The St. Louis Blues won the 2019 Stanley Cup based on a number of factors. One of those factors was their great depth.
The Blues could roll out four, solid lines that could be effective in just about any situation. When one man went down with an injury, someone would just step into their place and there would be little to no drop off.
While you can never tell how any season will go, the 2021-22 roster is shaping up quite similarly. The names are different, but the quality of the people that could be filling the roles is top notch.
Looking ahead, the main question regarding the Blues will be line combinations. As far as who makes the roster, there are few surprises ahead, unless Craig Berube and Doug Armstrong pull some joker cards out of their sleeves.
What is still in the air is who might play with whom. There are likely scenarios and a few that fans, including yours truly, might like to see.
Blues likely forward roster
We’ve heard several sources, including the team’s own radio broadcast team discuss how Berube likes to go with pairs. This keeps continuity throughout the lines while also giving the team freedom to try other combinations by swapping the third winger.
The main pairings we have heard to this point are Ryan O’Reilly and David Perron, Brayden Schenn and Pavel Buchnevich as well as Robert Thomas and Vladimir Tarasenko. Knowing that, we can piece together the likeliest of trios to start the year.
Kyrou, O’Reilly, Perron
This line seems to be the most set. We have seen it several times in the preseason and it seems relatively effective.
The main issue with the line is that either Jordan Kyrou or David Perron would be playing on their off wing. Both have expressed displeasure with that, either verbally or with less than stellar play.
Eventually, you need to simply do what is best for the team. Talent wise, this trio would be very hard to defend and you’d have very shifty wingers that are more than willing to shoot.
Bozak, Schenn, Buchnevich
This was an interesting line choice. Of any spot in the lineup, I think the other wing on this line is the most open. I could see them using just about anyone in this role.
The reason I believe Tyler Bozak ends up on this line is because I do not believe the Blues are ready to “demote” him to fourth line status. He is still an asset and still quite versatile.
The reality is that being on the fourth line for this team would not actually be a demotion. However, perception is reality.
Saad, Thomas, Tarasenko
I think the Blues do this line based on giving Thomas every chance to flourish. He gets two kinds of wingers, both of whom offer great things.
Tarasenko has needed a playmaker to set him up for most of his career. Though he played well with Brayden Schenn, it’s still a different dynamic.
If he can connect with Thomas, that’s the kind of center he needs. Conversely, Brandon Saad is also the kind of winger Thomas needs.
Saad does a little bit of everything. He’s more than capable of scoring, but will do the dirty work around the zone. He’ll go to the front of the net, which will only help out both Tarasenko and Thomas.
Neal, Barbashev, Kostin
The fourth line is the biggest question mark for this team. That is not an indication of lack of talent, but a plethora of options.
I think James Neal has earned a spot on this team, at least in the estimation of the coaching staff. Ivan Barbashev is a lock and may actually be utilized as a winger higher up the lineup, but I think he’ll start the year on the fourth line.
Klim Kostin has not had a great preseason, but I think the Blues are prepared to give him an extended look. Similarly to how the St. Louis Cardinals needed to figure out their outfield situation, the Blues need to figure out whether Kostin can be an everyday NHL player or not. You can’t do that by letting him sit in the press box.
Whether Kostin stays on that line or gets taken out of the the lineup is up to him. I think he’ll start the season there though.