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.
Oskar Sundqvist’s 2020-21 season ended in the worst way possible: with a torn ACL sustained in a game against the San Jose Sharks on Mar. 19. But he should return before the 2021-22 season, and when he does, he’ll still have two seasons left on his deal at a $2.75 million average annual value (AAV). So what can we make of Sundqvist’s 2020-21 season? Let’s take a look.
What Went Right: The Most Versatile Blues Player
Sundqvist’s ultimate gift is his versatility. No player on the Blues, and perhaps few players in the entire NHL, are quite the Swiss (or in this case, Swedish) army knife that Sundqvist is. As such, it was difficult for the Blues to find a replacement when Sundqvist went down. There aren’t many players who can play on any of the four lines, as well as the penalty kill and the power play, but before his injury, Sundqvist showed the ability to do all of the above.
One area where Sundqvist truly grabbed attention was on the team’s power play, a role he wasn’t expected to play before the season. He saw limited time there, finishing with just over 26 minutes on the man advantage, but he provided a spark to the unit when it desperately needed one. He ranked first on the team in goals for per 60 (GF/60) on the power play with 14.38, and three of his nine points came with that unit in his brief stint on it. His role on the power play may be something the team wants to evaluate moving forward.
What Went Wrong: Sundqvist’s Disastrous Injury
Unfortunately for Sundqvist, everything went wrong late in the first period on Mar. 19. On a fluke play, Sundqvist collided with his teammate Kyle Clifford. Obviously, the play was an accident, but Sundqvist remained on the ice in pain until the medical crew and his teammates helped him off. With a rash of serious injuries affecting the Blues, Sundqvist’s felt like the straw that broke the camel’s back.
He’s an all-around player for us, lots of different situations and penalty kill and power play, checking, energy and really our team feeds off him. It’s a tough loss, for sure. We’re going to miss him, but we’ve got guys who are going to come in and fill in. Everybody just has to pick up the slack, that’s all you can do. It’s unfortunate. It’s tough news for Sunny and us, obviously.Blues Head Coach Craig Berube
The only fortunate news about Sundqvist’s injury is that his timetable for return should put him back in time for the 2021-22 season. General manager Doug Armstrong suggested he will be reevaluated before the season, during training camp.
- 4 G, 5 A, 9 P in 28 GP
- Career high 15:09 ATOI
- 30 games missed due to injury
- Team high 14.38 GF/60 on the power play
Final Grade: Incomplete
Sure, it’s a bit of a cop out, but it feels unfair to assign Sundqvist a letter grade based on less than half a season. He played well in stretches and had some worrying numbers, including a team high 3.48 expected goals against per 60 (xGA/60, tied with Tyler Bozak). With that said, few Blues fans see Sundqvist in anything but a rosy light, and if we were to assign a letter grade based on what we did see, a “B” or “B-” seems appropriate.
What’s Next for Sundqvist
As we mentioned, Sundqvist has two seasons remaining on his deal at $2.75 million, and there’s every reason to believe he will at least finish this contract with the Blues. The only possible hurdle to clear is the expansion draft looming this offseason, but very few analysts have left Sundqvist off a Blues expansion draft protection list projection. He seems pretty certain to be one of the seven forwards Armstrong protects this summer and assuming he is, fans will just want to see him back on the ice healthy and smiling his goofy smile on the bench.
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.