The St. Louis Blues have faith in one of their best defensemen. Who he pairs with is a quite different story.
The St. Louis Blues find themselves in an interesting predicament when it comes to their defensive pairings. They have complete faith in the man projected to be their top defender, but who plays alongside him is another matter.
Even Parayko’s former teammate thinks he is ready to be a top pairing defenseman. Pietrangelo already sees Parayko as an elite player who just needs to have confidence in his abilities.
“It’s just trusting his ability on a consistent basis to do that, but everybody knows what a world-class player he is,” Pietrangelo told Louie Korac. “It’s just for him, trusting his ability night in and night out.”
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For his part, Parayko is ready for the challenge.
“I’m excited if that’s how it goes and I’m looking forward to the challenge,” Parayko told Korac. “If it calls for different scenarios, more ice time, great. I’m looking forward to it.”
However, what makes this switch interesting but worrying is the Blues tendency to stick with certain pairings. That’s been a benefit in the past, but could prove slightly questionable in this scenario.
The reason is that Parayko formed an early partnership with Marco Scandella upon the former Montreal Canadien’s arrival via trade. Prior to the pandemic, Scandella was filling in very nicely for Jay Bouwmeester.
However, that partnership did not pay the same dividends during the 2020 playoffs. That is just as much on Parayko, who had a very poor showing, but makes one wonder if the Blues will continue to try that pairing.
Scandella is more than a serviceable player and has proven he can fit well with Parayko already. However, if the Blues are truly making Parayko the top-pair defender, then are we really comfortable with Scandella being a top two defenseman as well?
It’s not as though the Blues have not pulled this off in the past. Carl Gunnarsson was often on the opposite side of Pietrangelo and most would not consider him a top two defender.
Nevertheless, there’s just something odd about possibly projecting Scandella on the top pairing. Perhaps it is more a perspective thing than anything.
Of course, the Blues may very well go with two of their most talented players and put Parayko with Torey Krug. This might even things out, putting an offensive Krug with a more defensive Parayko and also a more defensive Scandella with the offensive Justin Faulk.
Krug is much more what we think about when the thought of a top-pairing defenseman. Yet, most of the initial talk was pairing Krug with Faulk since they had played together during international play.
Time will tell which direction the Blues go. There is a chance they could keep Parayko and Scandella together and possibly more on a second pairing, similar to how their top forward line is not always considered “line 1”.
There is little doubt Parayko is a top-pair defender. He doesn’t have the proven versatility of Pietrangelo yet, but until given the chance to show what he can do as a consistent penalty killer and power play quarterback, we don’t know what he’ll do.
He has the shot to be a serious threat on the man advantage. He has the size and footwork to be very good on the PK.
Who he plays with is another matter.