The St. Louis Blues’ 2021-22 season represented a major transition for the franchise. No longer a stout defensive team built from the blue line out, they finished second in the NHL in goals scored, with nine forwards recording 20-plus goals. Though the season came to an end in a six-game defeat by the Colorado Avalanche in the second round, there are plenty of highs and lows to reflect on. In this series, we’ll evaluate each player who played 10 or more games with the team (as well as the head coach and general manager), grading their individual performance and looking at their future with the team.
What Went Right: Barbashev Has Career High Point Production
The 26-year-old forward, Ivan Barbashev, not only set a career-high in point production but more than doubled his offensive output in nearly every imaginable fashion. Over 81 games this season, he scored 26 goals and 60 points, shattering his previous career-high 14 goals and 26 points set in 2018-19. After the departure of players like Jaden Schwartz, Barbashev stepped up in a big way and was rewarded with an increase of three minutes in ice time per game.
This season, the Russian forward bounced around the lineup, playing with different linemates every few months, starting with Robert Thomas and Vladimir Tarasenko, then an all-Russian line of Tarasenko and Pavel Buchnevich, and finally, playing with Brayden Schenn and Jordan Kyrou to end the season. Barbashev took his physical style of play and paired that with the offensive talent of his linemates to create a power forward that Blues fans adored (from “Blues notebook: Scoring isn’t crowding out Barbashev’s physical play,” St. Louis Post Dispatch, 4/20/22). While his physicality may be adored in St. Louis, it was an area of heated debate in the playoffs after his check on the Colorado Avalanche’s Samuel Girard.
What Went Wrong: The Postseason
As if someone turned off the faucet, Barbashev’s offensive abilities went ice cold in the playoffs. There were no signs of slowing down, with seven goals and 15 points over his final 16 games of the season; however, the moment the puck dropped at the Xcel Center in Minnesota for Game 1 of the playoffs, he went quiet, recording only two assists and a minus-six rating over 12 postseason games.
Of course, the speed is different in the playoffs, the stakes are higher, and all players are subjected to a higher level of scrutiny. The curious part is why it affected Barbashev so much, who has gone the distance and won a Stanley Cup before. During the team’s Stanley Cup run, he averaged only 12:32 each game, and expectations were lower. The fact that he scored three goals and six points over 31 games after a 14-goal 26-point season was not out of the ordinary for him. The Blues’ front office and fans may be realizing that he can succeed in the regular season but disappears during the playoffs.
- Finished 5th on the team in goals (26)
- 21 of 26 goals were scored at even strength
- Led the team in hits (160)
Final Grade: B
If the final grade were based purely on the regular season, Barbashev would receive A’s across the board. However, his postseason production and disappearance left many wanting to put a ‘Missing’ photo on milk cartons.
What’s Next for Barbashev?
Barbashev will need to prove he can replicate his regular-season success in the playoffs and that this year was not an anomaly. With one year left on his contract at $2,250,000, he could become a valuable asset at the trade deadline should the organization wish to part ways and maximize their return. A new contract for a heavy-hitting forward who can also score goals could command upwards of $5,000,000 per season should a franchise wish to open their checkbooks for him. If that is the case, management may be forced to part ways as the team has many contracts up for renewal, and younger, cheaper players are on the way.