Injury claimed three more St. Louis Blues critical players over the weekend. Now, it will be gut check time for the remaining players and the new additions.
The injury to St. Louis Blues forward Robby Fabbri, a separated shoulder, and Alex Steen, concussion, are not expected to keep them out extremely long. Still, it could probably be until Christmas. More concerning with Steen’s concussion is that it is the second injury of that type in a month.
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Alex Pietrangelo’s separated shoulder is more serve than Fabbri’s injury and is looking like it could require surgery. This injury couldn’t come at worse time for Petro. His play was finally coming around, especially since he isn’t shackled to the 205-pound dead weight of Jay Bouwmeester anymore. Surgery could mean his absence for weeks or months.
The three players being called up to plug the holes in the Blues dike are not raw rookies, except Jordan Kyrou. All the others have NHL experience, but are not equal to the players they are replacing, nor are they expected to be.
I would have liked to see Chris Butler called up sooner to replace Bouwmeester, but now we will have them both in the D corps. Jordan Nolan brings some more grit and toughness to a team that needs more snarl, plus he has a scoring touch. We have seen Kyrou briefly before and he will bring more youth and speed to the forwards, though I’m not sure if more of the former is needed.
The rest of the Blues players are going to have to reach down in their guts and decide what type of team this is going to be. Are they going to roll over and use this rash of injuries as the final excuse to cash it in on a season that got off to a bad start? Or will they use it as a rallying point to turn it around?
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The answer to this question will depend on the team leaders. That means Craig Berube’s job just got even more difficult. If he can get the team to use the underdog role as motivation to play like they did Friday against the Colorado Avalanche, then there is a chance for the season.
This plan will only succeed if the leaders on the ice buy into the idea and message. I don’t just mean those wearing a letter, but the other key players as well. Not to say that this is a false message, but everyone has to be onboard for it to work.
Even so, it will not be easy; there is a lot of ice time to fill along with the talent to replace. Everybody on the team will have to step up their game, especially defensively. Considering that none of the forward lines or D pairings will be what they were opening night, change will continue to be the constant.
Given the team’s start, changing all the lines up from opening night might be considered a good thing, but now we have lines playing that were not ever regarded as possible, let alone probable. People who have not played together before take time to gel but will have to learn on the fly.
Now this is not a permanent situation as Carl Gunnarsson, and Jaden Schwartz are close to returning, but that begets more change. What if the call-ups are performing well. Do you remove them or do you sit an underperforming vet?
Does Coach Berube have the guts to make the second choice? It seemed that the previous coach had a problem in doing this, which only exacerbated the slow start. Now is the time for the kid gloves to come off and spare no one’s feelings or captain’s letter.
Speaking of captain’s letters, what will Coach Berube do with the C in Pietrangelo’s absence? Will he assign a temporary captain or just another alternate to cover until Pietro’s return? I think the C would look good on Ryan O’Reilly‘s sweater.
Not sure of O’Reilly’s leadership qualities, especially off the ice, but he has been the most consistent player so far this season in his level of play on the ice. I know this might ruffle Vladimir Tarasenko‘s feathers, but I would hope it would be used to motivate him.
The Blues have an opportunity to become this year’s Las Vegas Knights feel-good story if they can adopt the comeback kids mentality and rally around this adversity. It will take two things missing so far this season: consistency and heart.
I don’t think anybody, but the rookies, ever felt like their position on the team was in trouble based on the caliber of their play. Now everybody is expendable via trade, release, or return to the minors, especially if the losing continues.
Now is crunch time. We will find out what type of metal the Blues players are made. Hopefully, they will reach into their guts and find the will to win or the winter of our discontent will continue.