The St. Louis Blues have had the luxury of playing extremely well without some of their key players in the lineup due to injury. As we creep toward some of their health, we have to wonder what changes it might make to the lineup.
There was a phrase made popular by the film Jaws II. It was “Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water. For St. Louis Blues forward Patrick Berglund, that applies to his career in a certain way.
There seems to be a sort of stop and start nature to his career, whether due to injury or simple ineffectiveness. Just when you think he’s a safe bet to be a top player for the team, something derails it.
Earlier in his career, it was his own making. We all got excited (as we seem to do with a lot of young Blues) when he came out of the gates hot. 21 goals and 45 points will do that to you.
However, the following season he dropped into the 20’s for points. Berglund scratched and clawed his way all the way up to 52 points in his third season. You figured he had it all down pat by that point. Unfortunately, 2010-11 was the last time he scored more than 40 points.
Those next few years he got in his own way. Perhaps it was the team transitioning or the coaching changes or the players he’d come in with suddenly not being there. Whatever the reason, Berglund became an afterthought.
We did find out that some of it was due to a nagging shoulder injury that he’d never taken care of. Post-surgery in 2016-17, Berglund’s assists went down, but he set a career high for goals scored with 23.
Just when you thought it was safe for him to be considered a top performer, the shoulder goes again. You feel bad for him because he’d worked so hard and was rewarded statistically, only to see him have to go back to the drawing board so to speak.
He’s putting in the work and doing the rehab again. Now with him beginning skating and actually taking shots (even if just on the side), you have to start pondering what will happen when he returns.
Unfortunately, it is not as simple as just plugging him in and making the team better. He will make the team better, but it is those other absences that will make his inclusion on the roster less of a sure upgrade.
The easy thing to do would be to simply slot Berglund into the wing spot that Vladimir Sobotka currently takes up. When at the top of his game, Berglund is a better skilled player than Sobotka, so that would make sense right?
Not so fast. Berglund has the talents, as we have seen, but he has also shown that he seems better suited to a third line role and occasional power play time.
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So, if you do not place Berglund in the top-six forwards, can he flourish on the third line? In and of itself, the answer would be yes. However, the Blues current third line probably would not benefit with the inclusion of Berglund.
I like Berglund and think he brings a lot to the table. For whatever reason, I don’t think his inclusion alone would improve that third line.
Right now, you almost should consider the third line to be the fourth line. They bring plenty of energy and the speed and awareness of the game has increased with each game this season. They bring absolutely no threat of offense though.
Berglund would change that. However, if it is Berglund and two under-performing players, all defenders have to do is shut down the Berg-dog.
That is why those other injuries play such a larger role in this. Ideally, you’d have Robby Fabbri in the lineup in that second line.
That gives you the freedom to put Sobotka or Steen lower than they currently are. As much as he’s a polarizing figure, you’d trust Sobotka to click and perform with Berglund on a third line much more than the current options.
You could move Dmitrij Jaskin up to the third line. He and Berglund offer similar skill sets along with decent speed and size. However, he seems better suited to the energy line he currently plays with. That might be a sad comment on how far his stock has fallen, but everyone has their role to play. Perhaps that is his.
The same might be said of Berglund himself. I look forward to his return. As a player and person, I root for him and hope for his success. St. Louis could sorely use the Berglund we saw in 2016-17.
The fear is that he is not a player that can do it by himself. As currently constructed, the Blues will have to get quite creative to give him support if he gets slotted into that third line.
The positive thing is that he should be ready to hit the ground running, both literally and figuratively. The only positive about a shoulder injury is that he can still skate, so conditioning should be no issue.
Where you put him in the lineup might be. There is still a couple months before we really need to worry about that, but these are things the staff will have to deal with and sooner than we might realize.