There are some occurrences that take place once every great while. For astronomers, lunar eclipses and Neptune sightings sit at the top of this list. For southern United States dwellers, it may be a forecast of snow or a day that falls below 32°. For hockey fans, it’s the four-goal game … or any goal by St. Louis Blues right-winger, Dmtrij Jaskin.
It’s true, the once highly anticipated Czech has seemingly hit a wall in 2015-16. Through 38 games played by the 22-year old, he has tallied just two goals.
To help put this into perspective, ever-struggling teammates Paul Stastny and Jori Lehtera have both outscored him. League-wide, non-offensive skaters Andy Greene (NJD), Kevin Klein (NYR) and Adam Cracknell (VAN) have all racked up more goals. Even Cody McLeod (COL) and Brian Boyle (TBL) have out produced Jaskin’s measly nine points.
It hasn’t been an easy go for the second-year man. After a promising rookie season that saw Jaskin post 18 points in 54 games, this year has been quite the hindrance. There are many factors that have contributed to his sophomore slump.
Lack of Energy
When Jaskin first joined the Blues during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign, he wasn’t instantly noticeable on the ice. This is the case for most players, but Jaskin’s case was almost worrisome as he blended into the background more than any.
The 2013-14 season saw Jaskin play in 18 games, also contributing his first goal against the Chicago Blackhawks in December. You could start to see his game-breaking abilities more and more as he continued to earn playing time under head coach Ken Hitchcock.
Last season saw a jump in his progression, though. It’s almost as if someone lit a match underneath the rookie, as he began controlling the puck more in the offensive zone and leading breakouts. His second career goal, which stood as the game-winning marker against Chicago, displays his high energy as a spark plug that the Blues desperately needed at the time. From there, it seemed that Jaskin was pushing his way up the team depth chart and management needed to clear room for his ever-lasting emergence.
After watching a third consecutive first-round playoff exit, general manager Doug Armstrong peddled fan-favorite T.J. Oshie to the Washington Capitals in exchange for grinder Troy Brouwer, developing goaltender Pheonix Copley and a 2016 third-round pick. On the outside, this seemed like a hockey trade that filled the Blues’ desire to get bigger and add some goaltending depth. However, a deeper look might suggest that the Blues traded a second-line right winger to make room for Jaskin’s much-needed playing time.
This should motivate a player, correct? The 22-year old was projected to be a second-line mainstay through the duration of this season, but has fallen short on almost every opportunity. While on a team that suffered through numerous injuries in October and November, Jaskin failed to firmly grasp a top-six forward spot.
The much-reported sophomore slump is the easy scapegoat, but issues go deeper than that. If Jaskin can find a way to tap into the energy and focus that got him into the NHL in the first place, the latter half of 2015-16 can still more than salvage his sophomore year.
If you don’t believe this is an issue, just ask any Blues fan on social media.
While some may overstate this, it does play a factor in Jaskin’s ineffectiveness. His linemates have ranged from Lehtera and Robby Fabbri to Kyle Brodziak and Ryan Reaves. Recently, Jaskin has been found skating alongside Reaves and Scottie Upshall.
This insistence on change has contributed greatly to Jaskin’s ice-time fluctuance. In his first 10 games, Jaskin averaged 13:06 of ice time per game, including a season-high 20:46 on Oct. 24 against the New York Islanders. In his past five games, he has averaged just 10:41 time on ice with a season-low 7:04 on Monday against the Ottawa Senators.
Although it is difficult for any coach to stick with consistent line combinations through a rough patch (even three-time champ Joel Quenneville goes under fire for juggling lines every now and then), a constant set of partners may benefit Jaskin.
Jaskin Isn’t the Only One Struggling
Yes, Jaskin hasn’t been a consistent force this season. But take a look around; his teammates are not doing too much better.
The Blues are currently ranked 17th in goals scored, tallying just 101 goals in 42 games played (or an average of 2.40 goals per game). They have also played more games than any team below them in the rankings.
The rare exception is Vladimir Tarasenko, who is tied for second in the league in goals (23) and is tied for fifth in points (41). Although it is unfair to take away any team’s top scorer, the Blues would place 29th in goals scored without Tarasenko’s contributions.
Multiple players are on pace for disastrous offensive seasons. David Backes is set to record 45 points, which would be his lowest total since his second NHL season (excluding the lockout year). Stastny is on pace for 44 points, which would be his lowest total since his third season when he was held to just 45 games played (again, excluding 2012-13). Jori Lehtera’s 29-point pace sets him far off his 44-point total last season.
Let’s not forget that offensive ball-of-fire Jaden Schwartz has appeared in just seven games this season.
Common sense says that Jaskin’s output will improve when the team as a whole starts racking up more goals. Only then will a Jaskin goal become typical rather than a hockey anomaly.