Culture Change Coming For St. Louis Blues: Berglund, Backes, Oshie

The St. Louis Blues are looking to move “apples for apples” according to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, and aren’t averse (and in fact might be looking) to move core players over the summer.

From LeBrun,

Word is the Blues would like to move apples for apples in any deal, which is a very difficult thing to do in the cap system, particularly in a summer when so many teams are looking to shed salary, not add any.

But if there’s a deal out there that makes sense, word from rival executives is that the Blues are more open-minded than ever to move one of their long-standing core guys, whether that’s David Backes, T.J. Oshie, Patrik Berglund or other veterans.

It’s a delicate proposition in the sense that the Blues, by bringing back head coach Ken Hitchcock for one more season, are signaling that they’re taking another run at it and why oddsmakers have listed them as a top-five contender for next season. But in in a perfect world, the Blues would like to return with a new face or two among their core.

Those who follow the St. Louis Blues have been calling for a culture change, and with the re-signing of head coach Ken Hitchcock, most didn’t have faith that would happen for the upcoming season. Hitchcock runs a particular style of team, and even when filled with depth among forwards, defense, and two darn good goaltenders, the Blues flunked out of the playoffs like a kid who just doesn’t give a damn about math, mom, and you can’t make me.

We’ll take a look at each of the players in turn.

David  Backes

Backes brings an old-fashioned, gritty style of play to the table. He consistently is top-five in PIM on the team, despite being one of the higher-skilled players and not a fourth-line grinder, like you’d expect from looking at that stat. For the record, he had nearly 20 more penalty minutes than Steve Ott, professional head-patter and agitator extraordinaire. Top that, wouldja?

On the plus side, he’s a great motivator. Backes is a workhorse who will not settle for less than everything he can dredge up from the bottom of his heels. On the minus side…we don’t need our skill players sitting in the box or getting kicked out of the last 8, 9, 10 minutes of the game, as he did at least twice in the second half of the season.

T.J. Oshie

Oshie, normally on Backes’s wing, is awfully talented with the puck. He can score from just about anywhere and won’t let an opposing goalie forget it, either. This season he had a fantastic run from December to late February, racking points up, star of the game on a regular basis and even earning himself an NHL-wide first star of the week in January. He’s invaluable in the shootout and posted 55 points this season, and he doesn’t seem to be slowing down.

Oshie is young, pretty cheap for his production level, he’s an assistant captain for the Blues, he’s a force for good in the St. Louis community and by all accounts is a darn decent person.

On the downside, he doesn’t fit with Hitchcock’s system. Come playoffs time, he has nothing left in the tank and barely registers on the score sheet. While my personal preference would be to keep Oshie’s ridiculous shootout skills on the Blues as long as there is even the mention of a shootout, it might actually be kinder to move Oshie to a team where he can shine all year long, as opposed to during the doldrums of winter.

Patrik Berglund

Berglund isn’t a star when it comes to producing points, earning just over 50 in his strongest season with the Blues and leveling off over the past few years as linemates and assignments changed, to drop him down to just under 30. However his but his possession stats remain excellent. He posted some of his highest Corsi For percentages over the past season, per War-On-Ice, and a consistently low PDO, indicating that his skill level is actually somewhat higher than we’re seeing.

Berglund Corsi For % from War-On-Ice

He’s also the highest point-producer of the three players mentioned come postseason time, showing that Berglund fits into Hitchcock’s system where others might not. His downside, however, comes in the form of his cap hit. For what he brings to the team during the regular season, Berglund is actually pretty expensive at $3.7 million / year. Like Oshie, he has two years left on his contract, meaning that if the Blues want to prepare for the future they should move him immediately. They might see his expense as a wash, however, if he’s able to be one of their clutch players come playoffs.

If the Blues move one of the three core players mentioned there, who would you want it to be?