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.
Despite entering the season with the New York Rangers, Sammy Blais finished the season as a Blue. He was part of the deal that sent Vladimir Tarasenko and Niko Mikkola to the Rangers. He played his first five NHL seasons with the Blues. He was traded before the 2021-22 season to the Rangers in the Pavel Buchnevich trade. His return to St. Louis was welcomed by the coaching staff and Blais himself. That became quite clear as the regular season dwindled down.
What Went Right: Post-Deadline Numbers
Blais was one of the Blues’ best forwards in the last few months of the season. He joined the team at a time when they needed to plug forwards into the top nine after trading Tarasenko, Ryan O’Reilly, and Ivan Barbashev. He fit in really well under head coach Craig Berube’s system again. He fits like a glove. In 31 games with the Blues, Blais scored nine goals and 11 assists for 20 points. He tallied a career-high in both goals and assists for the season. He looked like a different player.
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Blais was not a major piece in the Tarasenko trade. He was a throw-in that struggled in New York. However, his familiarity with Berube and his system paid off in a big way. He was right there with Jakub Vrana as the Blues’ best forward in the second half of the season. I’m excited to see the current version of Blais for a full season with the Blues in 2023-24.
What Went Wrong: His Time in New York
His entire time in New York was a disaster. There were several factors that affected his time there. He tore his ACL after 14 games with the Rangers in 2021-22. He returned and looked uncomfortable within the Rangers’ lineup. He played 40 games before the trade to the Blues and scored zero goals and five assists with a plus/minus of plus-1. Overall, he played 54 games with the Rangers and had zero goals.
It’s safe to say that his time in New York was an abject failure. The Blues fleeced the Rangers in the Buchnevich trade. The Rangers moved the draft pick that they acquired from the Blues for rental Andrew Copp in 2021-22. They have neither piece that they received for Buchnevich. Blais fits so much better in St. Louis.
- 19 even-strength points in 31 games with the Blues
- 119 hits in 31 games with the Blues
- Career-high 16 takeaways in 71 games
Final Grade: A-
The Blues got much more from Blais than they could’ve expected. He didn’t look right in New York. However, he looked like a brand-new player in his second stint with the Blues. His puck skills and playmaking combined with his physicality were a sight to behold.
What’s Next for Blais?
He earned himself a one-year extension with the Blues for the 2023-24 season. The salary cap hit is likely a steal at $1 million. I think Blais will play on any of the top three lines next season. He finished the 2022-23 season with Buchnevich and Kasperi Kapanen as his linemates. It’ll be interesting to see how big of a role he will have as the season begins in October. He earned himself a top-six spot, but he could start on the third line.