The St. Louis Blues’ 2022-23 season was a shocking disappointment for fans and management alike, leading to the team becoming sellers at the trade deadline and ultimately finishing in a draft lottery position outside the playoffs. So, who bears the blames for the team’s failings? And who succeeded despite the team’s struggles? That’s what we’ll look to identify in our 2022-23 Blues’ Report Cards series.
Heading into the 2022-23 season, Russian forward Ivan Barbashev came off of a career season in which he scored 60 points (26 goals) in 82 games – all of which were career-bests that blew his previous numbers out of the water. The St. Louis Blues were hoping that his play in 2021-22 was a building block for him and that they would get similar or better production from the pending unrestricted free agent (UFA). On the ice, the results, unfortunately, were not very close. However, his play was good enough to net some value for the franchise moving forward.
What Went Right: Trade to Vegas
As high as the Blues organization has been on Barbashev, they made the right call when they sent the 27-year-old forward to the Vegas Golden Knights on Feb. 26, just days ahead of the trade deadline. At the time of the trade, just like his former team, Barbashev was in the midst of an up-and-down season, totaling just 29 points (10 goals) in 59 games. Struggles aside, there were plenty of rumors around the league that he was one of the more highly sought-after members of the Blues’ UFA class, citing his ability to play a full and physical 200-foot game anywhere on a team’s top nine.
Related: Blues 2022-23 Report Cards
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In return, the Blues received a former-first-round pick in 20-year-old forward Zach Dean (30th overall in 2021). All he did this season for the Gatineau Olympiques of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) was score 70 points (33 goals) in 50 regular season games and 26 points (10 goals) in 13 post-season games. Being able to nab one of Vegas’ top prospects was quite the return for an underperforming UFA that seems destined to test the free-agent market this summer.
What Went Wrong: Couldn’t Replicate 2021-22 Success
For whatever reason, Barbashev wasn’t able to have the same success this season as he did for the Blues in 2021-22 when he set career-highs in nearly every category in a true “breakout” season. The team as a whole was on a rollercoaster all season long, unable to establish any real consistency or team chemistry, both of which surely hindered his success. Contributing negatively to his scoring abilities was a shooting percentage (S%) of just 11%, which at that point was the lowest mark of his career.
After joining Vegas, his numbers more closely resemble his output from 2021-22. In 23 regular season games, he scored 16 points (six goals), while averaging almost 18 minutes per game. He also saw his S% jump significantly to 17.1%. Playing on a club that’s winning and being surrounded by top-end talent are two huge contributing factors to Barbashev regaining some of his form. He’s spent most of his time with the Golden Knights on their first line alongside Jack Eichel and Jonathan Marchessault.
- 82 games played
- 45 points (16 goals)
- 182 hits
- 17:40 average ice time for Vegas
Final Grade: C
For the season, Barbashev scored 45 points (16 goals) in 82 games while also logging career-highs in both hits (182) and blocked shots (45). His final 59 games wearing the blue note were definitely disappointing, considering what he had done the previous season. Given he is a pending UFA, more was expected from him in a “contract year,” but overall, his season was just fine. His greatest contribution to the Blues this season was netting them a young top prospect from Vegas in Dean.
What’s Next for Barbashev?
With the Golden Knights advancing to the Western Conference Final, Barbashev remains in the hunt for his second Stanley Cup. After his season concludes, he seems destined to test the waters in free agency. Given the amount of teams that seemed to be interested in acquiring him this season, he should have plenty of suitors willing to give him a multi-year deal. It’s possible the Blues could be among those teams.