The St. Louis Blues supposedly got the short end of the stick when it came to trading Kevin Shattenkirk. Why is it they are better off then?
When the St. Louis Blues traded away Kevin Shattenkirk, even the most sensible fans were a little underwhelmed. The return was less than satisfying even though the Blues actually seemed to get a bit more than the going rate for a rental player.
Further down the spectrum, you had the people that threw an absolute fit. How could the Blues get rid of one of the league’s “elite” defensemen?
Shattenkirk deserves respect for being one of the best at what he does. He’s an offensive defenseman, great puck mover and an even better person. All that said, he is not a good defender and you cannot be one of the elite at your position when the main focus of your position is not your strong point.
The game may be changing, but you still need to defend. Multifaceted players are fantastic, but when boiled down, scorers must scorer and defenders must defend.
The simple fact is the Blues have been better off without Shattenkirk. That is not to say his absence is the sole reason for the Blues turnaround. That is way too simple. Still, the numbers do not lie.
St. Louis has played a total of six games (as of writing this) since the trade. In that time, the Blues are 5-1. Before the trade, St. Louis lost four in a row.
Some of the losing streak can definitely be attributed to the mere distraction of the trade speculation. So, logic dictates that the relief of it being over can play a part in the turnaround.
Still, the Blues have defended as a team much better without Shattenkirk in the lineup. In six games, they have allowed 11 goals. That’s an average of 1.83 goals against per game.
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That might not sound great, but compare that with Washington. Since Shattenkirk’s arrival, the Caps have given up an average of 2.83 goals per game over the same span (2.74 if you include the seventh game played last night).
Again, that does not put all the blame on Shattenkirk. He had four points in six games when initially going over and was only a -1 in his plus/minus rating.
It can’t be ignored that both teams went on opposite streaks after the trade though. Call it coincidence if you will, but the Blues won five in a row and the Capitals went 2-4 in the same amount of games.
Additionally, Washington gave up four or more goals in four straight games. This coming from a team that has given up the fewest goals in the NHL.
Shattenkirk is a good player, but his focus was never on defense. That tends to put undue pressure on teammates and can also spread a mentality that defending can be optional.
St. Louis has been a much better defensive team without him. It is a small sample size to be sure, but it seems the team gels a bitt better on the defensive side when he is not here.
Interestingly enough, the Blues powerplay has improved a bit without Shattenkirk as well. St. Louis’s powerplay was in the top 10, but around 23%.
Without Shattenkirk in the lineup, the man-advantage was expected to languish. They haven’t looked spectacular every time out, but the Blues have gone 4-12, which is 33.3%. The top team in the league is at 23.7% for the season, so a stretch hitting at 33% is pretty good.
We won’t know whether the Blues got the better of the trade for quite some time. Zach Sanford still has a lot of growing to do as a player and who knows what St. Louis does with their draft picks.
Still, for right now it seems the Blues are better off without Shattenkirk. The roles of each player seem much more defined and there seems to be a lot less chasing of the puck.
Whether they are doing it because their former teammate is not there or in spite of it, they have banded together. The Blues are finally playing for each other.
Of course, having a couple hot goaltenders helps a great deal. It can’t be denied that the defensive unit has looked better and so has the team as a whole.
Hopefully it continues. The playoffs will be the key as you need players capable of playing big minutes.