The St. Louis Blues and their general manager Doug Armstrong shocked plenty of people when they chose to re-sign Nick Leddy. Few questioned Leddy’s talents, but the assumption was that the team would keep long-time forward David Perron.
Most people knew that the Blues could only re-sign one of the two. Given the widely held assumption – one which proved to be true – the Blues needed to allocate money to extensions for younger players, so only one of Perron or Leddy would stay.
Most of us, including myself, figured Leddy was a rental from day one. He was a good acquisition that helped the Blues achieve success from the trade deadline through the playoffs.
However, we figured that Leddy was not a priority. The Blues had other defenders coming through, such as Niko Mikkola and Scott Perunovich.
Armstrong made a surprising decision to prioritize his top four defensive unit. It has proven to be the smart choice and the best one possible.
The aforementioned Perunovich is scheduled to be out for six months, needing surgery to repair a shoulder that was injured during a preseason game. On top of that, fellow left-handed defender Marco Scandella is supposed to miss the same amount of time.
Scandella injured his hip in late August. He also required surgery, which would keep him out at least six months.
In just a month’s time, the Blues went from having a glut of left-handed defenseman to being dangerously thin on the blue line. Welcome to the world of professional sports, especially a contact sport like hockey.
Just weeks prior to the season, the discussion was who would be the odd man out. Nobody knew if Perunovich would get a roster spot due to his injury issues prior to the shoulder and St. Louis needed a full time defenseman, not just a power play specialist as Perunovich had been used in the 2022 playoffs.
Scandella felt like the odd man out in terms of on-ice performance. After fitting in like a glove after arriving in St. Louis a couple years prior, Scandella had taken a steady decline in terms of his play. It was only his contract that had most assuming he would keep a roster spot, if not a top-six position.
Mikkola was in a fluid situation. He had the most defensive upside, but his inconsistencies made people wonder.
Now, it’s all a moot point. The Blues know that Mikkola will start the season as their third pair lefty due to all the injuries.
They also know that Armstrong made the right choice by keeping Leddy. Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good, and Army has been both.
None of this discounts anything Perron accomplished or what he meant to the Blues organization. He was a fan favorite and earned the respect by becoming a more selfless and complete player as his career went on.
While it is visually disturbing seeing him in a Detroit Red Wings jersey, we can at least root for him individually since the Wings. However, the Blues made the right choice to prioritize defense.
Going into the 2021-22 season, all the analysts agreed that the Blues were thin on defense. That was likely to be the factor that would hold them back and that proved to be true.
St. Louis had a good record, but they became contenders when Leddy was acquired. To let Leddy walk away in free agency would have put the Blues right back in that same position and that was before any of the injuries.
Given they’ve lost two NHL players for six months, having their top four still solidified really makes things manageable. It’s easier to figure out who is your third-pair defenseman than it is your first or second.
Imagine where the Blues would be if Leddy was gone. You’d still be wondering who was your top-pair defender, with Torey Krug being the defacto answer.
With no Leddy, and Scandella and Perunovich out, the entire left side of the defense would be thrown into a terrible flux. Instead, Armstrong made the difficult decision to let a fan favorite go for what was right for the team.
The Blues can replace the scoring or play a tighter style to where they don’t need as many goals. After all, the team set a team record for goals scored in 2021-22 and didn’t win the big one. Maybe scaling back and refocusing on the blue line is the way to go.
St. Louis is still on the edge of a knife. Any further injuries will really put the team in a world of hurt.
At least we can worry about that later, if it even happens. If Leddy was elsewhere and Perron was here, we would be worrying about all that right now.