The St. Louis Blues’ 2020-21 season had its highs and lows, but ultimately ended in disappointment after the team fell in four games to the Colorado Avalanche in Round 1. In this series, we’ll look back on the season player by player, and evaluate each player’s performance as an individual, with an eye towards their future with the team.
In the NHL, a “next man up” mentality is always important, but some seasons are more brutal with injuries than others. For the St. Louis Blues, the 2020-21 season was a roller coaster of injuries, and in hindsight, it’s tough to evaluate what impact that had on the team’s final product. But one player it certainly did affect was Jacob De La Rose.
Since the Blues traded Robby Fabbri to the Detroit Red Wings In November 2019, De La Rose has seen sporadic playing time, but he seemed like he might find a spot in the team’s bottom-six, especially after being one of the most consistent performers during a disappointing outing in the playoff bubble in 2020. Entering the season, De La Rose seemed like a go-to option for forward depth. Unfortunately, things changed very quickly for the Arvika, Sweden native.
What Went Right: De La Rose’s Defense
A player who makes his living on the fourth line and the penalty kill needs to be defensively responsible. And De La Rose certainly was this season. He finished second on the team in expected Goals For percentage (xGF%), between Robert Bortuzzo and MacKenzie MacEachern. Though none of those players are team superstars, it shows that they controlled the play and prevented scoring opportunities. Head coach Craig Berube obviously trusted De La Rose to do that, as he started in the defensive zone 66.7 percent of the time. When he was in his own zone, he was usually reliable, and that made him valuable to his team.
What Went Wrong: Injuries and Competition
Unfortunately for De La Rose, he wasn’t the only player to make an impression on the coach this season. MacEachern is always reliable when he’s in the lineup, and even Dakota Joshua, a depth forward who many never expected to join the Blues’ main roster, looked good in stretches in relief of injured players. As other players impressed the head coach, De La Rose’s grip on a roster spot quickly loosened.
Perhaps the bigger struggle for De La Rose this season was his injury. During the first period of a Feb. 27 game against the San Jose Sharks, he fell hard into the boards and left with a lower-body injury. Berube suggested he’d miss “significant time,” and he ended up not playing for most of a month. Thereafter, he played only four more games and didn’t appear during the postseason. Those are likely to be the final four games of his Blues career.
- 0 G, 1 A, 1 P in 13 GP
- 10:12 ATOI
- 66.7% defensive zone start percentage (dZS%)
- 50.58 percent xGF% at 5-on-5 (second on team)
Final Grade: C
De La Rose entered the season as a depth forward, and he performed well in that role. He didn’t surprise anyone, nor did he rack up points. But he controlled play well and was reliable on defense. For the most part, he had the trust of his coach while in the lineup. That can’t be said for all of his teammates. Nor can the injury be blamed on him. It was a perfectly fine season from a bottom-six forward.
What’s Next for De La Rose?
Of all the players in this series, De La Rose is the only one whose future is entirely certain. He recently signed a three-year contract to return home to Sweden and play for Farjestad BK starting next season. The Blues will technically still own his rights should he decide to return to the NHL, but that likely won’t happen for at least three seasons. For now, the relationship is done, and the Blues will have to look elsewhere for defensively reliable depth.
Stephen Ground is an author with The Hockey Writers and is co-host of the Two Guys No Cup Podcast. He enjoys studying the numbers and providing fresh looks at various stories.