The St. Louis Blues will have some decisions to make about guys they were extremely high on. Promise can only get you so far though and there may not have been enough proof in the pudding so to speak.
The St. Louis Blues have been a much improved team under Mike Yeo compared to much of their 2016-17 season. Individually, many players have found the spark to turn themselves around as well.
Unfortunately, that is not true of everyone. Though currently both injured, Jori Lehtera and Dmitrij Jaskin have continued to be disappointments on the score sheet even if they have improved somewhat in the effort department.
Lehtera has been out of action since March 10. Jaskin has not seen the ice since March 13. While the Blues might not be as deep up the middle without them, they were not exactly lost in their absence.
St. Louis has gone 6-1-1 without Jaskin or Lehtera in the lineup. Sadly, they were not exactly providing much help statistically when in the lineup either.
Neither player even registered a point in their last five games. Lehtera has not scored a point since scoring a goal on February 16. That was over a month without even a point.
Jaskin’s last point was even longer ago. He had the second assist on a goal way back on January 17. The Blues were in the midst of their low point in the season back then.
It is not as though Yeo has failed to give them a chance either.
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Lehtera was playing almost 20 minutes a game when Yeo first took over. Once his production saw a continued flatline, the Finnish born player saw his ice time tumble to anywhere between 11 and 13 minutes per game.
The same was true of Jaskin. His playing time was more sporadic, mostly due to the sudden surge of Magnus Paajarvi, but chances were afforded. His ice time has yo-yo’d, but in reality he would have been relegated to the fourth line if not for the consistent play of the fourth line players.
We may be at the point where you have to honestly ask what these guys are going to provide. At this time, do we have any reason to believe they can actually turn it around? Or are we hoping that each of their one good seasons will suddenly reemerge?
Jaskin has 19 career goals. 13 of those came in his first full season. He has not shown himself to be capable of playing center (a need for the Blues) and he isn’t a good enough winger on a consistent basis.
Lehtera has seen his point totals dip considerably every year he has played in the NHL. That is bad enough on its own, but take into consideration his linemate. He has been joined at the hip with Vladimir Tarasenko, one of the game’s best scorers, and cannot be a good setup man.
Tarasenko has 65 points so far this year. Lehtera has 13 assists and 19 points. That is too much of a disparity to keep saying the two have chemistry. Tarasenko seems to be scoring in spite of his center rather than because of him.
As a fan and a loyalist, it pains me to ever want to get rid of anyone. I believe these guys are trying and I think they want to succeed.
I just no longer believe we can wait to see if they find their way. Neither one is making big dollars (Lehtera – $4.7 million, Jaskin – $1 million). However, if you could jettison those contracts, that might be enough money to put toward a good, veteran free agent.
St. Louis has some talent in the wings. While you hope they aren’t the next version of Jaskin and Lehtera, guys like Ivan Barbashev, Kenny Agostino and Tage Thompson appear ready. If nothing else, they can be fill-in guys just as well as Jaskin has been lately. Space might be needed to give Jordan Kyrou a look or two next season as well.
Giving up on Jaskin might be the hardest. At 24, there is still potential that he could fulfill his promise. Maybe he was too hyped from the beginning though. Ken Hitchcock said he was one of the most talented prospects he had ever seen and given the guys Hitch had coached, that meant something.
Lehtera just is what he is at this point. At 29, he’s not going to find some magic elixir. It is better to cut losses and save the money if possible. Some players are better suited to the Russian or European game and Lehtera seems to be that guy.
The investment in these guys just has not paid dividends. It sucks to think, but those first years just were not real. They were fool’s gold and the Blues need to stop panning in a dry bed.