The St. Louis Blues have been consistently inconsistent this season. While analysts cannot determine what this team is, there is one certainty that has remained with this club all year long, and that is the underperformance of the veteran players. If the Blues are anticipating a push to the playoffs this season, they will need help from these struggling players to get themselves to the postseason.
The Blues’ 31-year-old defenseman has experienced his fair share of offensive and defensive struggles this season. As most fans know, Torey Krug was brought in by general manager Doug Armstrong as a replacement for Alex Pietrangelo. The front office group anticipated him to be the two-way defenseman that averaged just over 65 points per 82 games over his final 201 regular season games in Boston.
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While he has not had the easiest of times acclimating to his new home in St. Louis, with the changing of the defensive guard, the COVID bubble season, and an all-but-failed pairing match with Colton Parayko, he has found a compatible partner in Justin Faulk. While Krug has only played 145 regular season games for the Blues as of this writing, his offensive point totals are a far cry from his days as a Bruin. As a member of the Blues organization, he has produced 90 points over his 145 games, a 51-point pace.
Looking at this season separately, Krug has remained healthy and productive, for the most part. However, his 15 points (five goals, 15 assists) through 30 games project him to finish the year with 39 points. What’s even more concerning, he is currently listed as the defenseman with the worst plus/minus not only on the team but in the NHL at minus-22. Head coach Craig Berube will have his work cut out for him to help turn Krug’s defense into a strength moving forward.
At this point, to say that the Blues’ captain needs a bounce-back offensively would be an understatement. While the rest of the roster has found a way to rebound this season, Ryan O’Reilly has been streaky, at best. Now in his fifth season as a member of the Blues, he has managed nine goals and 15 points through 33 games this season, along with an alarming minus-24 rating. The 31-year-old is currently on pace for 22 goals and 37 points, along with a minus-60 rating. The timing for his offensive production to come to a screeching halt could not be worse for him with his contract set to expire after this season.
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With the Blues looking for consistency this season, O’Reilly continues struggling to keep pace. With the ascension of Robert Thomas, the role as the team’s top-line center has begun to slip away from him. His ability to win faceoffs has left him as one of the top three finishers since the 2014-15 season. However, this year, he has seen a steady decline and barely ranks in the top 15 in the league with 307 wins and a 53.3 percent win rate. The Blues will undoubtedly have a need for a player like O’Reilly moving forward and should be interested in re-signing the veteran forward. However, as his production has seen a dramatic drop from 77 points in his first season in St. Louis, to a potential 37-point season in 2022-23, the player’s asking price for his next contract could be substantially different than the dollar amount the Blues organization may be willing to offer.
Veteran forward Brandon Saad has been the poster child for consistency throughout his career. Averaging over 23 goals per season in his 13 years in the NHL, he is a player that the front office and team rarely need to concern themselves with when it comes to production. However, during the rollercoaster season that this team is having, the Blues need quality depth and Saad is the type of player that needs to remain consistent to maintain his value. This season, his seven goals and nine points over 26 games throw up a red flag of concern for the 30-year-old.
After the 2021-22 season concluded, the Blues boasted one of the deepest offensive rosters in the NHL with nine players scoring over 20 goals. With the team struggling offensively this season, Saad is a player that the team should look to elevate his play and chip in more offensively. This year, he is currently on pace to score 26 points (20 goals, six assists). He will likely continue the offensive scoring pace that makes him a consistent 20-goal scorer in the NHL, and perhaps not much more.
Heading into the Christmas break, the Blues will have played 34 of their 82-game schedule. With over half the campaign left to play, there is still time to make up ground and push for a playoff spot. However, if their veterans cannot get their seasons jumpstarted, they may be looking into an early tee time or even a new franchise to call home as the year concludes.