St. Louis Blues: One Lineup Tweak Nobody Seems To Mention

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MARCH 03: Robert Thomas #18 of the St. Louis Blues skates against Tony DeAngelo #77 of the New York Rangers during their game at Madison Square Garden on March 03, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MARCH 03: Robert Thomas #18 of the St. Louis Blues skates against Tony DeAngelo #77 of the New York Rangers during their game at Madison Square Garden on March 03, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) /

The St. Louis Blues have held their lineup pretty steady when healthy. There is one tweak they could make that might make a world of difference, but nobody seems to bring it up.

Scan St. Louis Blues social media or listen to the radio talk shows and, outside of general talk of poor play in the Edmonton bubble, there is a lot of discussion about the forward lines. Yes, there is talk about defensive lines too, but that’s another kettle of fish.

Interestingly, there is one tweak that could easily be made, keeps much of the lineup together and might even improve the team’s offensive potential. No offense to anyone else who has come up with this already, but I have not seen this tweak brought up anywhere.

Most Blues fans seem hellbent on the idea of keeping the top line of Brayden Schenn, Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko together. Many of those same fans think you need to make Robert Thomas a top-six center right now.

There is not much wiggle room between those two ideas, even if both are coming from the same voices. So, what do you do?

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You’re not going to take Ryan O’Reilly out of a top-two center role. He is simply too valuable defensively and offensively.

There seems to be little want by either the team or fans to break up O’Reilly and David Perron. Most don’t want to put Thomas back on the wing either, which is understandable.

The more puzzling thing is wanting to keep the top trio together. They have had flashes of brilliance in the playoffs, but mostly on an individual basis or on special teams when they are not all together anyway.

Many of Schenn’s points came on the power play and Schwartz’ goal against Vancouver was just an effort play for a breakaway. Even that duo is not clicking together the way they used to.

That is the point and where there needs to be more discussion.

If we project this into the future, beyond just the playoff run of 2020, the Blues will have a jam at center for years if things remain the same. O’Reilly is signed through 2022-23 and Schenn has a contract five years beyond that.

If you leave them both at center, that leaves no room for Thomas. So, if someone has to move, why not do it now?

Thus, the proposal that nobody seems to bring up is to break up the Schenn/Schwartz duo, move Schenn to the wing on the top line and put Thomas between Schenn and Tarasenko.

In my scenario, you would not be demoting Schwartz that far either. You put him on the second line with O’Reilly and Perron and then place Zach Sanford elsewhere in the lineup.

I would put Sanford on the third line with Tyler Bozak and Sammy Blais. He also might give the fourth line more offensive punch if you wanted to mix things up.

The odd thing is so many people want Thomas and Tarasenko together, but don’t think of moving Schenn back to the wing. There was a strange amount of discussion about that top trio being set in stone on 101 ESPN.

Schenn and Schwartz compliment the other quite well. They are not the second coming of Adam Oates and Brett Hull or Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri.

There was even a brief mention of moving Tarasenko to the third line to have Thomas center Schenn and Schwartz. Why in the world would you do that?

Thomas is the more dynamic playmaker and would be a good setup man for Tarasenko, so you want to give that duo a shot. Schenn has a great amount of talent, so you lose nothing offensively and he also has that grit to be a Tom Wilson type winger for the top line (minus the dirty stuff Wilson does).

Maybe you lose a little of that grit by moving Sanford off the second line, but Schwartz has a motor that rarely stops. The tradeoff is simply in terms of hits and that’s not something the team needs to be overly concerned about.

The puzzling thing about this switch not being discussed before is that it is bound to happen at some point. Even if the Blues are forced to trade Bozak to make roster/financial room, the Blues are just not going to keep Thomas as a third line center forever. They are also not going to put O’Reilly on the third line.

So, why not give this lineup a try now? The Blues are not lighting the world on fire with their offense anyway.

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This tweak really doesn’t take anything away defensively. At most, you have a couple more gaps with Thomas and Tarasenko being less defensive than Schenn and Schwartz, but it is minimal.

The switch could make a world of difference. Eventually, Schenn will have to be made a winger again anyway. Try it now and see what happens.