Vladimir Sobotka is the kind of player that teams rally around during the playoffs. Scoring is imperative. You can’t win a banner without timely goal scoring and a good dose of offense. Yet the true identity of the team rarely seems to come from the top guys on the team.
Instead, it comes from the role players. The guys who go out on the ice and play hard, doing everything they can to will the team to victory. That’s not to say that Sobotka is more important than, say, Vladimir Tarasenko. Or that David Backes doesn’t embody the Blues in every way. It’s just that Sobotka brings such a unique wrinkle to the attack in St. Louis.
Now he is slated to miss at least four weeks with a broken knee cap (ouch!) and won’t be able to participate in the Winter Olympics.
The #stlblues have placed Vladimir Sobotka on injured reserve. He will miss the Olympics and be reevaluated in 4 weeks.
— Lou Korac (@lkorac10) February 1, 2014
Watch a Blues game and a handful of players are likely to stand out more than Sobotka, but his fingerprints are all over every St. Louis victory. The 26-year-old center has 25 points in 46 games, but his impact out on the ice is greater than his stat line. No other center in the NHL wins draws more consistently than Sobotka—60.9% of the time he comes out with the puck.
Only a handful of Blues forwards start in the offensive zone less often than him during five on five play—he’s fourth on the team and starts in the offensive zone only 48.9% of the time. More impressive is how often St. Louis ends up in the offensive zone when Sobotka is killing penalties.
He’s one of the anchors of the PK unit and helps the team finish in the attacking zone more often than not despite the team being down a man. Sobotka plays an abrasive style—he has been credited with more than 87 hits this season—but he doesn’t take too many penalties and spends some time on the power play as well.
All in all, Sobotka is the kind of forward the Blues likely wish they could clone. He’s an effective Swiss Army Knife kind of guy that Hitchcock can roll out in literally any situation with confidence. It seems like every day we’re assaulted by reports about various players not skating hard enough or playing two-way hockey.
That’s what makes Sobotka so special and important for the Blues. Because of the Olympic break the team won’t have to get too familiar with what it takes to play without him, but a handful of games should be enough to remind everyone just how special of a player Sobotka is.