As most Blues fans will tell you, the reason to watch the Blues isn't because they're going to win or make the playoffs. The excitement is watching the young talent on this team and salivating over the potential. Thank God for that shred of hope, because watching the Blues right now is maddening.
(In no particular order)
The emergence of David Backes - A lot of questions were raised when the Blues signed him to a rather pricey contract, but he has quietly been one of the Blues best players consistently, on pace for 25-30 goals
The rise of Roman Polak - Out of left field, Roman Polak has emerged as the Blues top defenseman during the first half. With his great speed, hockey sense and hard shot, he'll be great depth in coming seasons.
Patrik Berglund - He's been better than advertised. With the wing span of a 747, Berglund will only get better as he gets stronger. In addition to his offense, he does a lot of smart things away from the puck.
TJ Oshie - Injuries have prevented us from seeing much of the poster child of the rebuilding movement. But early indications are that he will be everything he's advertised to be. In all, the most positive thing about this season is that the best players are all under the age of about 25.
Injuries - Any shot the Blues had at the playoffs has been obliterated by injuries. EJ won't even play this season. As if that weren't bad enough, three of our top six forwards and two of our veteran defensemen were out for extended periods of time...at the same time!
Brad Boyes - Boyes has one dimension to his game: scoring. So, that's a great dimension to have if you're only going to be one dimensional. But his play away from the puck, lackadaisical skating, and weak forechecking leave you feeling like he could be so much better if he actually skated...even just half the time.
Woywitka/Weaver combination - Just atrocious. I'm tired of "hard working playes" like Weaver. The fact is, the man can't get the puck out of his zone after about four tries, forcing him to be hardworking. Likewise, Woywitka - while assigned to the position of defense - never seems to be there. His "puck moving ability" is not near enough to compensate for his absentee defensive style. He leaves you wondering why the Blues won't give someone else from Peoria a try. How many times do we have to watch unimpeded opposition players in the slot banging home backbreaking goals before we call Junlan back up?
Goaltending - Manny Legace has been no where near his all-star form. Mason has played just okay...sometimes good, sometimes outright bad. He would probably have more wins if he had more goal support.
Roman Polak and Chris Mason. They're both scary looking dudes.
The Question Marks
The Stemniak deal - Only time will tell if this deal is a good one. I am of the opinion that Stempniak won't be able to duplicate his 27 goal season. At the early stage, it looks like the Blues have the better of the deal. Cola has played well in spots, and Steen has been on a recent tear.
David Perron - Some days, I think this kid will be an all-star, and other days, I think he'll turn out like Max Afinogenov: all skill with no ability to finish. Either way, he's still young and he's been piling up mindblowing assists. I still feel like Murray doesn't give him the chance that he gives Oshie and Berglund. Out of the young players, however, he is the most frustrating.
Who stays? This becomes the question. Andy McDonald is too good to let go, but what could the Blues get in return? His $3 million salary makes him the easiest and most desirable pending UFA. Tkachuk has a big salary and a no movement clause, so don't expect a Tkachuk trade to be easy. Likewise with our veteran defenseman, even if they were healthy. And Manny Legace hasn't done much to help his marketability. One thing is certain: Dan Hinote is gone at the end of the season.
Well, there you have it. What did I miss? What did I get wrong? "At the end of the day" I think I covered all the bases. With that being said, I failed to make any mention of questionable coaching, but that could be a whole 'nother blog for another day.
I guess if there's a positive out of all of the injuries the Blues have suffered, it's that there a number of guys getting a lot more ice time than we expected. Out of that batch, you end up with guys developing faster as a result. Particularly, Roman Polak, Brad Winchester, B.J. Crombeen, Tyson Strachan are all getting valuable experience that will help the Blues down the road. Dissappointing with all of the injuries has been that other haven't been able to take advantage of their opportunities - Jonas Junland, Jeff Woywitka, David Perron. I don't get too worked up about Brad Boyes two-way play. 40 goal scorers don't grow on trees so you live with some deficiencies. His job is to get down low and take risks in order to score, his linemates need to cover him better. No one ever talks about Andy McDonald's plus/minus which was just has been just as bad since his arrival here.
jammer, great blog, i've been reading you guys for about a year and finally sprung for the season ticket, i used to think i disliked brewer, then i saw weaver play, and woywitka is a total bust, all in all, sounds like you guys get this team more than some of the organization sometimes!