The St. Louis Blues have seen themselves through one of the bumpiest starts to the season in recent history. Through 31 games this season, only four players have suited up for every single game: Ivan Barbashev, Marco Scandella, Vladimir Tarasenko, and Colton Parayko. The team has found themselves fighting through every game in a “next man up” mentality, finding themselves successful more times than not. Before the Christmas Schedule Freeze, the organization finds itself with a 17-9-5 record, good enough for second place in the Central Division.
Now as the 2021 calendar year is coming to a close, let’s take a look at three players who are looking to bounce back in the 2022 portion of the schedule.
Blues fans have found themselves their newest whipping boy. After the defenseman was acquired from the Montreal Canadiens in Feb 2020, he inked a four-year contract extension worth $3.275 million per season after only six weeks with the organization, leaving many fans questioning the commitment with such a small sample size. Scandella has found himself on the wrong end of defensive plays and sometimes looking flat-footed or lost in his own zone.
This season, Scandella has the lowest Corsi For Percentage (CF%) on the team at 42.6%, indicating that the team is playing on the defensive side of the puck nearly 60% of the time when he is on the ice. To his defense, the Canadian has never been known for his offensive abilities, prioritizing the defensive side of the puck first. And while he is a defense-first player, his current CF% is the lowest of his career and 3.77% below his last four-year average. Scandella is a prime candidate hoping for a bounce-back in 2022.
Call it a lack of consistency in front of him, a lack of quality defensive defensemen, or even just a bit of bad luck, but Jordan Binnington has not looked sharp at times this season as the Blues need him to be. Now in his first year of his six-year, $36 million contract, Binnington needs to get back to his “Winnington” ways and start stealing some wins for the club if they are expecting to contend in the postseason this year.
With only one Quality Start (QS) in his last eight starts and six QS’s in 17 games, he finds himself in the same company as Anthony Stolarz (ANA) and Thomas Greiss (DET), both of which are the backup goaltender for their respective teams. The team has yet to play even 40% of their games this season, but the Blues goaltender also finds himself at an uncharacteristically low -0.32 Goals Saved Above Average (GSAA), a statistic calculated by the league’s average save percentage with the number of shots a goalie has had. The resulting number is the average goals a goalie would’ve surrendered if they took the same number of shots as the goalie being evaluated. With a career of 18.6 GSAA and a 2.6 GSAA average over the last three years, any indication of a negative rating is very uncharacteristic of Binnington.
It is tough to judge someone who has been held out of the lineup due to injury and only appeared in 19 games this season. However, adding a player like Brayden Schenn to this list is less of a judgemental addition and instead more optimistic on the benefits that a player of his caliber can bring.
Along with missing 39% of the teams’ games so far, he has managed only four goals and six assists in 19 games. This season, Schenn is currently on pace for 37 points and a mere 43 point projection over an 82 game season, one of the lowest of his career. The veteran forward has sustained multiple upper-body injuries this season and a run of bad luck that has prevented him from any sort of consistency in the lineup. If he can return to the ice, stay healthy, and compete in his normal, heavy-hitting style, he can help the Blues make a strong playoff push in the playoffs.
Health and consistency will continue to play key components to the success of the organization down the stretch and into the playoffs. If the organization can maintain those two aspects, and renewed success from these three individuals, the team stands a very good chance at making a deep playoff run this postseason.
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Mike is a writer for The Hockey Writers and covers the St. Louis Blues since November of 2021. He has a keen love for statistical analysis, prospects, signings, and trades. Follow Mike on Twitter for further Blues or Central division hockey discussions, interview requests, or to provide content info.