St. Louis Blues Have Forced Prospects To Earn It In 2023-24

St. Louis Blues forward Zachary Bolduc (76)Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
St. Louis Blues forward Zachary Bolduc (76)Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports /

The St. Louis Blues have done the smart thing in constructing their 2023-24 roster. While Doug Armstrong proved that we should not assume anything, the overall point remains the same.

Most of us assumed the Blues were done when they acquired Kevin Hayes via trade and then used all nine of their draft picks. Then, he surprised us by bringing back Oskar Sundqvist on a one-year, veteran minimum contract.

Of course, as with any roster movement, not everyone is happy about it. I saw some social media posts talking about how the poster liked Sundqvist, but thought it was time to give guys like Alexei Toropchenko, Nikita Alexandrov or Sammy Blais the look.

I could do an entire article about how this person is missing the point. Sundqvist is not taking a spot away from any of those guys, Blais specifically.

Sundqvist is versatile enough to be your third or fourth-line center, or play anywhere in the roster as a winger. You don’t want him on your top line for an entire season, but he can take that role in a pinch.

What his addition, as well as Hayes, has done is force the prospects to actually earn a spot. So many fans want to talk about letting this guy or that guy have a look, but what are we basing that off?

There have been times when certain coaches don’t vibe with certain players, so maybe they don’t get a fair shake. When was the last time that actually bit the Blues in the rear?

Most will point to Robby Fabbri, but his career highs are still with the Blues. St. Louis really has not missed out on any player by not giving them a fair look and had them explode somewhere else.

Keeping that tradition alive, the Blues have brought in serviceable veterans that will force guys to step up their game. If they make the team, they have earned it and the Blues also have the kind of quality guys around them to make up for their initial lack of NHL experience.

That’s what they did with Robert Thomas. The Blues had the luxury of using Thomas initially as a winger and then slowly putting him as their third-line center on what eventually became a championship team.

I love the guy, but that’s what he needed. If he was automatically made the top-line center on a team simply because they had no other options, it would not have been good for him or his development.

Should they make the team, which is unlikely anyway, the Blues now have the same kind of luxury with guys like Zachary Bolduc or Dalibor Dvorsky. If they come out in training camp and just light the world on fire, they have earned a spot.

The cupboard is not bare like we thought it was going into the summer of 2023. You don’t have to just hand them spots now and hope they live up to the hype out of the gate.

The truth is, no matter what fans want to post on social media, the amount of guys that hit the ice running and are just superstars immediately is quite small. It’s small because you force these guys to be top players and carry bad teams.

Think of how many quarterbacks failed in the NFL because they were put on awful teams that might have been alright if they could have learned the pro game first or at least been the starter on a team with quality players around them.

While they all became good players eventually, when the Blues handed the keys to nothing but prospects in the past, it was not a successful route. Sure, we all loved David Perron, TJ Oshie and Patrik Berglund, but the team did not win until they added other things because they had forced too much on those guys too soon.

Armstrong doesn’t want to do the same with Bolduc, nor Dvorsky. There is plenty of reason to be excited about guys like that and even names like Toropchenko and Alexandrov.

It’s a results based business though. If they can’t earn a spot over someone you, or I, might perceive as lesser, then are they really ready?

Dvorsky has already pretty much committed to playing in Sweden next season. Beyond the names on the Blues roster he would have to beat out, he would have to really wow management to have them buy out the last year of his pro contract in Europe.

Bolduc has a shot if he can earn it. There is still room on this roster for talent and if he shows something, the trade or the signing aren’t going to keep him off, just like Joel Edmundson and Colton Parayko gave the coaching staff no choice but to keep them their first year.

What is good about the additions is it gives the team a carrot to dangle. Those guys can’t come into camp thinking they have a spot and can only lose it.

Next. Krug was within his rights to deny deal. dark

Now, they have to win and earn that spot. That’s a good thing because if they do, we know they’re ready.