St. Louis Blues Cannot Fall Into Backup Quarterback Syndrome

St. Louis Blues defenseman Calle Rosen (43)Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
St. Louis Blues defenseman Calle Rosen (43)Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports /
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An old saying in professional football, when a team starts to slip, is that everyone’s favorite player is the backup quarterback. St. Louis Blues fans are starting to take that idea to heart with their hockey team.

The idea behind the axiom is that the backup quarterback is always the guy that can’t be any worse. If a team is struggling, everyone wants to blame the coach or the quarterback and the misguided thought is that the backup QB will be better. Nevermind the fact there is a reason he’s the backup.

Of course there are stories where guys just didn’t get their chance. St. Louis is home to one of the more famous ones.

Kurt Warner never even got out of training camp with the Green Bay Packers, was an indoor league quarterback and originally slated to be the third-string QB for the then St. Louis Rams. He went on to win a Super Bowl and go to the Hall of Fame.

That’s a heartwarming and fantastic story. It’s just this side of a fairy tale though. Most times the backup quarterbacks are what they are because that’s all they can be.

The same is true in other sports, including hockey.

All sports fans are guilty of this mentality, but Blues fans have been particularly bitten hard by the bug of late. The sky was falling when the team let go of Charlie Lindgren.

At the age of 28, Lindgren had never played more than 14 NHL games in one season. Yet, because he stepped in valiantly and won five games for the Blues, he was the second coming of Glenn Hall.

Sign that man to a contract and trade Jordan Binnington for a bag of pucks. Nevermind those same fans wanted to ship out the savior sidekick Ville Husso just a year prior to all of that.

Lindgren was the soup de jour. He is actually having a decent year with Washington now, but he’s still essentially the backup. That’s all he was going to be at the NHL level.

Flash forward another year and people are back at it. Now, Calle Rosen has jumped to the forefront and you can take your pick of the Blues top-four defensemen that any number of fans are ready to jettison out the proverbial air lock into the cold depths of space.

Like Lindgren, Rosen is also 28 and had not established himself as an every day NHL player to this point. Honestly, Rosen had not even shown himself to be a seventh defenseman in the NHL yet.

His 18 games with the Blues in 2021-22 was a career high. He has surpassed that in 2022-23 with 19 games played as of writing this piece and it will likely climb higher.

Rosen has played well in the time he has spent on the ice. He’s one of the few plus-players on the team and also has four goals heading into the new year.

There is a simplicity about Rosen’s game that works well for what the Blues need right now. They need steadiness in the defensive zone and a willingness to shoot instead of making pretty plays. Rosen has done all that.

So, what’s wrong with entertaining the idea of keeping Rosen and jettisoning some salary elsewhere on the blue line? Because it makes little sense unless you’re the man or woman spending the money.

There is nothing wrong with Rosen as a player and if he made it to the NHL full time, I would applaud him. He’s a third-pair defenseman though.

The Blues have been down this road before. We were all taken in by the chemistry and defensive style of Marco Scandella when the Blues acquired him at the trade deadline.

Despite the fact that he was primarily a third-pair defender elsewhere, he performed more than admirably as the shutdown defender with Colton Parayko. Things have never been the same once that season ended.

On 101 ESPN, the crew of BK and Ferrario described Scandella as an “overqualified third-pair defenseman”, but an underwhelming second-pair defenseman. That is an incredibly apt description, one which they also suggested might fit for Rosen and I concur.

That’s what he is. Rosen has just enough in his game to suggest he deserves more ice time than a third pairing, but if you playin him in your top four, I’d be willing to bet it’s Scandella all over again.

We’ve seen this even before Scandella. Carl Gunnarsson will always live in our memories as the first Blues player to ever score a game winning goal in a Stanley Cup Final. That doesn’t change the fact that many fans were pulling their hair out each time Gunny had to play in the top pair with Alex Pietrangelo simply because he was left handed and they wanted to keep Jay Bouwmeester as Parayko’s coverall.

The thing that they said on that same show that I completely disagree with is that Rosen might develop into a power play piece if you gave him a shot. Based on what – four goals?

Nobody should say this guy can’t move the puck, but this is backup quarterback syndrome at its worst.

Fans, and those in media that just like to stoke the fires, are so desperate to get rid of a Torey Krug or Parayko simply because they’re frustrated. Even if we agree that those two might not be top-pair defenders, they are top four on any team in the NHL. You cannot replace that with a serviceable third liner that would be punching above their weight class.

To put it into perspective for those of you that are also St. Louis Cardinals, this would essentially be what the Cards have been guilty of for years. You have a hole that has existed for awhile, or a good player that is now gone, and they always think the stop-gap, cheaper option is more than enough. It has not been and will not be.

The Cardinals currently have two potential Hall of Fame bats in their lineup. Yet, they still need more and yet they still continue to rely on players that MIGHT do the job, but have to play to the absolute ceiling of their potential for an entire season to do so.

That’s what you’d be asking of someone like Rosen if you trade away Krug. Say what you will about Krug’s defending or Parayko’s physicality, but you’re not increasing either of those attributes by simply relying on someone like Rosen.

The same is true of a younger player like Tyler Tucker. Maybe Tucker develops into something good – he’s only 22, so we don’t know yet. Unless you plan on implementing something like the torture rack, you’re not going to stretch Tucker or Rosen into a 6’6 player that can reach across a quarter of the rink.

Right now, fans simply want the pleasure of feeling their opinion is justified by certain players being shipped out. The reality is that you need something to replace whatever you are going to lose, whether it is this season or next season.

Trade Vladimir Tarasenko, and his 30-plus goals every season that he’s been healthy, and who scores your goals? Whether it is social media or the radio, everyone says Jordan Kyrou.

How does that make sense? Kyrou is already on the roster. Even if he develops into a 30-goal scorer, you’re asking him to score 50 goals to replace that production.

Again using the baseball analogy, if you trade away your leadoff hitter or your five-hole hitter, you still have to have someone capable of taking that spot. Take the 30 goals out of the equation. Nobody in the minors is even close to being a second-line winger and a top wing on the power play right now.

Spare me this David Perron nonsense had the Blues traded Tarasenko back then. As of December 30, Perron only has two more goals and two fewer points than Tarasenko. How does that improve this team?

Players do need to fit with the team they are on, both a coaching style and with teammates. You still need talent to win.

Vegas surprised the NHL by making the finals their first year with a roster mainly composed of second and third line guys. People forget that half that lineup has been replaced as the Golden Knights kept upping their talent level.

You have to replace what you’re losing with equal or better talent more often than not. Trading Krug or Parayko or Tarasenko or Jordan Binnington, to open the goaltending kettle of fish, does not improve this team simply because you are of the opinion that the person waiting in the wings could not be any worse.

Rosen is not a top pairing defender. He’s just not. Argue Rosen over Scandella or Bortuzzo and I can join with that sentiment. He doesn’t replace those other top names.

As of right now, Zachary Bolduc or Jake Neighbours are not going to score you 30 goals. Logan Brown, Alexey Toropchenko, Nathan Walker nor Noel Acciari, no matter how much we like their work ethic and grit, are not going to slide into your top six or consistently on your top power play unit.

Next. When the Blues won in a blizzard. dark

If you are of the opinion the Blues need to remake themselves in the offseason and those bigger names need to go, so be it. Stop trying to pretend that what is waiting to plug that hole right now is actually the answer. The same group of fans can’t stand when the Cardinals do that, so it boggles the mind that they ask for it as Blues fans.