The year is 2019. The St. Louis Blues are getting ready to start their campaign to defend their first-ever Stanley Cup win in franchise history. The players and fans put their livers to the test that summer participating in a party that was more than 50 years in the making.
But instead of having crippling anxiety, there was a sense of calm in Blues nation. Not only did we have mostly all of that Stanley Cup roster coming back, but we had some young players who were huge in that Stanley Cup run that gave us confidence we were set for years to come.
Colton Parayko seemed to be the head of that group of young players, with his performance in the 2018-2019 Stanley Cup playoffs making a lot of the hockey world confident we were looking at a soon-to-be prominent #1 defenseman in the NHL.
A 6’6, 230-pound mutant that can shoot the puck well over 90mph with ease, skate like the wind, and when the other team put their top forward line out he seemed to make the opponent’s star players non-existent those playoffs.
It made it a little less painful when we let Alex Pietrangelo walk in exchange for Torrey Krug after the 2019-2020 season.
However, since that legendary playoff run, we haven’t been getting the same Parayko that had us St. Louis Blues fans on the edge of our seats anytime he got the puck with space on the blue line. He’s seemed more reluctant to shoot, you’d see him get dangled by the other team’s offensive studs, and he seemed pretty reluctant to play a physically heavy game on defense.
Do I ever expect 55 to play like a psychopath with anger management on the ice like Chris Pronger did here? No, but a 6’6 230 230-pound man shouldn’t be getting bodied off the puck in his own crease like in OT winning goal by the Avs last season.
Something was just off. We heard rumors of him dealing with constant back problems over the last couple of years, and although I am one of the furthest things from being a professional athlete I know a bad lingering back injury could potentially prevent you from:
1. Shooting a puck 100mph
2. Skating at your typical top speed
3. Make it extremely hard to defend against fast NHL skaters with the need to quickly pivot and change direction while defending.
Now I am not Parayko’s chiropractor, doctor, or yoga instructor, but the way he is playing this year makes me believe a) he may have actually had something physically ailing him last season and b) whatever it was it is good as gone.
In four games this season, Parayko is only at a +1 with one goal/point, however he’s averaging over 22 minutes per game, and if you’ve been watching every game you’d know this looks a lot more like 2019 Parayko than the one we’ve seen the last couple of seasons.
He’s skating all over the ice, he is strong on the puck, and has been a noticeable defensive force when he’s on the ice this season, all of which earned him some high praise from Chief after Saturday’s win vs Pittsburgh.
To get high praise from Chief takes a lot too. I’m pretty sure Kyrou could score six goals in one game and he’d get a “he did OK” comment from St. Louis Blues head coach Craig Berube after the game.
I would love it if I saw this become a more regular occurrence. However if he keeps playing defense at the level he is and shooting the puck as often as he is so far this season, it might be only a matter of time.