One of the most heavily scrutinized players on the 2019-20 St. Louis Blues is Zach Sanford. He played a fairly key role in last year’s run to the Stanley Cup and has been expanding his role with the team more this season.
All of the things said about Sanford are about the bad penalties he takes, but nobody mentions his production. You can certainly make a case for him to stay in the lineup when the team is mostly healthy.
His production level and the physicality he can bring can help to cancel out some of the bad mistakes he makes.
Measuring His 2019-20 Performance
Sanford has scored 6 goals and 13 assists for 19 points in 40 games this season, surpassing his assist total from last season. He’s nearing his goal total from last season as well, which was eight. Over the last five games, he has tallied 2 goals, 5 assists and 7 points, so the production is there.
As I said, Sanford does not get enough credit for his entire game, he is a plus-seven on the season. He’s up to 74 hits on the season, also 20 hits in his last five games. So the physicality is there.
It doesn’t make much sense when you see Blues’ fans call Sanford “worthless,” whether they are serious or not. He has produced enough this season and has had some really good stretches where he’s been fantastic.
I could understand Blues fans being upset over him constantly playing in the top-six forward group. However, he does only get 12:42 of average time on ice.
Where Does He Fit?
Sanford has played most of this season in a top-six role with his linemates being David Perron and Ryan O’Reilly. Earlier in the season, we saw Sammy Blais playing with Perron and O’Reilly, but when Sammy Blais went down, Sanford stepped in.
Since he’s played most of the season with Perron and O’Reilly and has been good, I wouldn’t be completely against him staying with those two. However, I would like to see Blais get another shot with Perron/O’Reilly sometime soon.
Once we see Sundqvist back, as well as Vladimir Tarasenko, I still think there could be a spot within the bottom six for Sanford. When fully healthy, the Blues could have trouble picking which forwards could stay in.
Potential options alongside Sanford for the fourth line include Ivan Barbashev, Mackenzie MacEachern, Oskar Sundqvist, and Jacob de la Rose. Barbashev and Sundqvist should be locks, so you’d have to pick one of the other three.
Throwing Sanford in with Barbashev and Sundqvist would likely be a good thing for him. He has shown physical play and an ability to produce goals.
Staying in the Lineup
To stay in the lineup, I assume Blues’ coach Craig Berube wants him to be more consistent, which is easier said than done. He seems to play pretty well with Perron and O’Reilly, but I could see a shakeup in the future.
Some of the penalties that Sanford has taken have been awful, which drives Blues’ fans crazy. He does produce, like I said, enough to stay in the lineup. It would certainly surprise me to see Sanford being a healthy scratch anytime soon since his numbers have been there.
His 6-foot-4, 207-pound frame provides size and physicality in the forward group, something the Blues are looking for. The fact that he has shown up under pressure in the past, like in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final, should benefit him. (from ‘Zach Sanford has been the Blues’ secret weapon in the Stanley Cup finals,’ Washington Post, 06/08/2019)
Also, as mentioned, Sanford could be a perfect fit on the fourth line once Blais gets acclimated enough again to get another shot with Perron and O’Reilly. Imagine the physical play of a line with Barbashev, Sundqvist and Sanford – especially in the playoffs.
Although I’ve liked what MacEachern and de la Rose have brought to the table, I think the scoring upside is on Sanford’s side in this case. It’s been a wonderful thing to see the depth that has been brought in by general manager Doug Armstrong. It’s something that is only going to help them come playoff time.