We continue our look at this odd conglomeration of a holiday classic and the St. Louis Blues. Day two of Bluesmas looks at the defending from a couple “fan favorites” or rather the opposite.
On the second day of Bluesmas, the blue note gave to me two turtling defensemen. Ok, that part might be a little bit harsh, but there are a couple St. Louis Blues defenders that just don’t play the way we all would like.
You probably know who they are. They are considered either the most dispensable, most expendable or the ones fans want to get rid of the most.
Yes, the two “turtling defensemen” are Carl Gunnarsson and Jay Bouwmeester. Again, the label of turtle is harsh because these guys aren’t literally ducking their heads everytime some physicality comes around.
They do try to defend and block shots. They will even get into the mixer in the corners.
The problem is they just don’t play the way we want them to. Whether it is fair or not, we all want a bunch of defenders like Colton Parayko.
Parayko has the size to push people around. He has the speed to look like a forward when he jumps into the play. The young defender has stickhandling ability and defensive positioning smarts. He rarely loses puck battles and doesn’t shy away from physicality.
He’s a prototype for the modern day defender. Gunnarson and Bouwmeester don’t quite fit that mold.
That doesn’t mean they haven’t done enough over their careers to earn their spots. They are in the NHL for a reason.
That said, their Blues’ careers have just not endeared them to the fans. Gunnarsson is too much of a ghost and that has nothing to do with his complexion.
He’s not an offensive defender. His most points in a Blues uniform was 12 and that was the first year he was here.
Gunnarsson is not a punishing player either. He has crossed the 100 hit mark only twice in his career and doesn’t appear headed toward that mark this year at only 18. He is an average shot blocker, at best, too.
Poor Bouwmeester has really been given the business in his time in St. Louis. The problem he has had was we were sold one vision of him and he hasn’t fit that vision since his days with the Florida Panthers.
Bouwmeester was billed as a flashy puck mover who would score points/goals. He has not come close to double digit goals since 2008-09 and has not really been a great point producer either other than his 37 points in the first full season in St. Louis.
He has never been physical. Bouw has had triple digit hits twice in his career and it was very early on.
This season he has turned it around a little bit with 28 hits, putting him close to a pace for 100 over a full year. That’s more than Gunnarsson and Bouwmeester has more blocks as well. Surprisingly, Bouwmeester actually is one of the better shot blockers on the team.
The problem with these guys is probably more their contract and the position they have in the team. Both are signed through 2019.
Gunnarsson’s contract is manageable, but Bouwmeester is getting paid top two money and producing second or third line results sometimes. It’s not even just the offensive numbers. Those would be palatable, but both of these guys tend to back away from the rush too much.
Gunnarsson just doesn’t have the speed to keep up. Bouwmeester is enthralled with his reach and thinks a stick poke will work every time and it rarely does these days.
The thing that makes these guys faults stand out more is the emergence of the new, young core of this team. Guys like Colton Parayko and Joel Edmondson, who have played a consistent game, make you wonder if it is better to drop those others.
Additionally, the Blues have other names waiting in the wings. Petteri Lindbohm, Jordan Schmaltz, Tommy Vannelli and even Brad Hunt might fill their shoes nicely.
Might is the key word. Like them or not, you know what you’ll get from Bouw amd Gunny. It’s not flashy, but it is steady.
The other ones give more bang, but who knows for how long.
Given the team’s depth at defense, it might be time to cut bait with someone. Whether it’s the old guard or the new one remains to be seen.