The St. Louis Blues have been forced to make roster adjustments due to multiple injuries. Those injuries presented opportunities for others and that opportunity has come for Robert Thomas.
Fortunately, those two were not out of the lineup at the same time. Schenn returned right before Tarasenko got hurt.
Those injuries, along with others, presented opportunities for other players to step up and fill the gaps. Jaden Schwartz got another chance to prove his worth on the top line and, unfortunately, continued his overall 2018-19 struggles.
Pat Maroon got a crack at the top line in recent weeks after starting there to begin the year. He did not quite fill the hole either.
Now, Robert Thomas is finally getting his turn after we have all waited for so long. It was reported by various beat reporters on Twitter and then confirmed by the team website as well. We have all been rewarded for our patience. Now, it is up to him to stick around.
One of the hallmarks of the 2018-19 Blues is they have taken so much longer for things to happen than anyone anticipated. We all thought the Blues would be right in the thick of the playoff push and challenging for the division. That is where we are at in mid-March, but the Blues had a stay in the basement on the way there.
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We all expected this team to be as exciting as any in recent memory. You have talent like Ryan O’Reilly and David Perron coming in to join guys like Schenn and Tarasenko. Maroon was going to a gritty, depth player with enough skill to play up and down the lineup.
Instead, we got a mess of a team that was dysfunctional from top to bottom. Eventually, the team found their niche and who fit where and went on a franchise record win streak.
The same could be true for Thomas. Going into the season, it was publicly said by Doug Armstrong that he envisioned Thomas on the top line by Christmas time.
Here we are three months after that and Thomas has finally been bumped up to the top line. We have seen flashes here and there, but we all wait on the edge of our seats as to whether he can live up to it. To his credit, he is taken it all in stride.
"“It’s a great opportunity for me, something I’ve kind of wanted the whole year,” Thomas told stlouisblues.com. “I’ve been working hard for this chance so I’m real excited about it. For me, it’s just playing with speed. They move the puck quick, they’re always transitioning fast. For me, just use my speed and get the puck to them will be good.”"
That is what will be interesting to see for Thomas. We know he has the talent, but will he look like a rookie thrust into this or will he fit in much better?
I have long said that it makes no sense to give top line talent fourth line minutes. The fourth line often has a completely different role and it is hard to prove yourself over six minutes.
However, it must be said that Thomas has not fully earned this. He is the beneficiary of enough injury problems and lack of chemistry by other players that the team is finally giving him this chance.
He has done what he can in the time given to him though. Thomas has two goals and five points in his last five games going into this opportunity.
Now, it is up to him to earn it and up to the team not to bail too quickly. Thomas needs time to get used to his new line mates, not just a couple shifts and banish him back to the fourth line.
Hopefully, this works out very quickly. Maybe Thomas does not stay with the top line when everyone is healthy, but the time there would benefit him greatly.
What it could do is give him a confidence boost and let loose his talent. We have seen it in flashes, but maybe he will look like the top line player we know he can be.