The St. Louis Blues need their younger players to step up into an NHL role quickly. One way to do that is to cater to their needs with their linemates.
Given the uncertainty facing the St. Louis Blues roster for the 2020-21 season, they are in need of talent stepping up from the inside. Most notably, that needs to come from their prospects, if you can even call them that any longer.
While there might be some outliers that come from the shadows and into the light, most fans know who the others are thinking of when we say the prospects. These days, it’s pretty much all about Klim Kostin and Jordan Kyrou.
These two are still incredibly young with Kostin coming in at 20 and Kyrou just having become legal to drink back in May. Nevertheless, they almost feel like veterans just because it feels like we’ve been waiting on them for so long.
They have almost reached the point of St. Louis Cardinals prospects. That’s not a good thing because that means they’ve been discussed to the point where we now start to wonder if the hype was just hype.
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We need to find out in 2020-21. One way to do that is to simply let them play.
That’s easier said than done. Staying with the Cardinals comparison, fans of the Redbirds constantly say to let this guy or that guy play, but the team never does it because they are always trying to win. Depending on a rookie, who might be inconsistent even if they turn into a future Hall of Famer, is risky for executives and coaches that might be sent packing after one mediocre season.
The Blues have enough depth to help with this transition, however. This would not be akin to the Pittsburgh Penguins handing the reigns over to a teenage Sidney Crosby or even the Blues making a bunch of unproven youngsters the main core of their team, as they did in the late 2000’s.
Additionally, the vast majority of the current Blues roster is capable of masking whatever deficiencies these two players, or any others, currently have. So, the Blues need them to assume higher roles than they might normally.
We have seen Kyrou in a third and fourth-line role. It did not work.
We have seen Kostin get fourth-line minutes. It’s not enough.
They need to be playing in a top six or, at least, top-nine role. Kyrou was not there long, but he showed flashes of brilliance when given a chance to play with Brayden Schenn.
Kostin has an edge to his game, so you could make the case he could fit a fourth line spot, but he needs to be on a second or third line. Both of these guys need to start getting some minutes.
The fall back argument is always about defensive deficiencies. Put them with defensively responsible guys. That’s what the Blues did with Robert Thomas and it worked wonders.
Maybe there is some example unremembered, but I cannot recall Thomas being used in a fourth line spot. If he was, it was not for long.
The Blues partnered him with guys like Tyler Bozak and Pat Maroon, as well as other defensive minded players. That allowed him to focus primarily on the skill side of the game while he was still learning other things.
Nobody would consider Thomas a candidate for the Selke Award any time soon, but he’s learned the defensive side on the fly without being forced to play a fourth line role he was not cut out for. The Blues need to start taking the same approach with these other guys.
Put Kostin with a guy like Ryan O’Reilly, who is as defensively solid as they come. If having Kostin and David Perron as wingers is too defensively lax, perhaps you move Perron elsewhere or put Kostin on the third line.
On paper, having Kyrou as your top line right winger seems a bit presumptuous. He clicked well with those guys, however, and also seemed more comfortable on the defensive side than we saw in the 2019-20 regular season when he was playing with the fourth line.
These guys are offensive talents. Even back to the Ken Hitchcock days, and prior to that, I’ve never understood the idea of putting offensive talents in a role that is supposed to be physical or defensive.
They do need to earn it. Nothing should just be handed to anyone. But, they won’t be productive playing six to nine minutes a game.
St. Louis has enough defensive-minded players to cover for them until they get up to speed. The Blues need to start seeing what these guys have and the best way is to cater the lines to them the way they did with Thomas.