Early on, Blues GM Todd Snider came too the realization that the Blues franchise needed a bit of an overhaul in its overall philosophy.
On January 7th, St. Louis Blues General manager Todd Snider decided to make an organizational decision. The Blues were off to a 4-6 start and mired in a position of mediocrity.
The decision came to this: either keep trying to contend at present pace, add more veteran pieces by moving younger players in trades, or move a couple cornerstones out in favour of a more youth approach.
Snider chose the youth approach. He was able to flip his first ever Captain thirty-three (33) year old Sidney Crosby and Assistant Captain Brent Burns (35) to Carolina for twenty -seven (27) year old Centers Vincent Trocheck, Vladislav Namestnikov (28), Defensemen Torey Krug (29), Hayden Fleury (24), Prospect Goaltender Jack LaFontaine (23 ) and a 1st round pick in 2022, all while saving roughly 8 million a year.
Three days later, he shipped out F- Brendan Gallagher for Oscar Klefbom a key piece on his blue line rebuild after the departure of Burns. This left the Blues with a D corps of Victor Hedman (30), Klefbom (27), Krug (29), Brett Kulak (27), Stephen Johns (28) in their prime years and signed to 3- and 4-year (Johns only has two-year deal) contracts joined by the still physical and defensive Dustin Byfuglien at age thirty-five (35).
Over the past couple weeks, the Blues have moved William Borgen, Nazim Kadri, Jordan Weal and Frederick Gauthier for prospects and draft picks in an effort to clear spots for some of the organizations young stars to play.
Now fast forward to February and St. Louis lineup features five players age 22 or under.
G- CARTER HART (22)- # 1 Goalie and the backbone of the franchise. Hart has 9-7 record with a .907 Save %, and a 2.93 GAA. Not stellar numbers but fairly well for a team that’s been in constant transition.
C-JESPERI KOTKANIEMI- (20)—Leads the team in scoring (17 points in 21 games) and is anchoring the second line. A very pleasant surprise for the organization.
C/LW- RYAN POEHLING- (22) – He had 9 points in 15 games in the AHL before getting the call to St. Louis. Since arriving, in 4 games has 1 goal and 1 assist while playing roughly 10 minutes on 4th line. Coach Therrien has hinted his playing time will start to increase.
LW/RW- ALEXIS LAFRENIERE (19) – It was a surprise when Lafreniere did not break camp with the Blues and is said what led to a riff between Crosby and GM -Snider. The organization thought it was in his best interest to spend some time on the farm in Springfield. Lafreniere made the most of his time scoring 12 goals and adding 16 helpers in 20 games. He’s now been called up to the big club, probably to stay. He will skate on the 1st or 2nd line most likely.
C/RW- DYLAN COZENS (19) – Lafreniere’s linemate down on the farm and the Thunderbirds captain. He recorded 11 goals and 14 assists in 20 games. He along with Lafreniere will make their debut on Thursday night. Look for him to play the wing on one of the top 2 lines.
While the Blues still boast several veteran players in their thirties GM Snider has made the commitment to go with a more youthful roster. He has hinted that he will be moving a couple more bodies out soon too.
The Blues will need to find roster spots with the likes Hayden and his brother Cale Fleury (22) and Logan Stanley (22) on defense pushing for spots later this year or next year out of camp. As well Mikey Eyssimont (24) who will need to clear waivers next year and Nathan Bastien (23) who is also pushing for a big-league job.
When asked, Snider said "Heck we are going to let the kids play and see what comes of it.”