The St. Louis Blues were always being pulled in two directions when it came to Chris Thorburn. Unfortunately, this set him up for a season where success was going to be hard to measure and even harder to come by.
When the St. Louis Blues acquired Chris Thorburn as a free agent in the summer of 2017, it ignited a firestorm. Fans were either confused, angered or a bit of both.
The line we were given when the Blues included Ryan Reaves in a packaged to Pittsburgh was the Blues were trying to get faster and did not need a grinder. Nobody has put Thorburn and Reaves in a match race around the rink, but it is safe to say you did not add speed.
So, Thorburn was put behind the eight ball right from the start. He was always going to be compared to a fan favorite. That was unfair to him because he was a completely different player. Thorburn was more of a mucker and an aggitator, where Reaves is more of a pure fighter and tough guy.
In theory, Thorburn could have provided more offense. His best season ever was nine goals and 19 points. Reaves best year was seven goals and 13 points, which came in his final year in St. Louis.
But the other side to the almost completely negative coin that was Thorburn was the Blues never had an intention of giving him a chance. They basically said, from the start, that if the team was healthy, Thorburn would only play in a select few games.
As fans, we saw this as a positive. At the time, we said the less Thorburn the better. Go ahead with this plan to move on etc.
What we found was the Blues no longer had anyone willing to stick up for their teammate. When the team was flying high, all was well, but when things got tough, nobody stepped up. So, Thorburn got put into the lineup more and more.
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However, he has always been a player that needs consistency to get himself going. So playing in a handful of games here or there never let him get into a groove. Fans expected him to drop the gloves immediately and that was always unlikely to happen.
Thus, Thorburn’s year ended up being a tale of two seasons. The first part was pretty awful. The second part, for who he was, was pretty good. So, his final grade falls right in the middle.
Final Grade: C
Some will ask how Thorburn’s grade can be so high. Again, it is due to the duality of his season.
He scored double digit points when with Winnipeg, but he played in full seasons. You really have to compare his output in 2017-18 to his final season with the Jets, where he played 64 games.
In 50 games with the Blues, he put up one goal and seven points. The goal total is disappointing, but he only had four points in 64 games with Winnipeg in 2016-17.
Looking toward the positive, Thorburn had fewer penalty minutes and more hits in 50 games with the Blues than he did in those 64 games with the Jets the year prior. His defensive and overall point share numbers went up. All of his personal possession stats went up as well.
Of course, you have to talk about the stuff that was missing. Thorburn was never known to be a big bruiser, but despite a good amount of hits in a smaller amount of games, he never forced the team to keep playing him.
His physicality could have been a valuable asset. However, nobody saw the kind of grittiness that would demand his inclusion in the lineup.
Also, as mentioned, he was never a Reaves-esque fighter so making the comparison is not fair. Yet, there were several opportunities for him to drop the gloves or at least mix it up earlier in the season and he did not. Perhaps he did not know if it was his place since he was new to the team and teammates. Still, you have to sense your role and know when that kind of jolt would be positive for your team.
Thorburn seemed to learn these things as the season went on and late in the year he was a solid player. He earned his way into the lineup and, at worst, fans were dismissive about his inclusion in the lineup and most actually wanted him in there.
Thorburn began to bring a decent amount of energy late in the season and on some nights was the team’s best offensive player. That does say something about the Blues offense in those games, but takes nothing away from Thorburn’s skill in those efforts.
Even so, just as having failing grades for a semester and A’s for the other semester will even out, Thorburn evens out. His positives were not high enough to get him a higher grade, but his negatives were not low enough to not pass.
So, he falls right in the middle. Perhaps next season we will stop making comparisons and let him be his own player. Even I have to learn to do that.