With the St. Louis Blues about to get an injured player back, they have to figure out some new line combinations. There is a rather interesting combination potentially in the works, even if not for long.
Leave it to the St. Louis Blues to whet our appetites and then potentially leave us hungry and drooling. When speaking to the media, the Post-Dispatch reported that Mike Yeo is considering putting Samuel Blais on the team’s top line.
“Again, we’ll see what happens with Steener here in the morning,” Yeo said in the Post article linked above. “But obviously we went with that group (in practice). And if Steener weren’t to play, then that’s the way that we would assemble our lines.”
Blais was briefly paired with Vladimir Tarasenko and Paul Stastny earlier in the preseason. While it was only for a handful of days, it was enough to wonder how he might fit with those two longer term.
Blais has formed some good chemistry with his second line teammates. However, he presents some intriguing options if he could move up to the top line.
The issue the Blues are having right now is teams can focus on Tarasenko alone. Nothing against Stastny, but his goal scoring days are behind him, so teams know he’s not much of an offensive threat other than making good passes.
Without a scoring winger on the other side, Tarasenko has to do much of his scoring from the power play or strong individual plays. There just has not been much room during five-on-five play.
Blais could change that. Nobody is saying he is a sure-fire first line winger, but his intangibles open up some holes.
Blais has some speed and is confident with the puck. He is also not afraid to let loose with some shots from dangerous areas.
He has yet to be rewarded with a goal in the NHL regular season, but it is only a matter of time if he stays with the team a bit longer. It is refreshing to see a young guy appear unafraid and just go out there and play.
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Again, we don’t know what kind of NHL player he will evolve into. Maybe he’s only got 10 goals or so in him. Right now, he’s shown enough ability, even without the stats to back it up, to help ease the burden.
The problem becomes the team’s insistence that Alexander Steen play on the top line. Despite his childish behavior regarding the coaching situation last season, Steen is still one of the team’s better players. For whatever reason, he just seems like he would click better with the second line.
So, the issue is nothing against Steener. It is more a belief that Blais could open up avenues and space for Tarasenko better than Steen could.
Steen does force you to worry about his offense, even if his goal numbers have dwindled. He’s not as dynamic as he used to be though. The speed is not quite there to really threaten defenses on the break.
Blais is fast enough to force teams to worry about two players. Tarasenko’s passing mentality would also fit with Blais if they could connect on a break down the ice.
Ultimately, this is all likely a pipe dream. We are not even sure Blais will stay with the team when Steen gets healthy.
Despite seeming to have earned a spot before the season, the Blues sent him to the minors. So, there are no guarantees they won’t do the same again since they seem insistent on keeping guys like Oskar Sundqvist or Magnus Paajarvi in the lineup.
An opposite argument can be made, assuming Blais stays. Jaden Schwartz and Brayden Schenn have played well no matter who their winger was, so you do not require production from Blais. Even if he is slow out of the gate, you know Steen will eventually get some goals. We do not know for sure Blais will translate potential into production.
Still, it would be nice to see a fresh take. The wingers they’ve paired with the top duo have not worked out yet. Steen is a proven player, but we don’t know that he’ll have the chemistry immediately either.
Put Steen on the second line with guys that are rolling already and can ease him in. Inject some fresh blood onto that top line.