The St. Louis Blues made a semi-curious roster move coming out of their bye week and it paid off. However, it was never meant to be a permanent solution, so it needs to change back now.
When the St. Louis Blues came out of their bye week, they knew they needed a little mix up with their lineup to get some messages sent. A somewhat odd choice was removing Scottie Upshall from the lineup despite having Upshall in every prior game.
Normally this scenario would not raise many eyebrows. Upshall has mainly been a fourth line player during his Blues career, so fourth line players get put in and out of a lineup all the time.
However, Upshall has been anything but a normal fourth line player for the Blues. The combination of he and Kyle Brodziak have been one of the most consistent duos the team has had over the last two seasons.
They’ve been two of the team’s best penalty killers. On top of that, Upshall is one of the few remaining Blues that consistently throws his weight around and he’s small by today’s standards at 6’0, 200 lbs.
Upshall was rewarded for his high energy, up-tempo style with some playing time on the Blues top line. It was an odd choice at the time, but he seemed to really form a rapport with his linemates. Additionally, his straight north-south style allowed the higher skilled players to gain more room.
However, he was removed from the lineup coming out of the team’s bye week regardless. Despite being on a good offensive pace and clicking with so many different guys, Upshall was the one singled out.
For a few games, it made sense. The Blues wanted a little more grit and physicality, so they inserted Chris Thorburn during the road trip. It worked.
The Blues won two games in a row in Canada. Thorburn was chastised by the fans for lacking any real fist tosses in his two fights, but he was at leas sticking up for teammates. He also was one of the team’s better offensive players against Toronto. We can argue whether that’s a good thing or not at a later date.
Still, the Blues rolled the dice once too many when they went with the same lineup at home against the Arizona Coyotes. Playing Upshall would likely not have made a big impact, given how truly awful the Blues played. He might have helped though as Thorburn does not match up against the more dynamic forwards that Arizona boasts. That is not to blame Thorburn, since the top lines got burned, but just an observation.
More from Editorials
- St. Louis Blues Need Kasperi Kapanen To Be On Best Behavior
- Hayes’ Debut And Other Bold Predictions for the St. Louis Blues
- St. Louis Blues Captaincy Is Suddenly A Huge Problem For 2023-24
- St. Louis Blues National Games Cause More Problems Than They’re Worth
- St. Louis Blues Brayden Schenn Has To Be An Impact Player In 2023-24
The issue now is what to do. Have the Blues suddenly soured on Upshall or was this simply trying to stick with a lineup formula that seemed to be working?
Hopefully it is the latter. Upshall really has not done anything to deserve a benching, or at least nothing that other players have not done.
According to reports, Mike Yeo said the amount of penalties Upshall had been taking had something to do with the decision. That is fine, on the surface, but looking into it it becomes puzzling.
Upshall had 14 penalty minutes in his last 10 games. That is a lot since you’d be averaging a penalty minute per game.
However, six of those minutes came against Edmonton. That game was way back on December 21. He then took another four minutes against Nashville on December 27.
That was 10 minutes in three games. He only had four penalty minutes the next seven. If you’re going to send a message, why wait seven games to do so? Why wait until Upshall has cleaned up some of his penalties before you remove him?
I don’t buy it. It starts to seem like a timely excuse.
Perhaps something happened behind the scenes and that was a good cover story. If it truly had to do with penalties then the Blues should sit plenty of other guys.
Brayden Schenn currently has just as many PIM as Upshall (38). Vladimir Sobotka is just behind with 34. Joel Edmundson is leading the pack with 51 PIM and took some very silly penalties the last game or two. So, why are they not seeing some time in the pressbox?
No, the entire scenario seems odd. Why Yeo even felt justified in making a comment seems odd. Just say they felt Thorburn gave them a different look and something about looking good in practice and you’re done.
Mentioning Upshall’s penalties when so many others have taken just as many or worse makes it look like there is something more there. Adding to the confusion is putting Thorburn in. He has taken 29 PIM in 27 games while Upshall has 38 PIM in 46 games. Who is really hurting the team with their penalties?
I had no problem with the change on the road, because it worked and the team needed a change. Coming back home seemed a good time to go back to having Upshall in the lineup. The game against Arizona showed the Blues could not stick with that roster for too long.
It is time for Upshall to return, despite any idea that his playing time will be limited due to the imminent return of Jaden Schwartz. If you trust the guy to play on your top line, then keeping him in during some rougher times still makes sense.
Upshall might not provide the offense the team needs, but his effort has never been in question like some others. He needs to be placed back in the lineup.