Carl Gunnarsson had a year he would rather forget this past season. Fortunately for him, Blues fans already have.
The St. Louis Blues knew what they were getting when they signed Carl Gunnarsson prior to the 2014-15 season. They were getting a steady player for a reasonable price.
He has delivered on those promises, but not much more. While you can’t fault him for being the player he has always been, what he brings to the table may no longer be enough.
2016-17 proved to be a year that Gunnarsson would rather forget. He played in his fewest number of games in a non-lockout season since his rookie year.
2016-17 was also the first season he did not register a goal since coming into the NHL. The last time Gunnarsson failed to score a goal was in the 2012-13 season, when he only played 12 games for Toronto of the AHL. Prior to that, the last time there was a goose egg was when he was playing with the hockey equivalent to a B-side soccer team in Sweden in 2005-06.
Nobody expects offense from Gunnarsson. It has never been his game.
However, when he literally disappears, it becomes more of an issue. Some of it is not his fault, of course.
Gunnarsson missed much of his time this past season due to random injuries. He only featured in 56 games.
Still, the effort was not really there that you’d like to see. He blocked the fewest shots of his career, threw the fewest hits of his career and took the second fewest shots.
While the blame cannot be placed solely on Gunnarsson, he was a minus-player for the first time in six seasons. Six points (all assists) isn’t exactly cutting the mustard either.
Again, Gunnarsson was never brought in for his offense, but you still have to contribute. His main claim to fame in recent times is that nobody can remember anything bad about him.
Nobody can remember anything good either though. He continued his ghost-like performances in the playoffs.
In 11 games, he had no points, three shots and nine shots attempted. He did block 18 shots in the playoffs, but only threw four checks.
Gunnarsson’s lack of contribution has reflected in his playing time. In the regular season, he’s never failed to crack 15 minutes of ice time. This past season he fell short of that by almost two minutes.
In the playoffs, his ice time took even more of a hit. His time on the ice dropped by almost five full minutes below his career average.
Gunnarsson is not a bad player. He just had a bad season.
When you are as nondescript as he is, though, you can’t have bad seasons and expect to stay around.
Again, his main attributes are you don’t remember his mistakes, he’s usually a reliable player when on the ice and he’s inexpensive. That isn’t saying much.
The Blues have other players they can bring along for just as much money or less, so the
reasonable contract isn’t saving him. The Blues also have defensive prospects with more upside all-around and more to bring to the table offensively as well.
Unless he is moved or Las Vegas nabs him, he’ll likely be in St. Louis for two more years. That’s not a horrible thing, but it’s just not exactly exciting.
At this point, Gunnarsson needs to approach any future seasons like he is fighting for his job. That’s not far from the truth because his attributes aren’t exactly holding onto the job on their own merit.
St. Louis cannot afford to have a ghost out there. You don’t want rookie mistakes, but you want to know that someone played and half the time you have no recollection that Gunnarsson stepped foot on the ice.