As we close in on the halfway point of the season, let's look at the pro roster of St. Louis Blues and see if the team can compete for a playoff spot.
Dylan Larkin: Acquired in a blockbuster deal in December that would send Jesper Kotkaniemi, Robin Lehner, and others to Buffalo. In 18 games he has 8 G, 9 A, and is -1 . He has been teamed with Panarin for most of his time with the Blues. We expected more as far as points but give him a solid grade. Grade: B+
Claude Giroux: Has been the leader of the team in both points and in the dressing room. Has 34 points (18 G, 16 A) and has anchored the second line. Has been absolutely dynamite in the faceoff circle just shy of 60%. Has been a great influence on his 20-year-old winger Alex Lafreniere. Giroux is a pending free agent but all signs show Blues Management trying to re-sign him. Grade: A
T.J Oshie: Just acquired and only played 5 games averaging just under 15 minutes per game while anchoring 3rd line. Chipped in a couple of goals and a helper so far. Blues need to find him another quality winger to play with. Grade: Too early to tell
Jake Evans: Was playing as 3rd line center before Oshie arrived. Now in an appropriate role as 4th line center. Hasn’t chipped in much on the score sheet (2 goals and 2 assists) but is a plus player who kills penalties. Now that he is on the 4th line, we give him a decent grade. Grade: C+
Blake Wheeler: Playing out of his natural center position, Wheeler has added a little muscle to the Larkin/Panarin line. He is 3rd in goals scored with 15 on the team and is a positive 1 on the season. We like what he has brought to the team, but would he be better served playing at his natural position? Can you afford to only give him 3rd line minutes behind Larkin and Giroux? Grade: B+
Tom Wilson: What can you say about Wilson. He hits, fights, scores, can play on the PP and PK. He is everything GM Todd Snider loves in a hockey player and the reason he was signed to a multi-year deal last year. He is off his pace of 28 goals and 40 assists (8 goals and 13 assists this year) but that’s largely due to a cut in ice time and being moved to the second line. We still love the guy. Grade: B+
Oliver Wahlstrom: Has 10 goals and 17 points in his rookie season. Now that he has Oshie to play with, his numbers should increase even more. Has been streaky at times and has had lapses in his own end. At only 21 maybe we shouldn’t expect too much. Grade: C+
Miles Wood: Pending free agent who has chipped in 9 points in 18 games. Is now on 4th line with Evans. If Snider can get him on a cheap deal, he's likely to be re-signed next year. Grade: C
Artemi Panarin: Has only 12 goals so far but does have 21 helpers. We expect more elite scoring from him and his $7.25 million salary. Maybe there aren’t enough pucks to go around for Larkin, Wheeler, and him. Rumours have it Therrien has been juggling lines at practice. Only because he has all those assists...Grade: B+
Alex Lafreniere: Last year he had 27 points in 54 games in the pros. So far, he has 18 points in 39 games, so he's close to last year's pace. The Blues are expecting more production from him this year. He's young and has a lot to learn, and maybe Blues are expecting too much from the 1st overall pick in the draft 2 years ago. Time will tell. Grade: C-
Mikey Eyssimont: Has played in about half the games and has 3 goals. Should be the 13th man rotating in on this team. Grade: D
Antoine Roussel: Been on the a 4th line checking role all year. Has one more year after this year at a reasonable $1.25 million deal. Provides 10 minutes a game and isn’t a minus player. Grade: C
Oscar Klefbom: Has taken over as #1 defenceman after Seth Jones was traded. Averaging 24 minutes a game and leads the team in penalty killing minutes. Would like a little more offensive presence from him but otherwise, he has been excellent. Grade: A
Justin Faulk: Came over in December deal that brought Larkin. Is a pending free agent and Snider is noncommittal on his future with the club. Playing 20 minutes a game, Faulk has added 6 assists and is minus-1 in 18 games. Nothing fancy to his game as he is a solid reliable defender. Grade: B
Noah Hanifin: The big piece in Seth Jones trade. Hanafin has had his ice time cut down to 17 minutes a game from the 24 minutes he was getting a night with Montreal and Vancouver. Will we see his ice time increase in coming games? Only 5 games in and he looks solid and fits well with the team. Grade: Too early to tell
Owen Power: If he isn’t in the running so far for rookie of the year, something is wrong. Granted he has only 9 assists in 39 games but he's a 19-year-old defenceman (arguably the hardest position to play at a young age) playing 20 plus minutes a game, with a + 13 on the season. He plays with poise and confidence. It won’t be long before he gets his first goal. He already had his first pro fight beating up the former captain of the Blues Sid the Kid!! Grade: A+
Stephen Johns: Big body Stephen Johns was acquired in a swap for Luke Glendinning. He was an original pick in the Dispersal Draft by the Blues and is a free agent come this summer. He won’t be back; he's been steady, but not great. Grade: D
Brett Kulak: The 28-year-old goes out every shift and plays a ho-hum brand of hockey. He's not flashy in the offensive end but is very steady in his own end. Plus-6 on the season behind only Power on defence in that category. He's a 5th or 6th D-man slotted in perfectly, getting around 17 minutes and is trusted to kill penalties. Grade: B+
Carter Hart: Has been playing fantastic once the goalie carousel of himself and Lehner was finally dealt with when the Blues traded Lehner. Has a .913 SV % and 2.77 GAA in 27 games so far. Has become a workhorse playing all but 2 games since Lehner’s departure. He is what Snider imagined when he selected him with his first pick in the Dispersal Draft. Now if the Blues players can start to play better in front of him, he would get more wins. Grade: A+
Vitek Vanecek: Brought in as a cheap backup, will play in back-to-back matchups and give Hart a break. Someone needs to be in the net at practice at the other end. Has only seen action in 2 games. Grade: D
Michel Therrien: Therrien doesn’t seem to be able to motivate his players. With this collection of stars, the Blues team is underperforming. The systems he has put in are obviously not working and the players are not buying in. A change may be needed sooner than later. Grade: F
Overall looking at this team through halfway mark, it looks like they have the necessary players to make a run to the playoffs. They just don’t seem to be able to string enough wins together. Decision time looms before the trade deadline on whether to shake up the team and go for it or maybe be sellers and re-tool.
Some tough decisions are ahead for Snider in the coming days!