St. Louis Blues: Expect Line Juggling For Awhile

Oct 13, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk (40) keeps his eye on St. Louis Blues center Jori Lehtera (12) who handles the puck in front of the net during the second period at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 13, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk (40) keeps his eye on St. Louis Blues center Jori Lehtera (12) who handles the puck in front of the net during the second period at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports /

The St. Louis Blues, like every team, tinker with their lines when something is not working. Line tinkering is going to become a regular thing for the near future due to the injuries the team has sustained.

St. Louis Blues fans who don’t like Ken Hitchcock’s habit of line juggling may want to pay a lot less attention over the next week or so. Perhaps listening to the radio instead of watching on TV will alleviate your anxiety.

I say anxiety because there is going to be a lot coming up for those folks, with the team’s current situation. With these injuries coming so early, it has thrown a wrench into forming good line chemistry, aside from the issue of missing players to begin with.

The Blues are in a bit of a predicament right now. They are not only missing certain pieces from their opening day lineup, but have had to blow up their entire roster plan.

St. Louis now has guys normally listed as wings playing center. They have third line players up on the top line, fourth liners who used to be higher up the lineup and some who slide up and down depending on what seems like a whim.

Don’t expect that to change any time soon either. The problem these current string of injuries has caused the Blues is they now have no timetable of anything.

Coach Hitchcock can’t plan out a particular lineup in hopes to get by until a player or players returns. He literally could have a different lineup game to game for two games or 10 games.

That’s the issue. We’ve made much of the injuries in and of themselves, but the lack of time frame may be worse.

When Jaden Schwartz went down, there was a given timetable he would be out. The team could plan to have certain players in certain spots for a certain amount of time. I apologize for all the certains in this uncertain time.

Now, however, with a combination of longer term injuries, mixed with day-to-day injuries, the team must play it by ear every day. It’s one thing to have that next man up mentality, but quite another for your healthy players to not have a clue where they might line up either.

Just to give an example, let’s examine the potential lineups for the Blues against Edmonton.

Alexander Steen started the year as the top line winger.  Now he is centering the second line.

Nail Yakupov began the year with the third line.  He has earned his way to the top line, but has not been afforded much time to get used to his new linemates, let alone his new teammates up and down the roster.

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Dmitrij Jaskin was centering the fourth line and now goes to third-line wing.  David Perron stays on the outside, but moves down a line.

Kyle Brodziak and Schwartz are looking like they will return.  How long though?

What if they have a setback?  What if they get sore and need a day or two?

These aren’t issues that don’t pop up with any injury.  They do make it difficult to plan a team out.

That’s where the Hitchcock haters may want to check out. The bottom line is, with players coming back from injury, others potentially getting hurt, scratches getting game time etc., even a coach who doesn’t juggle their lines would have a hard time using a pen instead of pencil for his lines.

Also clouding the situation is the fact Jori Lehtera has been placed on injured reserve. Some will say that gives more answers, but I only see more questions.

Sure, it means Lehtera won’t be on Tarasenko’s line for awhile. It doesn’t mean Steen will stay at center for that line.

There was too much talk of Schwartz trying out center to think it isn’t in the back of Hitch’s head. What about a line of Yakupov-Schwartz-Tarasenko?

I’m not advocating for it, but the way guys got moved around in the Vancouver game like players on an electric football game, there is nothing saying anyone’s spot is safe. Poor Ty Rattie fell down the lineup like a stone after seeing a brief chance with the top line.

The only thing we know for sure – for now anyway – is as long as Brodziak is healthy, we know our fourth line. Well, we know it until Ryan Reaves gets put in the doghouse for a more skilled winger who won’t benefit by playing on the fourth line, but I digress.

None of this is meant to worry anyone. None of it is meant to turn anyone against the coach.

The results are all that matters. If Tarasenko keeps scoring, who cares who is on his line? If Yakupov or Perron put a few in, what does it matter which line it came on?

If the Blues won the game, why do we care who played with who? Who knows, but we will.

Despite the team looking lost at times, they should have beaten the Canucks. They can still string together some more wins coming up.

Next: After Hot Start, Blues Powerplay Needs Much Improvement

For now though, all of us need to expect a lot of change. Players are going to be coming and going, slotted up and down.

It’s going to be frustrating. We are going to wonder things aloud that children probably should not hear.

It’ll be ok though. We might just want to pay a little less attention to the roster sheet for a little while.