The St. Louis Blues received some rather discouraging news on Tuesday. Despite the fact they have yet to play any meaningful minutes, they have lost two players for significant time.
When the St. Louis Blues began their preseason camp, there was a buzz among the fans. It had been a long summer after a disappointing exit in the playoffs to the Nashville Predators.
The buzz has been short lived as the Blues are now forced to use their depth due to injuries. We all wanted to see certain guys get some chances. It would have been better if it was purely earned instead of by force.
The Blues are going to be without Zach Sanford for 6-8 months due to the shoulder injury he got the first day of camp.. They will also be without Jay Bouwmeester for at least three weeks and potentially more after breaking his ankle blocking a shot in Sunday’s scrimmage.
I can already hear the boo birds and naysayers asking why the Bouwmeester injury is even a bad thing. It will rid the team of what they perceive as an underachieving player.
It will give several younger defenders a real shot at making the team right out of the gate. That shouldn’t be a bad thing, right?
Well, fans can bag on Bouwmeester all they want, but the truth is he is still a top-four defender. No matter what you or I think of him, he would be in the top-four pairings of most teams in this league.
Yes, he’s lost a step and has never been a physical presence. He does break up plays more than given credit for and moves the puck better than fans want to think.
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In St. Louis, and most hockey cities really, there always has to be a whipping boy though. It used to be Barrett Jackman and now it is Bouwmeester. I don’t know why it is not Carl Gunnarsson, but perhaps he is so nondescript that he doesn’t even warrant the effort.
I wanted to see if the Blues would follow through with some new pairings or if it was just camp combinations. Bouwmeester had been put with Colton Parayko, which is a pairing I have been calling for awhile now.
Instead, Gunnarsson will likely move up to that second pairing, which is something that is not overly appealing.
On the other side, it is very disappointing to hear the news about Sanford. I believe he had been penciled in as, at least, a fourth line guy to start the season.
He was beginning to show some real confidence in his stint with the Blues too. Sanford had two goals and five points in 13 games with the Blues last year. He didn’t get consistent playing time either, so he figured out how to make the most of limited roles.
Sanford’s injury also brings to light an odd thing about the Blues’ evaluation of injuries, or at least the reporting of them. I don’t think they have any malicious intent, but we can never seem to get the full story right away.
When Jaroslav Halak was injured a few years ago, we kept being told he might be back in the playoffs. That was never going to be the case as he was barely able to get healthy by the next season.
Similar things happened in following years with Paul Stastny and other players as well. Again, I don’t think the Blues intend to mislead about these sorts of things. It is just frustrating to think it was a small injury and he would be back by the end of the season to hearing it will last half a year.
Again, it presents opportunities for other guys to grab the spot. Selfishly, I wanted Sanford to get a chance to produce so we could see whether it was worth acquiring him for Kevin Shattenkirk or just a trade to get something.
Now, we have to wait quite awhile to figure that out. Hopefully other guys can step up and fill the void. That’s exactly what head coach Mike Yeo expects.
“I think you come into every training camp expecting injuries and knowing the injuries are part of it,” Yeo said to Jim Thomas. “…you need guys that are gonna have to come in and play games for you, whether it’s in September or October, or later in the season.”
The Blues are going to be tested early. They have plenty of players with potential. Now we’ll see whether that translates into reality.