St. Louis Blues Carl Gunnarsson’s Rust Is Costing The Team

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MARCH 29: Carl Gunnarsson #4 of the St. Louis Blues and Boo Nieves #24 of the New York Rangers battle during the second period at Madison Square Garden on March 29, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MARCH 29: Carl Gunnarsson #4 of the St. Louis Blues and Boo Nieves #24 of the New York Rangers battle during the second period at Madison Square Garden on March 29, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /
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As the St. Louis Blues close out their 2018-19 season, they might have a decision to make regarding their roster. Carl Gunnarsson’s rust better disappear fast or he might need to stay out.

Players getting injured is always a shame, but it is particularly sad when they are having career-type years. The St. Louis Blues were getting that from Carl Gunnarsson in the brief times he has played, but injuries have repeatedly derailed him.

Gunnarsson started off 2018-19 somewhat slowly, but so did the entire team. While he was not doing much offensively, he was actually one of the team’s steadier defenders. Maybe that says something about how everyone else was playing, but Gunnarsson was still pretty good.

Then, his first injury came. Gunnarsson did not play from mid-November until January 3.

Gunnarsson picked up where he left off, playing solid defense. He also found a bit of an offensive game, scoring two of his three goals in back-to-back games.

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Gunnarsson kept on playing well, solidifying himself as a top-four defender with this team all the way through early February, just as the team was turning it around. Then, an elbow injury sidelined him for over a month.

Gunnarsson missed another large chunk, not playing from February 6 until March 25. Now, for some reason, the rust is there while it was not as apparent upon his return the last time.

Gunnarsson was even aware of the difference following the team’s win over Vegas.

"“A little rusty,” he said. “My timing was off. It was good to be back out there and get a win. That’s how she goes.” – Carl Gunnarsson in Post-Dispatch"

Unfortunately, Gunnarsson did not shake off any of the rust from game to game. If anything, he was noticeably worse the second time out, against the New York Rangers.

Gunnarsson was not credited for any official giveaways against the Rangers, but he lost the puck several times. He continually lost puck battles, was routinely out of position and sometimes looked a little lost.

Maybe some of that is playing on a different pairing. Gunnarsson had formed a good partnership with Alex Pietrangelo, so playing with Robert Bortuzzo is going to be different.

That was the excuse for the Vegas game, but it does not hold up for the Rangers debacle. Both Pietrangelo and Gunnarsson ended up a minus-2 for the game, meaning they were back together this time around.

Ultimately, in a vacuum, most people would agree that Gunnarsson is better for this team than Michael Del Zotto. There is more chemistry and Gunnarsson knows the system more.

If he cannot shake off the rust, however, Gunny might need to be the odd man out. That may be the case regardless, if the Blues can get Joel Edmundson healthy before the playoffs begin.

Regardless, they cannot afford to wait until he shakes off the rust. They need a cohesive defensive unit to be successful.

We saw how disastrous people trying to pick up after their teammate’s mistakes can be. That was one of the Blues biggest problems early in 2018-19.

If he could return to form quickly, then keeping Gunnarsson would be great. He gives you a left handed presence, while keeping the chemistry.

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If he cannot get rid of his rust, he has to sit. The Blues went on a big winning streak without him, so he is not the most integral piece of this team. They need the defense clicking and cannot wait on him.