I think it’s fair to say that the St. Louis Blues‘ blue line is the biggest question mark going into the 2021-22 season because they’ve lost a fair amount of their defensive group from the 2018-19 championship team.
It appears as if this season’s blue line is going to be fully dependent on improving players, rather than adding them in the summer, even though there is still time to do so. This piece looks into the pairings themselves, not to be confused with my previous piece in May, which was more of a high-level view of the team’s defensive standing.
LD Torey Krug/RD Justin Faulk
With Justin Faulk emerging as a defensive defenseman rather than the offensive defenseman he was with the Carolina Hurricanes, this pairing makes more sense than it once did.
One thing that shouldn’t go unnoticed for Faulk is the great teammate and leader he was during the 2020-21 season, and after a lackluster 2019-20 season with the Blues, he bounced back in many ways. His offensive numbers should go up this season, and playing with a dynamic puck mover like Krug could help the flow of this pairing.
This pair also has the ability to balance each other’s game, considering last season Faulk scored seven goals, while Krug scored two. That should even out and likely go up for both, especially in a full season.
But at the end of the day, the way to protect this pairing is to have a high-level shutdown pairing, and that starts with finding a good partner for Colton Parayko.
A Free Agent/RD Colton Parayko
Maybe I’m holding out hope, but I see a scenario where the Blues find a veteran, left-handed defenseman to play with Parayko. While I believe that the most likely outcome is to bank on a bounce-back season from Marco Scandella with Parayko, I don’t think that is what they should do.
I’m going out on a limb with this one, but I think Zdeno Chara would be a perfect fit with Parayko, someone who can revitalize his game.
It has been mentioned that if Chara decides to return to the NHL, the Blues would be an interested team in the services of the 44-year-old. Elliotte Friedman mentioned the possibility on the “31 Thoughts” podcast.
Other free-agent options on the left side don’t fit as well, as Erik Gustafsson is too much of an offensive defenseman, while Jack Johnson, Jordie Benn, and Ben Hutton have all played poorly over the last couple of seasons.
The Blues have to find a way to get Parayko to return to form, he was terrific with Jay Bouwmeester and in pre-bubble 2019-20 games, he and Scandella were terrific.
I believe they will likely return to the Scandella and Parayko pairing, but I’ve decided to change things up and look at things in a different way.
LD Marco Scandella/RD Robert Bortuzzo
If they bring in a veteran free agent to pair with Parayko, this would likely become the third pair, two veteran players who are defensive-minded. As I mentioned above, Scandella has fallen off since his excellent play following the trade from the Montreal Canadiens.
Both of these guys are defensive defenseman who don’t produce much offensively. I get the sense that Niko Mikkola or Jake Walman will get the chance to play if Scandella slides back up to the shutdown pair with Parayko. Mikkola appears to be the likelier candidate, between him and Walman.
These two could complement each other and get better with more chemistry, but I don’t feel the Blues go this route.
Overall, the defense is the biggest question mark heading into the 2021-22 season, and I don’t think the Blues would be hesitant to add a piece within the next few months if they see fit. Blues general manager Doug Armstrong usually has something up his sleeve, and though that could be a blueline move, time will tell.
Ethan Carter has been writing at The Hockey Writers for over three years now. He also co-hosts The Blue Note Podcast for the Bleav Network, which covers the Blues and the NHL multiple times per week.