St. Louis Blues David Perron’s Transformation Has Been Astounding

EDMONTON, ALBERTA - AUGUST 16: (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)
EDMONTON, ALBERTA - AUGUST 16: (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images) /

When the St. Louis Blues draft a player known for scoring, they clearly hope that is what they will become in the NHL. When that player transforms into a total player, it is even more fun to watch.

The mark of a truly great player, in any sport, is often when they can transform themselves into something beyond a one-dimensional athlete. The journey that David Perron has been on has found him come to the St. Louis Blues three times and each time learn something new.

When the St. Louis Blues drafted Perron way back in 2007, they were hoping they might get a solid scorer they could count on for years to come. Interestingly, that draft was heavy for the Blues and Perron is the only one still around.

St. Louis had three picks in the first round of 2007 alone. The Blues picked Lars Eller and Ian Cole with the 13th and 18th pick, respectively. They selected Perron at 26.

During his first stint with the Blues, Perron was blossoming into a good offensive player. His goal totals went up his first three seasons from 13 to 15 to 20.

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Then, Joe Thornton took a run at Perron as he came out of the penalty box and took almost a full season off Perron’s career. He only played in 10 games in 2010-11 and only 57 games in 2011-12.

Perron still managed a then career high 21 goals in those 57 games, shooting expectations through the roof. He came back to earth with 10 goals in 48 games in the lockout shortened season of 2012-13.

However, the problem with Perron in those days was never really offense. Like any scorer, he would be streaky, but you always had to marvel at his hands and stickhandling ability.

The rest of Perron’s game was almost nonexistent. He was never a poor defensive player, which is shown by having some decent defensive point share numbers in his early days. Interestingly, his turnover numbers were also the lowest of his career early in his stay in St. Louis.

However, those that saw him know he was reckless. Sometimes he just was not thinking in a team game.

Perron would dangle through two or three players, but have nowhere to go. It’s fancy for the highlights to slam on the breaks and cut past a defender to leave them in the ice shavings, but when your pass goes nowhere, it was all for nothing.

As a person, nobody should ever say Perron was selfish because that would likely not be true. As a player, you could make that argument because he was often a black hole when he received the puck.

It was not as though he did not have good intentions. He wanted to score or a teammate to score. However, he would not want the play to flow. It seemed he wanted to be responsible for the goal either by scoring or an assist and was willing to wait and wait and wait until that moment came. That led to wasted zone time, more often than not.

It got to the point where there was not a huge outcry of disappointment when Perron was dealt to the Edmonton Oilers. Some fans were not pleased with the return in the trade, but they were not unhappy with the idea of a trade overall.

That trade helped spark a flame in Perron. He wanted to show the Blues they were wrong.

With the Oilers, Perron set a career high of 28 goals that still stands today. His 57 points in his first year in Edmonton were also a career best for another four years.

Beyond increasing his numbers, he started to realize the value of a more complete game. Perron developed some physicality that was absent in St. Louis.

In his first stint with the Blues, Perron’s most hits in one season were 78. With Edmonton and Pittsburgh, Perron become more versatile, averaging well over 100 hits per season.

That new style served him well when he eventually returned to St. Louis in 2016-17. Ken Hitchcock was still the Blues coach then and he was the one that sent Perron away the first time because he was not playing a 200-foot game.

Things were vastly different the second time around. Oddly, Perron’s hit totals went down to 87, but he had 48 takeaways that season, which were the second most in his career.

Perron had learned to accept a role, which was something he had to do when he was traded to Pittsburgh. When you’re suddenly in a situation where you know you’re not the most talented guy out there, you can open up your game to new aspects to earn your keep and he did that.

Perron kept learning. He was taken by the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft and he learned to be more of a facilitator instead of scorer.

His defensive game started getting nastier as well. Perron knew he needed to provide more than just goals since he was mostly in a third-line role.

His hits went back up, the takeaways stayed high and he set a career high with 50 assists. The French-Canadian forward returned to the Blues once more in the 2018 offseason and continued to grow.

He has been a versatile offensive player since coming back, adapting to each new role with precision. His first season back, 2018-19, he played mostly a third-line role again, which he was accustomed to with Vegas.

However, due to injuries or roster changes, he would get moved around. You never sensed the irritability of his early years and he simply accepted each change and did his best to make his linemates as good as possible.

Perron started helping younger guys by letting them know his mistakes and that he would be there to back them up when they made theirs.

The physicality went back down, but not because he was incapable. It went down because the Blues had more than enough guys to do that without Perron’s help. That doesn’t mean he took the edge out.

Perron averaged over a hit per game in the last two Blues playoff runs. He had 37 hits in the championship run in 2019.

Beyond just hits, there is a willingness to stick his nose into the dirty areas that was not there at all in his younger days. During the Vancouver series in 2020, we saw Perron constantly in the face of goaltender Jacob Markstrom.

Perron did this knowing he would get battered and bruised. Anytime you touch an opposing goaltender, you’re going to get knocked around and sometimes even when you’re just close to them. Perron took a lot of punishment and just smiled through most of it.

While it feels almost blasphemous to say, Perron almost became the Blues version of Tom Wilson. Clearly, Perron is not as dirty as Wilson can be, but in terms of having offensive skill but also having an agitator side to him, it’s a fair comparison.

Perron still takes some foolish penalties, including too many in the offensive zone. There are some tricks you can never make a dog forget.

However, the way he has continually reinvented himself, while not losing his offensive ability is something to marvel at.

I will admit, when Perron initially came back from Vegas, I was doubtful it made sense. The offense did not seem to provide enough and I remembered too much from his early days in St. Louis.

However, when stepping back and viewing it impartially, Perron has become a completely different player in all the good ways. He still provides the offense, scoring four goals and nine points in the nine short games the Blues played in the Edmonton bubbble.

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But there are so many more intangibles to his game now that might go unnoticed. They have been noticed by me, one of his early detractors, and he has quickly become a piece that the Blues rely on in the locker room, the score sheet and just on the ice in general.