St. Louis Blues: Mishandling of Top Prospects Is Alarming

Feb 2, 2017; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Blues center Ivan Barbashev (49) in action during the third period against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Scottrade Center. The Blues won 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 2, 2017; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Blues center Ivan Barbashev (49) in action during the third period against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Scottrade Center. The Blues won 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports /

The St. Louis Blues front office has been adamantly screaming that this is a “transition year” to save face. So, shouldn’t the team take every opportunity to play their youngsters?

After Sunday night’s win against the Colorado Avalanche, there is some rejoice among St. Louis Blues fans. While it’s great that the team snapped a gnarly five-game losing streak, let’s be honest: the Blues still aren’t a real contender. Colorado is terrible and that might somehow be an understatement.

Sunday’s win doesn’t change the course of the Blues’ immediate future. That future seemed like it was going to be about developing their young talent to compliment the specific core General Manager Doug Armstrong named last week in the video below. The big Kevin Shattenkirk trade supported that notion, with the Blues receiving nothing but future assets.

But after the last two games, I’m convinced the Blues don’t have any idea what they should be doing the last quarter of the season. It seems like the St. Louis Blues want to either compete for the final playoff spot and make a run now but their recent moves and play suggest otherwise.

The Blues’ priority right now should be developing young players to shape the roster for next season. If the club makes the playoffs doing so, it will be a win-win. A playoff run featuring the younger exciting players would be better anyways. But, what the Blues have done the last two games is an indication that the next month could be detrimental to the organization.

Now, you probably sat down last Friday night to watch the St. Louis Blues play the Winnipeg Jets. You probably cracked open your beer, put your feet up, and thought “Hey, I’m pretty excited to watch the Jordan Schmaltz debut!”

Then you noticed he didn’t play. He was in the press box after two days with the club and scratched in favor of Robert Bortuzzo and/or Carl Gunnarsson.

Jordan Schmaltz is one of the Blues’ top defensive prospects. He has been for a while and was simply waiting for the inevitable Shattenkirk departure. Now that the trade occurred, he needs to be playing with the big club. Instead, the Blues promoted Schmaltz, had him practice for two days, and then stuck him in shirt and tie in a press box.

Schmaltz did play Sunday night though in Colorado and the former North Dakota Fighting Hawks star played quite well. There weren’t any noticeable mistakes that NBC’s Pierre Maguire needed to compare to what a Chicago Blackhawk would have done instead. That’s a feat all on its own.

Schmaltz had two hits in his 15 minutes on the ice and even saved a late goal to help Jake Allen secure his third shutout of the season. We will have to wait and see if Jordan Schmaltz plays every game from here on out. Unless he is injured, he absolutely should. But, I don’t think it will happen.

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While Schmaltz got his chance Sunday night, two other rookies did not. Ivan Barbashev and Zach Sanford were both left out of the lineup against the Avalanche.

And I just do not understand the decision.

Ivan Barbashev has played 14 games with the St. Louis Blues. He has just three points in those contests but that’s not an identifier of how he has played. The young Russian has been stuck mostly on the fourth line with players not known to create scoring chances. So scoring aside, Barbashev has been worthy of the starts. His faceoff work has been improving and he is now up to a 43% mark. He obviously still needs to improve that number but he should given the chance. Barbashev has also looked good in his own zone and hasn’t shown any hesitation getting into board battles despite his less than stellar size.

However, the Blues once again handed lackluster veterans or failed experiments that ice time on Sunday night. It’s the same case with Sanford.

The recently acquired forward made his St. Louis Blues debut on Friday against Winnipeg. While Sanford didn’t register a point, he was noticeably good on defense. He blocked four shots and broke up a great scoring chance for the Jets while on his backcheck.

The Blues clearly love Sanford, with him being a signature piece of the Shattenkirk deal. But he played one game, played it well, and was left off the lineup card as his reward.


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The most frustrating part about this is that these prospects are being scratched against the very teams they should be playing. Colorado is the worst team in hockey by far and Winnipeg isn’t exactly a contender either. These games were a good chance for the young Blues to get acclimated and find success.

Now, 10 of the Blues’ remaining 18 games are against non-playoff teams. Only six of those games are against sure-fire playoff clubs.

The young Blues must play in these games. There’s no benefit to scratching them. Consistent playing time could do wonders for these players, much like it did for Robby Fabbri and Colton Parayko.

Scratching them, however, could give the Blues a few more Nail Yakupovs, Dmitrij Jaskins, or Ty Ratties. That would do more damage to the franchise than any good this year or in the future.

So Blues, I beg you. Play the kids. Please?