Yes Berglund is hurt again. Yes it’s another shoulder surgery. And yes he’s going to miss the first few months of the season. For most Blue’s fans it probably feels like you’re living a real life version of Groundhog’s Day. But there is no reason to panic. The depth of the team allows for this to be a mild set back rather than a major defeat. I’m going to ignore the rookies for this article and just focus on NHL experienced players on the roster. There are already plenty of other great reads on the site that address our prospect outlook (yeah, I’m talking about you Thompson and Kostin).
Now I’ll address the #21 haters first. I will be the first to admit that I was a long time Berglund hater. I thought he was a severely underperforming player for a way too long. He played soft, didn’t use his size, and had no finishing ability. However, if you have consistently watched the games dating back to the 2015-16 playoffs, it’s been impossible to overlook the change in his play. His 23 regular season goals last year was a breath of fresh air for a previously enigmatic offense. In addition to the offense, his entire 200 foot game seemed to improve. Losing him for any significant time next year is definitely big negative to the team.
Even with the loss of the Big Swede, our center depth looks significantly more promising than previous years. With the addition of Schenn, emergence of Barbashev, and coming home party of Sobotka, the Blues have options. Not to mention the fact that Schwartz, Steen, and apparently Fabbri can all play a decent mid game if need be. But let’s address the true C’s (Stastny, Schenn, Sobotka, Barbashev, Brodziak). Looking at that five-some, I would say it is no longer a laughable group.
Good ole Pauly Walnuts. Whether you think he is overpaid or not (he is), it’s hard to not like the game he plays when he is healthy. Great at face-offs, strong two way play, fairly decent speed, net front deflections, smooth passing, yada yada yada. As much as there is to love, there’s just something about him that screams “not a true #1 C”. He’s a respectable fill in for that role though. I’m still holding out that he and Tarasenko are going to start clicking this year. I think an entire off season with Yeo will really show in Stastny’s game next season.
I was a huge fan of the Brayden Schenn trade. After having my own private celebration that Army was able to move Lehtera and his garbage contract, I sat down and did some more research on Schenn. Looking just at his numbers, he’s a huge upgrade for what was our weakest position last year. A consistent 20 goal scorer with a serious nose for the net on the power play. What a trade! But then I started reading about his issues, including a previously less than ideal track record of 5 on 5 play, consistently bouncing around the Flyer lineup, and playing a good amount of winger for them. But I’m going to stay positive and stick to the idea that Schenn is going to flourish in the Yeo system and become a solid 1-2 center for us.
Sobotka coming back caught me off guard. Even when he began practicing for the team again, I was still pretty salty about him leaving us (although I know it wasn’t ALL on him) a few years back. Once I was able to watch him play in a few games, I remembered how much I liked the “little guy with gumption”. His 110% effort on the ice, great face-off skills, and strong defensive play already makes him an extremely serviceable 3rd line center. But he has some serious offense skill. Not Tarasenko level skill, but the ability to make some impressive plays with the puck.
The team will have at least one holdover from last year’s 4th line that always seemed to get the team going. Kyle Brodziak is not a flashy player. He’s a checking center that will win you some draws and kill some penalties. He has been very consistent over his tenure with the Blues. He’s exactly what you want in your fourth line center. He could probably even center the 3rd line for some teams with that deceptive wrister he has. Barbashev is the real unknown. Centering the top line at times during the end of the season and into the playoffs, he had his moments that really impressed me. I feel like he has the skill level to be a top nine forward. The real question will be his consistency and confidence level. Babs and Brodziak should battle it out at times for the fourth line role, with the former possibly being able to push up into the top nine.
So yes, the Blues have center depth even without Bergy. Add him into the mix come December/January and I think you are looking at one of the deepest teams at that position in the western conference. All we need is one of them to step up and elevate their game to the next level. But hey, why not all of them? The more the merrier.