The first game of the 2015-2016 St. Louis Blues season is tomorrow night against the Edmonton Oilers at Scottrade Center. In other words it’s officially October.
After a longer summer than fans and players would’ve preferred, the team has taken a new shape going into this year and it will be put into action tomorrow night. Notably, they’ve signed both Scottie Upshall and Scott Gomez to contracts, officially solidifying them as Blues for the new season.
The sixth overall pick in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft found himself without an offer from the Florida Panthers following the completion of last season. Having played for a myriad of organizations including the Nashville Predators, Philadelphia Flyers, the now Arizona Coyotes, Columbus Blue Jackets, and the Panthers Upshall has had his fair share of instability throughout his 13-year NHL career.
That instability officially subsided when Upshall officially inked a one-year, two-way contract on Monday, meaning if the team decides to send him down to the Chicago Wolves of the AHL he’ll be paid less than if he were to stay on the NHL roster for the duration of the season.
With that said, what exactly should Blues fans expect from Upshall? Despite being a high pick when drafted, Upshall has struggled to score in the NHL with his greatest points production coming the year before last when he scored 37 points (15G, 22A) in 76 games. The Alberta-native is nowhere near an offensive power house and won’t be treated as such in St. Louis.
Upshall will be a steady, veteran presence on either the third or fourth line for the Blues with limited power play time. He might be a member of the penalty kill if head coach Ken Hitchcock elects to have him play, but the likelihood of that happening is questionable. He fits the mold of a physical forward that the Blues love to utilize, so he’ll be expected to use his size to his advantage when on the ice.
Overall, Upshall isn’t a make or break player. He isn’t going to drastically transform the makeup of the Blues organization, but he will make a difference when he’s on the ice.
As the 27th overall pick from the 1998 draft Gomez, like Upshall, has played for his fair share of organizations. He played his first seven seasons in the NHL for the New Jersey Devils before joining the New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens, and San Jose Sharks. Last season he rejoined the Devils, but has since signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Blues on Wednesday.
In his 15 NHL seasons, Gomez has accumulated 747 points (180G, 567A) making him the more offensively talented of the two recently signed veterans. His best points production to date were 70 point seasons in 2000, 2004, and 2008. In recent seasons, though, his contributions have nearly halved as he scored a mere 34 points (7G, 27A) last season.
What should Blues fans expect from Gomez? He’s going to be a bigger contributor offensively than Upshall, but he’s not nearly as physical. He can fill in either of the top two lines as a center with veteran experience, but it’s unlikely he’ll be a mainstay on either. Ultimately, he brings a good veteran presence to the line-up and can guide the younger players throughout the season, but he isn’t going to be performing like he did early on in his career.
The key thing to remember is that although the Blues signed both Upshall and Gomez they by no means committed to them. One year deals are the basic staple contract of veterans because of their likelihood for injury and lack of production. The game is so fast and difficult to keep up with, that teams, like the Blues, stay away from long-term commitments and they do so rightfully.
That said, Upshall and Gomez can certainly make a difference for the Blues and they can absolutely shatter the stereotypes of older players. The least St. Louis will get out of these two veteran forwards is the guidance and knowledge they’ve obtained through their years in the league, which is something every team needs.
Do you think Upshall or Gomez will be a bigger asset this season for the Blues? Leave your thoughts in the comments.