Mar 28, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko (91) is congratulated after scoring his second goal of the game against the Los Angeles Kings during the third period at the Scottrade Center. The Kings defeated the Blues 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports
St. Louis Blues fans will always have 2010 to look back on when they are worried about the future of their franchise. Taken 14th and 16th overall respectively, Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko are the future of the Blues. While on the ice, especially together, the two rookies seem to bring a new level of excitement to St. Louis Blues hockey. Tarasenko has a scoring touch, speed, size, and skill that few players his age possess. While he has been slower since his injury, he is slowly gaining his confidence back and should be a great asset for the remainder of the season and into the playoffs.
Having Tarasenko, Chris Stewart, T.J. Oshie, David Backes, Adam Cracknell, Dmitrij Jaskin, and Ryan Reaves all on the right side creates a log jam in the St. Louis Blues system. Cracknell has proven his value this season while getting some of his first NHL ice time. Stewart, Oshie, and Backes are all part of the “core” of this Blues team, and the coaching and management of the Blues seems to like have Backes at center. Reaves seems to be a necessary piece for the Blues fourth line with the right amount of skill and more than enough strength. Jaskin may have only played one game so far, but he is going to gain a roster spot sooner than later. Ty Rattie will also soon be in the mix and he plays on the right wing as well. Rattie’s biggest issue could be his size, so don’t plan on the St. Louis Blues using him on the fourth line.
Jaden Schwartz brings skill and a ton of hockey sense to the table, but his size is still somewhat small for the NHL. When playing on the correct line, Schwartz shows his brilliance and determination with the puck outplaying many more experienced players. On the left side the St. Louis Blues also have a bit of a jam. David Perron, Alexander Steen, Vladimir Sobotka, and Andy McDonald all play on the left wing as well. With Sobotka the Blues seem to be OK with him playing center. McDonald is most likely out of the fold once his contract is up at the end of the season. Steen and Perron are the two “core” pieces on the left side, but Schwartz will take prescedence over both if his game continues to get better.
T.J. Oshie, David Backes, David Perron, and even Alex Pietrangelo seem like somewhat old news. Trade rumors from fans involving David Perron, Chris Stewart, Patrik Berglund and Oshie suggest that perhaps this fanbase is willing to part with players they once saw as necessary to win the Stanely Cup. Perhaps the fans are becoming tired of the 45 years without the cup when newer teams in smaller hockey markets have managed to lift it. With young players now in the fold that seem to have a higher skill level than those who are slowly maturing into NHL veterans, the St. Louis Blues are going to be forced to make some difficult decisions.
Mar 28, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; Los Angeles Kings center Jordan Nolan (71) attempts to knock the puck away from St. Louis Blues left wing David Perron (57) during the second period at the Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports
I would guess that the St. Louis Blues do not want to change much at the moment, but could be busy during the offseason. With the talent and potential of the new wingers entering the Blues system, management could be looking to use some bigger pieces to land a true number one center. If GM Doug Armstrong is serious about bringing the cup to St. Louis, he could look to move players like Perron, Berglund, and possibly even Oshie if the right piece is coming back in the deal. A playmaking center would be the perfect compliment to Tarasenko and Schwartz creating a true number one line.
Only time will tell how successful this team will be in this year’s playoffs, but if there is an early exit, look for Armstrong to move one or more of the “core” guys to gain a number one center.
In the meantime, Tarasenko and Schwartz will continue to impress us with their play. While not always the most consistent players, they have both proven that they are NHL caliber guys with very bright futures.
LET’S GO BLUES!