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.
Few players in the NHL, let alone on the Blues, took a bigger step forward this season than Jordan Kyrou. He more than doubled his career-high in points, dominated the Winter Classic at Target Field with a record-setting performance, and even won the Fastest Skater competition at the All-Star Game. In every respect, the young Toronto native blossomed into a budding league superstar over the course of the 2021-22 campaign.
And yet, many fans seem to have a bad taste in their mouth about Kyrou exiting the season, stemming from a perceived lack of effort and production in the playoffs. Some of the criticism is warranted, but is a bad stretch of games truly enough to dampen a breakout season? Let’s take a closer look.
What Went Right: Kyrou’s Breakout Season
From an offensive standpoint, Kyrou broke out in every measurable respect. The former CHL standout with electric skating finally hit his stride in the NHL, and his stats reflected it. He played more than two minutes more per game this season than last, and more than doubled his points total, climbing from 35 in 2020-21 to 75 this season. 27 of those 75 points were goals, making him one of the nine Blues forwards to surpass 20 goals, and one of the five who reached 25-plus.
Every time Kyrou found a big stage, he excelled on it. The Winter Classic at Target Field was a prime example: he recorded four points in the second period to become the first player ever to notch four points during an outdoor game in NHL history. From there, he went on to win the NHL’s Fastest Skater competition. While there are always questions about the significance of the All-Star Game skills competitions, any time you can beat Connor McDavid in a race, you’ve proven something impressive.
Late in the season, it was in vogue to argue that Kyrou cooled off from his torrid early-season pace, but the facts don’t bear that out. He scored 26 points in 26 games in March and April to finish the season just as hot as he’d started it. In one season, Kyrou transitioned from being a youngster with limitless potential who hadn’t put it all together at the highest level, to one of the Blues’ centerpiece forwards and a presumed fixture on the roster for years to come. But there was still one hole in his game that needs to be addressed.
What Went Wrong: Work Ethic
Like many young players, Kyrou still has a lot of work to do on the defensive side of the puck. That fault could be forgiven, especially if he continues to produce at a near point-per-game output. What will be harder for Blues fans and head coach Craig Berube to overlook is a perceived lack of effort on Kyrou’s part. He can too often look like a passenger on the ice, waiting for opportunities to come to him rather than creating them, and not engaging on defense as quickly and committedly as he should. This was best exemplified on the absurd third-period goal Nathan MacKinnon scored in Game 5 of the Blues’ second-round series against the Colorado Avalanche. As MacKinnon flies up ice, Kyrou — who alone among the Blues on the ice has the speed to potentially keep up with MacKinnon — lazily turns, slaps his stick at the Avalanche forward, and gives up on the play.
Is that a bad look? Of course. Is it a problem that Kyrou needs to address immediately? Undoubtedly. But it isn’t quite the crisis that some Blues fans seem to believe it is. St. Louis’s fans have always appreciated the blue-collar players with non-stop work ethic. Kyrou certainly isn’t cut from that cloth. But he is far from the first young forward with superstar skill who has had to learn what it takes to consistently perform at an elite level in the NHL. Ironically, his counterpart on that play, MacKinnon, went through a similar transformation before becoming one of the most dominant players in the league.
It would be nice if Kyrou was already the total package, but he’s still a young forward who only just turned 24. Fans need to be patient with him. No, he won’t survive long on a Berube-coached team if he can’t get his act together. But this is also exactly the coaching staff to help him find that edge he needs. And if he does, he could become one of the top players in the NHL.
- More-than doubled career-high in points with 75 in 74 games (more than a point per game)
- Set a Winter Classic record with four points on New Year’s Day
- Won the NHL’s Fastest Skater competition
- Tied for second in playoff goals with seven, one of only four Blues forward to score more than two in the postseason
Final Grade: A-
Some will certainly want a lower grade for Kyrou because of the concerns about his work ethic, but those fans are looking a gift horse in the mouth. The Blues have a potential superstar in Kyrou, who has elite skating, unbelievable hands, and great vision for the game. Alongside Robert Thomas, the pair has a chance to be the most dynamic and franchise-changing duo of young forwards since Bernie Federko and Brian Sutter arrived on the scene in the 1976-77 season. Those might not be household names around the modern-day NHL, but there could be no higher praise in St. Louis. To take all that and dwell on the negative borders on masochistic. Kyrou had an explosive, breakout season. If the effort problems persist, then fans can start to be concerned. But for now, they should be thankful to have stolen one of the league’s elite youngsters in the second round.
What’s Next for Kyrou?
Kyrou is entering the second season of the two-year, $5.6 million contract he signed with the Blues before the season. At that price, he is one of the most valuable forwards in the league. Of course, on the other side of that, he will expect and deserve a high-dollar contract extension that would surpass the highest AAVs currently on the roster. So it is a critical juncture for the Blues to decide just how highly they value their young forward.
If the team is as worried about effort as some fans are, they might consider trading Kyrou while his value is sky-high. The rumors about a Matthew Tkachuk homecoming persist, and Kyrou is the kind of game-breaker that might actually make the Calgary Flames consider a move. But Kyrou’s departure remains an extremely unlikely scenario. Fans have far less patience for player development than organizations do. There’s a better than average chance the Blues are thrilled with the progress Kyrou has made this season and want to keep him in the Gateway City for many seasons to come. So barring a shocking, headline-grabbing trade, expect him to be in St. Louis next season and beyond. And perhaps the Blues will try to double down on their good fortune by drafting Kyrou’s younger brother Christian in the upcoming draft.
Stephen Ground is a veteran of over three years at THW, focusing on the St. Louis Blues, NHL goaltending, and the annual World Junior Championship. He is the co-host of the Two Guys One Cup Podcast, a hockey podcast focused on the Blues.