What a difference a year makes.
In February 2020, defenseman Marco Scandella was crowing about getting an opportunity to join the upstart St. Louis Blues, who had just come off their Stanley Cup run of 2019 and had high hopes to repeat. Life for Scandella, you’d say, was pretty perfect.
A year later, almost to the day, Scandella took a puck to the face in a game against the Los Angeles Kings in February 2021.
“Scandella (face) was hit by a puck in the third period of Wednesday’s game versus the Kings,” Tom Timmermann of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
“Scandella was cut on the play and immediately went to the locker room. He did not return to the contest. The severity of Scandella’s injury isn’t known yet, but an update on his status should be provided prior to that February game in San Jose. With Colton Parayko (back) sidelined and Carl Gunnarsson (knee) out for the year, the Blues are likely hoping Scandella is able to make a quick recovery,” the article stated.
In a different game against the Anaheim Ducks, he took one for the team – again a shot to the face.
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“One thing is certain in the hockey world, you can always count on your teammates to help you find your teeth. In the St. Louis Blues 5-4 win over the Anaheim Ducks on March 1, defenseman Scandella took a high stick to the face from Rickard Rakell in the first period that knocked out a few Chiclets,” according to Tim Tucker at Marker Zone. “Unfortunately for Scandella, just two games prior he had taken a puck to the face, so this one likely hurt even more than usual. Following the play, on which there was no call, Scandella’s teammates and one of the Blues’ trainers, could be seen looking for his teeth just behind the Ducks’ net.”
A puck to the face sums up the season Scandella put together.
What Went Right
While Scandella is not a high-priced player by any means, his salary is an annual average of $3.275 million, giving the Blues a reliable lower-pairing defenseman. Scandella signed a four-year deal with St. Louis in April 2020. Seemingly inked to be the replacement for the retired Jay Bouwmeester, his signing was met with positive reviews of what player the fans thought this team was getting.
“Scandella fit in perfectly with the Blues, matching up with Colton Parayko to form the perfect defensive duo. It’s one that provided some offensive punch along with blue line craftsmanship,” wrote Blues insider Dan Buffa of ABC10.
“Coming over from his second team of this season, Scandella didn’t have a huge penchant for offense. He had 11 goals back in the 2014-15 season, but hasn’t scored more than six in a season since,” Buffa wrote.
“Sure enough, Scandella amassed just a single assist in those 11 games, but he was more than useful at the other end of the season. He could operate in the defensive, neutral and offensive zone. His 200 foot game was secure and he could handle the puck with command and care. Scandella offered a mixture of Bouwmeester/Gunnarsson shot sizzle, but rarely made an unwise move with the puck. One could say he was more of a preventer than a provider. All in all last season, with time also spent in Buffalo and Montreal, Scandella was a +14. A significant rebound from his previous two seasons, when he was a combined -28.”
In 2020-21 he finished the season at plus-14 and had 65 blocks in the 49 games.
Head coach Craig Berube was particularly impressed with Scandella’s work in a 4-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings — a night that included a whopping 6:30 of penalty killing duty for Scandella, according to a story in the Post-Dispatch. (‘Blues notebook: ‘Dirty play’ aside, Scandella is off to good start,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 1/24/21)
“I thought he was excellent all around,” Berube told the Post-Dispatch after that game. “I thought he was a force out there. Physical. Just hard on people. Hard on pucks. Made good decisions with pucks, so he had a hell of game.”
Being paired with Parayko last season did wonders for his confidence, Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said of Scandella.
“Quite honestly, this is what we expected when we got [Scandella]. Very good partner for Parayko. We saw last night his offense a little bit and he can jump into the attack, he can skate and got a good shot,” Armstrong said after the 2020 trade deadline (Feb. 24). “Early returns are positive and hopefully he continues to play like that with Colton.”
What Went Wrong
St. Louis fans should have known what they were investing in with Scandella. He had made three quick NHL stops before landing here in St. Louis. Should that have been cause for concern? That was the question asked by the website STL News Missouri, quoting a KSDK story.
“This could be good or bad, but definitely interesting,” STL News Missouri.com reported. “Scandella played the first 31 games of the season with the Buffalo Sabres after two-plus seasons there. He was previously with the Minnesota Wild. Buffalo traded Scandella to the Montreal Canadiens, where he spent the past 20 games. Buffalo got a fourth-round pick for his services, while Montreal just pulled a second-round pick and conditional fourth-rounder from St. Louis. I don’t care about that particular element of the trade(s) because asking prices shift and change between December and the trade deadline, so let’s not make Marc Bergevin the ace of spades just yet.”
In a discussion with Stephen Ground, who covers the Blues for The Hockey Writers, Scandella did not survive Ground’s wrath. He was disappointed in the Montreal native and looked for him to make tremendous strides this season. Whether it was due to the shrinking corps around him, or the increased ice time he saw in prominent roles exposing his faults, Scandella might just be happy to have survived the season relatively intact.
“I don’t remember any big Marco moments, which I think can be part of the point,” Ground said. “I’d grade him pretty low, personally. Just not a good performance. You don’t look to him for counting stats (thank goodness, since he didn’t provide any) but you did expect him to be a solid second-pair guy, and he wasn’t that.”
- Scandella finished 19th on the team (42.91%) in xGF% according to THW’s Ground.
- He was 21st on the team (44.47%) in CF%
- He was sixth on the team in xGA/60 (i.e., he was given the sixth-most quality scoring opportunities /60, 2.48)
Playing in his 11th NHL season (with stops in Buffalo, Minnesota, his hometown Montreal, and now St. Louis), he scored three goals and added six assists for nine points. Where he was most valuable was in time on the ice, where he averaged 19:57 of time on the ice in 49 games this season. In two seasons with St. Louis, he has averaged 20:01 of time on the ice.
Final Grade: Marco Scandella: D+
It seems unfair to grade Scandella at a “D” level, as he had nothing to do with the flurry of Blues injuries that handcuffed the defense this season. You also have to consider the anomaly of this year where three of the top four teams in the West Division were dominant all season long. This put undue pressure and strain on the defense. Then, when Parayko went down with an upper-body injury widely reported to be a bad back, all eyes were thrust on Scandella and linemates Justin Faulk, Torey Krug, Vince Dunn, and newcomers Niko Mikkola and Jake Walman.
They simply could not answer the bell. The Blues signed Scandella because of his professional resume. However, most would agree, he did not live up to the billing he received when the team signed him. Again, when you spend 11 years in the NHL, you would expect a different level from a player like Scandella.
Like a punch – or puck – to the face, Scandella’s down season is one of many that simply got lost in the overall mediocrity of the Blues this year.