The St. Louis Blues have been questioned, at times, about their decision to play Sammy Blais as a top-six forward. He’s looking to dispel those doubts.
The St. Louis Blues under Craig Berube have not been shy about making decisions they know to be right, even if fans don’t understand why. Including Sammy Blais in the top six was one of those decisions.
There was little doubt about the chemistry he seemed to show with his linemates. It just seemed his talents would be better spent on the third or fourth line, given his penchant for hitting guys in the opposite sweater.
Proof of that is Blais hit totals. He played in 40 games, compared to a possible 71 for other Blues players and still outhit the closest teammate by 11 body checks.
Just imagine how many players Blais would have blown up if he’d been healthy for an entire season. 155 hits in 40 is very impressive as he has really embraced his role to keep a spot in the NHL.
Not every player can do that. Some guys come up through juniors and the minors as skill players, which Blais did, and can’t carve their own niche when their skills don’t quite measure up.
However, Blais is not just a one-trick pony. He still does have the skill to match his physicality and he is showing the coaching staff during the build up to the playoff run.
In the team’s second scrimmage, first streamed for fans, Blais managed to get a hat trick. As Berube pointed out afterward, there is only so much you can actually learn from a scrimmage, but scoring a hat trick is not easy whether its practice or not.
If nothing else, it is another notch in Blais’ belt to show he deserves to be in a top-six role. Of course, the Blues are using him as the thunder to Ryan O’Reilly and David Perron‘s lightning, but that doesn’t mean he’s just a hitter.
Blais was already showing he deserved to be in his role at the start of the season. While it may never have been a realistic expectation, Blais was making an early All-Star push when the 2019-20 season began.
An injury kept him out for several weeks. Blais missed all the games from mid-November through mid-January.
His offense struggled to return off the bat. Blais only had one goal from mid-January until the pandemic shut the season down.
Nevertheless, his physicality never went away. He punished opponents for 4.25 hits per game once he returned for the second half.
Now, showing some early offense in scrimmages shows he’s zeroed in. Yes, it’s just glorified practice, but you’re still playing against NHL competition.
Maybe there’s no hitting, but you still have to be in the right positions and finish the play. That sounds easy, but if it were, everyone would do it.
Blais is a perfect compliment to O’Reilly and Perron. They do the fancy stick handling, which Blais can actually do reasonably well too, and then he wins pucks back or does the dirty work in front of the net.
A time will come in the future where more skilled guys like Klim Kostin or Jordan Kyrou might push Blais out of that spot. For now, he’s the team’s best option in that role and it’s not a token position.
Blais has earned it.