The St. Louis Blues had some decisions to make when their defensive group got fully healthy. As is usual, not everyone was on board with the decision that was made.
Ever since the start of the season, St. Louis Blues fans knew the team was going to have a choice to make when their players got healthy. We were just wrong in terms of which decision we thought would be the toughest.
Originally, fans figured it would be difficult to find playing time for all the forwards that could be cleared to play. Instead, it is the defenders posing the problem.
When Jay Bouwmeester got healthy, you knew he’d be put back in the lineup right away. It was more of a question of whether he’d be in the first or second pairing.
The question was more whether Vince Dunn or Carl Gunnarsson would get the boot. Many, myself included, figured it would be Dunn because he could be sent to the AHL without clearing waivers. The Blues went the other direction.
Let it not be said that Gunnarsson has a huge fan base. Most people are rather indifferent toward the Swede other than being grateful for his time served in the Note.
However, on the other side, Robert Bortuzzo seems to have taken up the mantle of Barret Jackman as the fans’ whipping boy. There is a loud section, mostly on social media, wondering why Bortuzzo is in and Gunnarsson is out.
The main answer is why not? Neither brings much more to the table than the other and the parts that are different are marginally so.
If you compare their career totals, of course Gunnarsson will have the edge. He’s played longer and has been looked to as more of an offensive threat during his time in Toronto. However, you cannot look at points alone since Bortuzzo has averaged around 20 fewer games played per season.
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Looking at the 2017-18 season alone, there is not a wide difference other than plus/minus, which is becoming used less and less as a reliable stat. Gunnarsson has more goals, but Bortuzzo has more points.
Looking at the point shares, there is not large disparity either. The offensive point shares are almost identical.
The biggest difference would be the defensive point shares. Gunnarsson’s numbers are double Bortuzzo, which would be beneficial since defending is their main role. Still, it is not as though either number is very large.
If you really boil it down to its simplest form, the main reason is the Blues like to have righty/lefty combinations. It has not mattered as much in the past, but with Ken Hitchcock and Mike Yeo, they like to have a right-hander and left-hander play together.
So, that pretty much just means Gunnarsson is out until they sour on Dunn or someone else falters. Fans might not like that reasoning, but it ends up being fairly simple.
The Blues like both players, regardless of what fans think about either one of them. However, the only real drawback is that Gunnarsson has being playing well this year.
Still, looking at the stats, better is a relative term. Better for Gunnarsson does not automatically mean he’s better enough to truly deserve the spot.
The flip side to that argument is handedness should not be the end-all, be-all. The Blues are using the right handed excuse as one of their main reasons for giving Oskar Sundqvist more playing time and that one is not right. So, that means fans who want Gunnarsson in are not wrong.
The issue there is that most people are not asking for Gunnarsson to play because they back him. They simply do not want Bortuzzo and that is not good enough.
That stats show there is not a glaring disparity. Bortuzzo is actually slightly better in Corsi and Fenwick.
For now, there is nothing to do about it. The Blues favor Bortuzzo and the other options are not yet strong enough to unseat him.