Since the Blues season ended a while back I've been meaning to make a blog about grading each players performances. I will be taking into account the regular season as well as the playoffs. Today will be the forwards, and the other half will be the D and goalies.
David Backes: B-
There's no denying that Backes had a down year, managing only 6 goals in 48 games in the regular season. A former two time 30 goal scorer, Backes is known for having bad starts, but he never seemed to pick up the slack as the season progressed. His untimely manner to take dumb penalties was also a slight concern, the Blues simply need more discipline from their leader. However, Backes' leadership is something I don't put into question, and I'm expecting a bounce back year next season.
David Perron: C+
I expected more from Perron this year, no other way to put it. He looked terrific after his recovery from his concussion, and I thought he would continue to be an offensive force coming into this year. The only thing Perron did consistently in the offensive zone this year was take dumb penalties that killed momentum. Perron is a feisty guy, which can be beneficial at times when goading the opposition into penalties, but the majority of the time it was Perron who ended up in the box. Perron was also invisible in the playoffs which was disappointing considering how much of our offense goes through him.
Alex Steen: A-
One of our most consistent players throughout the course of the year, Steen was remarkable in the playoffs. Kings fans were in fear whenever Steen was on the ice, and he was a driving force in all three zones. Had Backes not been named captain, I firmly believe Steen would be wearing the "C". Had Steen not suffered a setback with his injury he could have lead our team in scoring. I would be more than thrilled to see Steen remain with the Blues for the rest of his career.
TJ Oshie: B-
Yet another season where Oshie misses some time with an injury, although I don't think it's much of a concern. His injuries seem to be more from bad luck, rather than recurrences. Oshie was strong in the regular season in both ends of the ice. Would I have liked to see more offensive production from him in the playoffs? Definitely, but the fact that the rest of our team couldn't score either slightly excuses him. I don't think Oshie will ever be a 60-70 point guy, but he'll give you a gutsy 19 minutes with tenacity and energy and that's good enough for me.
Chris Stewart: B
Stewart's grade is an average between his regular season and playoff performances. Stewart was an absolute monster in the regular season, he lead our offense for about a 10-12 game stretch which kept us alive in the playoff race. Then along comes the playoffs, and what do we see? Well I'm not too sure, can anyone confirm for me that Stewart was in the lineup? I didn't notice him at all, and it makes me wonder if Stewart will ever be an impact player during crunch time. Stewart is plagued with inconsistency and laziness which are aspects I don't want on the Blues.
Patrick Berglund: C+
Berglund is the main cause of my frustration when watching the Blues. He's big, he's strong, and he's got a wicked shot, so why are his point totals so unimpressive? Something tells me it's all mental with him. Berglund only had 74 shots this season, compare that with when he was in Sweden during the lockout he had 96 shots in 30 games. Watching Berglund this year, it looked like he would only shoot when he was confident that he had a high chance to score. Berglund's 8 assists aren't a huge worry to me, he's never been a playmaker and his passing game is below average. However, we needed him to shoot more especially in the playoffs, and he didn't deliver.
Andy McDonald: C-
Let me start off by saying McDonald had a terrific tenure in St. Louis prior to this season. Despite his injuries he was a solid presence in the offensive zone. However, this does not excuse his poor play this year. McDonald's numbers dipped considerably, and he didn't even manage to scrape a point in the playoffs. So much for our best offensive player, McDonald was a liability literally everywhere on the ice. He would be knocked off the puck a lot easier than usual, his passes found the opponents tape more than his teammates, and his hockey IQ dropped to the single digits. I don't know what happened to McDonald during the lockout, but I'm glad it will be some other team's problem from here on out.
Vladimir Sobotka: B+
Probably our most consistent player this year, Sobotka was surprisingly effective in the offensive zone. His ability to shield the puck and fight off defenders was extremely impressive, and his hands are better than I thought they were. There wasn't a single game this year where I thought, "damn, Sobotka was just awful tonight". He was solid night in and night out, and his versatility to play anywhere is a huge asset. His performance in the playoffs was subpar in my opinion, I thought he looked off on various nights which surprised me, but he wasn't invisible like others.
Vladimir Tarasenko: B-
Tarasenko came in with lofty expectations, and for the first 10 games he was exceeding them. He was making sharp passes, getting open for chances, and was pulling off some pretty sweet dangles. Then along came Mark Olver, and Tarasenko was never the same. His play before and after his concussion was night and day. His confidence with the puck was low, and he fanned on shots that would normally be an everyday routine. Tarasenko only got 1 game in the playoffs and onthe fourth line (which was a terrible coaching decision), so his grade his mainly based off his regular season. I certainly hope Tarasenko can find his form again, because he was an absolute treat to watch.
Jaden Schwartz: B
Schwartz's emergence in the playoffs raised his grade, and also raised some eyebrows across the nation. Schwartz's innate ability to pickpocket defenders and play with a high level of tenacity was prevalent throughout the Kings series. There were multiple times where Schwartz would pick off one of Doughty's passes, or lift the stick of a defender and snag the puck away. Had he been able to bury the many chances he had, we'd be in the conference finals right now. In the regular season, Schwartz really didn't get a fair shake. He spent a lot of time on the fourth line which limited his offensive opportunities, but was gold when he started getting top 6 minutes. Hitch better be getting Schwartz some PP time now that McDonald is soon to be gone, the sky really is the limit for young Jaden.
Chris Porter/Adam Cracknell/Ryan Reaves: B
The CPR line was a wrecking ball in the playoffs as well as the tail end of the regular season. They had the ability to swing momentum with a thunderous hit, or simply just cycling the puck and tiring out the defenders. The CPR line is one of the best fourth lines in the league, and although it was show on the stat sheets, you can bet they'll be making a huge impact on games.
Scott Nichol: B-
Nichol did what he was asked to do. Win faceoffs and play the PK, which he did pretty effectively. His ability to kill plays was something that wasn't asked of him, but he did anyway as well. Nichol is a great locker room guy and veteran, but his role on this team had been taken by the venerable CPR line. Should Nichol in the Blue Note next year, it will be in the capacity of a 13th forward.
Jamie Langenbrunner: N/A
Having only played 4 games there's not much to base a grade off of. Personally, I think he should hang up the skates, but ultimately it's up to Langs. I don't see him with the Blues next year, but maybe Armstrong wants to keep a wily veteran like Langs for a locker room presence.
Dmitrij Jaskin: N/A
Two games on the fourth line isn't the greatest sample size. From what I saw, Jaskin isn't afraid to use the body, although his skating could use a little work. Expect to see Jaskin with the Wolves in the AHL, hopefully him and Rattie can set the league on fire.
Thanks for reading guys, I'll try and get the second part of this blog out as soon as possible. Cheers.