St. Louis Blues Record Much More Impressive Than It Seems

St. Louis Blues Dakota Joshua(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
St. Louis Blues Dakota Joshua(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /

The 2021 St. Louis Blues have been a special kind of frustrating. They have played down to lesser opponents and spent as much time splitting series as a lumberjack splits wood.

As we begin the month of March, the Blues sit at 12-8-2 as of publication. On paper, that doesn’t look terrible, but it’s dangerously close to .500. If you don’t factor in the points gained from those OT/shootout losses, the Blues basically only have two more wins than they do losses.

That’s not the kind of record we expected. When you take the few games played against Colorado, Minnesota and Vegas, most expected the Blues to roll through this part of the schedule.

As with anything, you can’t look at things in a vacuum. Thinking of the Blues as a Stanely Cup contender, of course, it’s disappointing to think they’ve just keeping their head above water as we close in on the midway point of this shortened season.

However, when you think about it more deeply, it’s actually impressive that the Blues have done as well as they have. The 2021 season is not halfway done just yet and the Blues have been put through the wringer.

When March began, the Blues had four players on long term injured reserve. That does not count Alex Steen, who is on the LTIR list, but technically/not technically retired.

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The Blues also have two other players on the regular injured reserve list. Both of those players are still expected to be out a month before they are even re-evaluated.

Beyond just simple numbers, the Blues are missing huge, key players. You can classify Ivan Barbashev as a fourth-line player, but he’s more than that.

Robert Thomas started the season centering the team’s top line. Tyler Bozak was the team’s third center, but he’s been a versatile winger and also mentored some of the younger players still getting a feel for the league.

Barbashev was spending time on the team’s top line and flourishing. Vladimir Tarasenko remains the team’s most consistent scorer, despite fan belief to the contrary.

None of that factors in other injuries either. Jaden Schwartz and Coloton Parayko have missed well over a week at this point and neither are technically on the IR list. They’re being held out for precautionary reasons, but still counting against the cap.

That’s three scoring forwards not playing and two versatile forwards that can fill any position and play special teams. The Blues are missing the man they intended to become their top defender and also another defender in Carl Gunnarson who, while past his prime, was still very dependable and steady.

That does not mention the other bumps and bruises taken throughout the way. The Blues have been without Marco Scandella for a couple different stretches and also just had his front teeth knocked out. It doesn’t matter if they were false teeth or not, that’s not a pleasant experience.

Robert Bortuzzo was out with an upper body injury that was likely a concussion. The team’s big offseason acquisition, Torey Krug, has also missed a couple games.

All teams deal with injury, but the Blues are going through something almost unprecedented. Even if players returned the next game, St. Louis has had a stretch of more than five games where they did not finish the game with the same number of players they started with.

The Blues have tried just about every trick in the book to react. They’ve shuffled the lineup to cover holes, they’ve played 11 forwards and seven defenders and even used defensemen as forwards.

As fans, we like to say injuries shouldn’t matter and that’s true in terms of the style played. What is irritating is when the Blues lose because of a lack of energy or playing within the system. Even AHL players should know to have a certain amount of effort and attention to detail.

But, it’s crazy to think of how far into the talent pool the Blues have had to reach. While it’s fantastic that Dakota Joshua scored a goal in his first game, St. Louis never intended for him to be in the NHL.

He was a fifth-round draft pick by the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Blues picked him up as a free agent in 2019 simply to flesh out their minor league roster. If we were not in the era of the pandemic and the Blues had not loaned out several players, there are likely two or three other prospects that would have been called up before Joshua.

Austin Poganski and Nathan Walker have spent time on the Blues second and third lines. While both earned their call ups, neither one was on anyone’s radar to earn any playing time in 2021.

The amount of turnover is quite amazing. While it still feels like the team’s core is there, and we know there is talent there, the Blues only have two active defenseman from the 2019 championship squad. Both of those players, Vince Dunn and Robert Bortuzzo, were third pairing defenders and Bortuzzo was often the seventh defender.

As they say in life and sports, there really are no excuses. The guys that hit the ice have to do their best to go out and perform.

It’s impossible to not be affected by broken thumbs, separated shoulders, concussions, back issues, knee injuries, missing teeth, cuts to the face and a bum ankle. You can’t brush off having AHL players play in your top six or top nine.

When you take all of that into account, as well as the constant piling of it all, it’s impressive the Blues have continued to win their fair share of games. It’s not like they’ve had one player return just as another got injured. Every single game, the Blues seem to have someone go down with an ailment.

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Their success, moderate as it might seem, is a testament to the talent and will of the guys still around and also the system put in place by the coaching staff.