The 2010-11 season was highlighted for the St. Louis Blues by the acquisition of Kevin Shattenkirk and Chris Stewart. At the time it seemed Stewart was going to be the main prize for the Blues, but Shattenkirk has more than come into his own as a top tier defenceman in the NHL.
The problem was not in 2011, because when Stewart joined the Blues late in the season he put up an incredible 15 goals and 8 assists in just 26 games. Blues fans expected Stewart to be the offensive force that the Blues lacked coming into 2011-12, but the Chris Stewart we all expected seem to be non-existent. Following two 28 goal seasons, Stewart amassed just 15 goals and 15 assists in 79 games causing coach Ken Hitchcock to bench Stewart during parts of the Blues playoff run.
This past offseason, GM Doug Armstrong decided not to give up on the young Stewart, but rather challenge him to prove his worth to the Blues organization. Stewart signed a one year contract similar to the one T.J. Oshie signed last season when Armstrong wanted Oshie to prove his worth as well. In the case of Oshie, the contract worked causing him to work harder and prove himself to the club. In fact, last season T.J. Oshie managed to tie for the most points by a Blues player with 54, and it seemed like he could have been good for many more. The hope is that this contract will help Stewart to recapture that spark he had when he first joined the St. Louis Blues.
During the summer, Stewart was busy working out with long time friend and roommate Wayne Simmondsof the Philadelphia Flyers. Once the lockout started, the pair made the jump over to Germany to play for Crimmitschau ETC. During Stewart’s time with Crimmitschau he played in 15 games and scored 20 points. For a brief period of just 5 games, Stewart also played in the Czech Republic’s top league, but only managed 1 assist before returning to Crimmitschau.
Now, Chris Stewart is back in St. Louis and practicing with the majority of the Blues roster. Ken Hitchcock has been carefully watching Stewart and had this to say about him in a recent article with BND.com, “He’s done three things: He’s lost weight, he’s in great shape and he’s focused… He’s done a heck of a job. He looks great, he looks like a different player on the ice. When you see him skate he’s way more fluid….he looks really good.” This is great news coming from one of Stewart’s toughest critics, his coach.
With the 2013 season quickly approaching, Stewart is going to have even more competition on the right side this season with Vladimir Tarasenko joining the team. If Chris Stewart becomes a third line player, can we really expect him to put up the kind of numbers he could be capable of? I don’t think so. I think that Hitchcock knows this and will use Stewart in the right situations. We could see him killing penalties and using his big body on the ice to his advantage. In the same way, hopefully we will see Stewart step up his game and work on the powerplay as well. Chris Stewart has a great eye of where to put the puck on net and works really well from the backhand. This should give him a bit of an edge in the modern NHL, but he is going to have to prove it.
We will have to wait to see just what Stewart is capable of, but what do you all think? Can Stewart return to his former self and help the St. Louis Blues’ offensive numbers grow? I sure hope so. I do know that one thing will always be true though, and that is so long as he is a Blue, I will be a fan. As always, LET’S GO BLUES!