Grab a lineup card! This off-season has been one to remember. Doug Armstrong came into this off-season on the hot seat, and he delivered. A slow beginning to free agency, that saw Armstrong sign Tyler Bozak and a return of David Perron, had most Blues fans clamoring for Armstrong to be strung up by his knickers! No way he could go through this off-season and come out with only Bozak and Perron, for a 3rd stint! It was turning out to be a major disappointment.
Boom! Ryan O’Reilly is a Blue. The contracts of Berglund and Sobotka vanished into thin air. “It was all a dream..” said a man of great musical influence (if you don’t know then you don’t know). Things were really turning around and the Blues looked to be a team that was almost unrecognizable. Then something else happened, Patty Maroon came home. What a ‘beaut. The “Big Rig” from Oakville returns back to his place of roost for a crisp $1.75M and 1 year. There’s already talk of the team and Maroon’s camp discussing an extension in January, when players can negotiate extensions with their current teams. A one-year deal at this point is a golden opportunity for the Blues and for Maroon.
Before we get into specifics, we should review Maroon’s career up to this point. Maroon’s last two seasons have been a renaissance of sorts. Last season Maroon put up a career-high in points (43) while the putting up a career-high in goals (27) the season before that. It should be noted that while he was putting up career-highs in both categories, his primary linemate was none other than Connor McDavid. There’s no McDavid on this Blues team. Sorry, but he, and Crosby, are just on a different planet than the rest of the league.
Maroon benefitted from playing with McDavid, for obvious reasons. He had more offensive zone starts (54% vs 46%) with Edmonton, which changed when he was traded to New Jersey where he was closer to 50/50. Maroon’s Corsi-For percentage (a measure of shot attempts for vs. against while a player is on the ice) was almost “elite,” by the metrics’ standards, when on McDavid’s line (he sat at 54%, 55% and above is considered “elite”). His percentage regressed to a mean of 50% after he was traded to the Devils where he played mostly with Pavel Zacha and Miles Wood. Basically, he’s around average in the possession statistics without elite players beside him, but he can definitely hold his own. As a reference, Jaden Schwartz hasn’t had a sub-50 CF% since his rookie year (57.1% last season). He’s an elite talent that is constantly overlooked in this league, but I digress.
Maroon is a mold of David Backes’ own design. He will grind you down, get in your face, and won’t be pushed from the front of the net. That takes its toll on a player. The one-year deal is perfect for the Blues situation. However, with extension discussions likely to happen in January, how far are Blues management and ownership willing to go with Maroon? He has all the intangibles that this team didn’t have last season. Great locker room presence. Hometown Hero in the making. If you thought Backes was a favorite, Maroon can top it with all the right moves.
So let’s get to it! I’m going to dream up a lineup and you tell me if you see it the same or would make adjustments!
That’s not even factoring in the possibility of Kyrou or Kostin making the team (I mention in my previous piece about when I see those two making their debuts). They could easily slot into this lineup if they prove their worth in training camp. Thomas is seems more and more likely to make the team with each passing day. However, I don’t see how playing 4th line minutes benefits him, if he does make the team. If he makes the team, it should be in a top-9 role.
A “top” line of Maroon, O’Reilly, and Tarasenko could put up big points. If Maroon can play on McDavid’s wing then he can surely play with O’Reilly and Tarasenko. Expect the “Big Rig” to make space for the other two and head straight for the goaler’s grill.
You know what you’re getting with Schwartz and Schenn – elite ability. Add in Fabbri (and a knee to stand on) and you’ll want to sit on the glass the rest of the season. Those three could have a fun time this season, health permitting. I hope Yeo tries the three together going into camp.
The third line won’t blow past you, but they can make you pay and could play some tough minutes against the opponents’ top lines. Steen is lauded as a great 2-way forward and Bozak isn’t a liability in the defensive zone. Turn them around with Perron’s great offensive ability and Steen might turn into a $5.75M per year player. I think we are all hoping he has a resurgence..
May the 4th be with you.. It’s July, I’m talking about the 4th line. It’s a different look than previous 4th lines the Blues have had in the past. Much faster. Like, lightyears faster. They can also rip one top cheese. Think they’re not gritty enough for the 4th line? Think again. Jaskin put up 207 hits in 76 games while Soshnikov laid 19 hits in his only 12 games with the Note. We love seeing Thorburn’s mug out there roughing guys, but you need more of a complete scoring threat throughout your lineup if you want to win in this league.
Blues fans may still see Jaskin as a huge liability. After signing another 1-year deal (it will never end..), he is slotted to push for 4th line minutes which could turn out to be a fantastic 4th line. Jaskin is a mystery to all. What’s even crazier is that his possession statistics are pushing that “elite” status. His career CF% is 54% (Brayden Schenn has a career CF% of 50.4%). So why isn’t he scoring at a rate similar to Schenn? Tough to tell. Maybe he’s not getting the right line combination or minutes. Fans throw stones, but if you put a playmaker like Thomas between Jaskin and Soshnikov (and play them regularly, big factor) then you might see some magic happen.
So we’ve come to the biggest question mark.. Jake Allen. Where will his head be when January/February 2019 rolls around? He can not afford to have another mid-season collapse. The Blues can’t afford it either. Armstrong has put a team in front of him that will increase the scoring from the abysmal season last year where they ranked 24th in goals per game. Now Allen has to stop the puck. He has the ability. He can be THE guy. I hope he comes in with a new determination to prove that he can be that guy. I have faith in him (you should too), but I will be watching with a keen eye when 2019 rolls around..
Did You Miss It?
Our lovely section of “DYMI” has brought us to the land to the north. Canada has recently legalized the recreational use of marijuana (they’re just cooler than us). Now the league is going to have discussions on whether or not to allow players to consume it. As if the dark circles around Anze Kopitar’s eyes couldn’t get any darker. Scott Wheeler of The Athletic spoke with Executive Director of NHLPA Don Fehr about the topic.
Also, that Erik Karlsson trade that everyone said was happening, never did. It’s said that talks are still happening, but the reported “pending trade call” was never close. Pierre Dorian probably leaked some false info to generate a bidding war, nice try Pierre. If anything materializes and Yzerman is able to land Karlsson, our only hope is that the Leafs and Lightning beat the hell out of each other.
Thanks for reading!