well under his average with the Blues. His points per game over the past three seasons have been 0.94, 0.86, and 0.94. This season it is just 0.62, but there is still a lot of time left.
I have every reason to trust O’Reilly and his ability to return to his prior dominance as a Blue. His linemates have changed multiple times this season, but if he continues to play alongside Brandon Saad and Pavel Buchnevich, that could be fantastic. It will be interesting to see if the previously struggling duo of him and Perron play together in the return of Perron.
After a lackluster 2020-21 season from Colton Parayko, the Blues capitalized by giving him an eight-year extension with an AAV of $6.5 million. The AAV is lower than it would have been at Parayko’s career ceiling — the Blues trusted him to bounce back this season.
At first, it looked like Parayko was back to being a horse on the back end, but he has really struggled since the beginning of November. The Blues’ defensive unit has had its struggles with every player other than Justin Faulk this season, Parayko has not had a consistently solid partner since Jay Bouwmeester a couple of seasons ago.
Parayko has four points in his last five games, but has a plus/minus of minus-6 for the entire season and is a minus-3 in the last three games. His defensive issues are quite evident in their own zone, especially on fast-developing plays. If the Blues improve their defensive unit at any point this season, they should look to find someone who can play next to Parayko.
Either way, he is supposed to be the number one defenseman on this team, but that role has been taken over by Faulk. He has nine more seasons left under contract here, with the extension kicking in next season. He has to find a way to return to his old form, and a new defensive partner could revitalize him. One name that could be of interest in the trade market is Montreal Canadiens left-handed defenseman Ben Chiarot. The Blues have to help Parayko, as he clearly can’t be who he once was right now.
I tried to not be overly critical in this article, as I am aware of the adversity that the Blues have dealt with. But these veteran players on this list have been here too long to not step up their games. Their December schedule isn’t easy either, so this won’t get any easier.
I have been covering sports for nearly a decade. I started with FanSided as a Baseball Contributor. Now I am writing about the NHL and the St. Louis Blues for The Hockey Writers. I grew up in Central Illinois as a huge fan of every sport. Finally, I do various podcasting across all major platforms.