The St. Louis Blues roster is finally starting to come together. The only remaining sticking point might be an issue with this team for awhile.
The St. Louis Blues are an eighth of the way into the 2018-19 season right now. That might not sound like much, but when things have not gotten off to the best start, that is a slightly surprising total already on the books.
However, as the team crossed over into double digits for games played, they seemed to finally be settling into a top nine group and, perhaps, a style of play. That is great for this squad going forward to finally have some line combinations they can depend on.
The problem they are going to continually run into is the fourth line. While you can make an argument that if your fourth line is your only problem, you’ll be in good shape, that might not be true with this team. In fact, problems with the fourth line might end up having after-shocks farther up the lineup.
The prime example of that is with the return of Robby Fabbri. Fabbri will play his first games in almost a year coming up and, to start with, the team seems primed to have him play fourth-line minutes.
That is fine and probably the smart thing as he eases back into tip-top-NHL shape. However, we know he is not going to stay with the fourth line the rest of the season. So, eventually, he will be taking someone’s slot in the top nine.
That will move a different player with a different skill set down onto that line, or perhaps even down to the AHL if the situation calls for it.
Then you’ve got the current revolving door with the fourth line guys already. Ivan Barbashev has been one of the team’s steadiest players in that role and even stood up for himself and his teammates by getting into a fight with Brent Seabrook.
His reward for that should surely be a more prominent role, yes? If a recent article by the Post-Dispatch is to be believed, Barbashev might be rewarded with a seat in the press box.
This circles back to an article of my own, discussing how the Blues need to settle on a certain style for their fourth line and go with it. I do not feel they are best served by mixing and matching faster players with slower, more physical guys.
Personally, I would still rather not have Sundqvist out there at all. He did have a decent game against the Blackhawks in the two teams’ third matchup, but one decent game does not erase all the nothing that has happened in the other games.
Thomas also causes an issue with his contract status. He can only play in the NHL or the OHL (juniors). So, the Blues need to either play him or send him back to a place where he really cannot learn any more other than getting first line minutes. So, while I am happy he would be playing on that theoretical line, he would apparently be taking Barbashev’s spot.
Why not utilize a change of speed line and have Barbashev on a wing with Fabbri and Thomas in the middle? If nothing else, it goes to prove that all coaches have guys they rely on more even when nobody else can understand why.
For now, the Blues do have other worries. They still need to get their defense playing much better and iron out the wrinkles with the goaltending as well.
However, if they don’t get something settled upon, the fourth line is going to continue to be an issue. You’re going to have more chemistry problems when Fabbri moves further up and guys that should be getting more time might end up sitting in the press box.
Eventually, that can throw a wrench into your plans. Hopefully, it does not become too big an issue for this current team as the rest of the pieces are starting to fit better.