The St. Louis Blues still expect good things from Jordan Kyrou. However, he might miss out on the playoffs again unless an opponent gives him a chance.
The St. Louis Blues have a problem that any coach or general manager would like to have. At this point in time, in 2020, they have a large amount of depth and tough choices to make about who plays and who sits.
It is true that the Blues do not have the high-end talent of a team such as Tampa or Washington or Chicago back in the day. St. Louis wins because their whole is greater than the sum of their parts.
A top line player is just as capable of being impactful if moved to the third line and vice versa. Just look at Alexander Steen.
Steen was “demoted” to a fourth-line role during the 2019 playoffs and thrived. He bought into the role, did his job to perfection and had the energy sustained to last throughout that grueling run.
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Fast forward to the following season and, due to injuries, Steen was seeing time on the top line. Despite age and a little less speed, he was just as effective.
The drawback to this depth is it forces up and coming prospects to play almost flawlessly in order to retain a spot on the roster. That has proven a little more difficult than anticipated for Jordan Kyrou.
Prior to the pandemic shutdown of the 2019-20 season, the Blues had played 71 of their 82 games. Kyrou only saw the ice in 28 of those games.
He averaged over 10 minutes on the ice. That is an increase from his first 16 games in the league in 2018-19, but not by a bunch.
Kyrou was often used during the first two periods and then disappeared to the bench in the third. That was regularly done in the 1980’s and 1990’s when coaches shortened their benches to reduce risk from “less talented” players on the third and fourth lines.
In today’s NHL, if you trust your team’s depth and roll four lines as the Blues, you need guys out there every scheduled shift. The Blues’ coaching staff would vacillate on whether they seemed to trust Kyrou.
Nevertheless, the future should still be bright for the young forward. We have talked about him for so long, it is easy to forget he is only 21 and has a long career in front of him if he keeps progressing.
For the here and now, Kyrou may have to continue to wait to see an NHL playoff game. While he will undoubtedly be part of the roster if/when the Blues begin the 2020 playoffs, it is going to be hard for him to crack the roster.
Even with Vladimir Tarasenko missing all but 10 games in 2019-20, Kyrou only got a brief glimmer of the ice during the season. Where would he fit in now that we are guaranteed Tarasenko slots back into the top line, which pushes someone further down into a spot Kyrou might have otherwise taken?
The one hope Kyrou, and his fans, might have is a situational spot. By that I mean Kyrou could see action in a game or a series if his style of play gives the Blues an advantage somehow.
For example, if the Blues played a team like Chicago or Arizona, putting Kyrou in the lineup might be beneficial. Chicago has a good amount of talent left on their roster, but despite the rivalry, they are not the kind of team you need to bash into a pulp. Kyrou’s speed and tenacity would be a very good counter balance to what Chicago does, with plenty of other guys on the Blues available to take that tougher role of going into the corners and hard areas.
The same is true, in a different sense, with a team like Arizona. The Coyotes scored the second fewest goals of any playoff team in the conference, but they play very good defense, only allowing 187 goals (second fewest).
If scoring is harder to come by, but you also don’t have to worry about defending three or four tough lines, Kyrou would be a perfect fit for that matchup. His speed and scoring ability would give the Blues options offensively while not hamstringing them defensively.
On the flip side, if you are going to get into heavier series, like you would see in rematches with Winnipeg or Dallas or even a series with Nashville, I would not expect the young winger to see the ice at all. We saw flashes of a 200-foot game out of Kyrou now and then, but the coaches did not see enough defensive responsibility to continually put him in the lineup in the regular season.
Kyrou should still get prepared and be ready though. At the very least, he should see game action in the round-robin portion of the tournament for the Blues just so he can get up to game speed.
Kyrou’s time will come. There have been too many rumored trades involving him to expect the Blues to give up on him now. He’ll just have to wait a little longer, unless a particular playoff opponent cracks the door open a little and Kyrou bursts on through.