The St. Louis Blues are entering the 2016-17 season with quite a few question marks. Though fans always have varying degrees of worry, the line combinations are still up in the air, which is definitely worrying.
The St. Louis Blues are still one of the better teams in the Western Conference, regardless of what the naysayers want to tell you. That said, they are much thinner than even I had originally believed.
A simple look at potential line combinations reveals there aren’t many sure things going on with the Blues’ lineup right now. Injuries have made figuring out the lines even more puzzling.
We did a potential line combination article back in the summer. That was hard enough to do because so many figured Kevin Shattenkirk would be gone.
Now, things have changed. Shattenkirk is likely to stay a member of the Blues until February, unless someone comes in and wows St. Louis.
Instead, injuries have reared their ugly head before the season begins. That leaves some potentially scary holes to fill.
Beginning to write this piece, it became a little easier due to the Blues announcement. Alexander Steen is going to play against Washington in Kansas City and has already been participating in full contact practice.
That makes things a little easier. Regardless of what you feel about them as individuals, without Steen and Jaden Schwartz, I was pretty much forced to use names like Magnus Paajarvi or Kenny Agostino just to fill spots.
With Steen seemingly healthy, that gives the Blues a few more options. Before we get into the hard part, let’s use the easy way out and discuss defensemen first.
Looking back at the pairings I made in the summer, there is actually a decent amount of change. I had Edmundson on the top line just to keep the lefty/righty pairings together.
In actuality, I think the Blues will use Bouwmeester and Pietrangelo together still. However, I wish they would not.
Bouwmeester had a really good World Cup and seemed to regain his speed and positioning. Even with that, I feel like he would be better off on the second pairing.
He would not be going against other teams top lines, giving him a bit of a break. If his legs have returned, he would make a dynamic pair with either Parayko or Shattenkirk.
The Blues also said they were considering using Pietrangelo on the left. That may mean only on the powerplay. However, if they were willing to do it all the time, it really opens things up.
Shattenkirk might be more likely to stay (perhaps even for a little less money?) if he was given time on the top pairing. Parayko would also be a good fit on the top line, but he might be better off to help Bouwmeester if Bow gets caught in the offensive zone.
Petteri Lindbohm could be an interesting piece with all of this too. He’s had a very good preseason and is making his case to be a part of this team.
Most likely Offensive Lines
I wanted to get Jori Lehtera off the top line, but at present, I don’t see a way to do it until the entire team is healthy. Well, there is a way to do it, but I’ll look at that in a moment.
Perron probably is not a fit on the top line anymore, but it sort of boiled down to who else you could put on his wing. Fabbri is a possibility, but with the team trying him out at center, it doesn’t seem like they would slot him as a top line winger.
Doing a random Google search for Blues line combinations got some interesting results. DailyFaceoff had the top results and their lines were OK, but I just don’t see Steen being put at the third line.
The fourth line is easy, because that’s basically what it is going to be. Reaves will be the one rotated out, but you can pretty much put Upshall and Brodziak in pen.
Offensive Lines I’d Like To See
Wing – Vladimir Tarasenko
Center – Paul Stastny
Wing – Alexander Steen
Wing – Ty Rattie
Center – Robby Fabbri
Wing – David Perron
Wing – Dmitrij Jaskin
Center – Jori Lehtera
Wing – Patrik Berglund
Wing – Ryan Reaves
Center – Kyle Brodziak
Wing – Scottie Upshall
I know, this is a pipe dream. I should give up on it, but I’d love to see Stastny with Tarasenko for a good stretch.
We’ve seen it in bits and pieces, but either injury or line juggling always interrupts it. People can say Stastny isn’t a top center anymore, if he ever was, but he’s still the best the Blues have. The team just seems to want to use him with other players.
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In this scenario, I could easily swap Fabbri onto the top line wing and Steen to second line center. For now, I just like the dynamic of having Steen with that top pair.
Say what you will about any of their finishing products, but what a line that second one could be. Speed galore and stick handling to boot. Who would finish, if Fabbri’s job is setting people up, is the question.
I’ve used this third line in the past. For some reason, I doubt we’ll ever see it. That said, I think it could still be productive.
As mentioned previously, the downfall of this line would be all three players have a knack for going cold. With nobody completely reliable, it would be the first line to throw a wrench in the rest.
If I’m honest, and that’s always dangerous, I don’t have a clue how the lines will shape up. Without Schwartz, there are any number of things that could happen.
Half the lineup seems to be trying out at center, so it all depends on who the coaching staff feels is the best fit in the middle. If they are determined to put Steen at center, then there are so many other things that could happen.
Fabbri playing at center would also changes things.
The big key will be the extra winger. Regardless of who is at center, there is a wing spot with Schwartz injured.
Someone needs to step up in that absence. It’ll be very interesting to see how they line up come the season opener.