Since I will be gone over the weekend I am writing this today and publishing it for Sunday. Grading the Blues players as they currently stand. I am going to start with the Forwards then Defense, and finally Goaltending in a 3 part series.
starting with the current first line as of Thursday.
ALEX STEEN: A-
I would really like to give Steen an A+ but even though he has decent point production so far paired with David Backes and TJ Oshie, he seems slightly behind his totals from last year, he currently has 10 goals and 11 assists. What boosted his grade besides wearing the “A” on the shoulder is his +/- is at a plus 17. He is basically on a line with two of the best two way forwards in the league. His leadership skills are unquestioned though, Having him and Backes on a line with Oshie has turned Oshie into something we all expected him to be.
TJ OSHIE: B
TJ has been a bit of a revelation this year. After the last couple campaigns Oshie is actually not missing time due to injury so far (knock on wood). He currently stands with 9 goals and 11 assists for 20 pts. He is on pace to match his career high or best it. Doug Armstrong only resigned Oshie to a one year deal, but also keeping intact is RFA status for this offseason. Army also wanted Oshie to come out this year and earn a contract. I give Oshie a B at this point because even though he is producing offensively, he is still having issues turning pucks over in the neutral zone leading to odd man rushes and goals.
DAVID BACKES: A+
Its not a very well hidden secret that Backes is my favorite player on this team, but he is backing my grade up this year. He is a notoriously slow starter and seemed to be on the same path the first few weeks of the season, but since then has been on fire. Thursday was a prime example of why he was named captain of the team. He was all over the ice, making plays, being defensively responsible and contributing in the offensive zone. He was punishing the opposition knocking Rangers players off the puck and creating chances. He is sitting at 18 pts with 10 goals and 8 assists. He is on the first power play, and on the penalty kill and is usually leading the forwards on ice time.
DAVID PERRON: INC
Since returning from a head injury against the Blackhawks, he has 4 points in 5 games, with 2 goals and 2 assists. While his timing is still a bit off make no mistake his presence on the ice has made a difference. With him on the ice the Blues seem to play with a purpose, they play harder and smarter. He is receiving an incomplete as I do not believe 5 games is a big enough sample size.
PATRIK BERGLUND: C-
Berglund gave us all monumental expectations after the World Championships where he was killing it. Since then however he seems to have found a big slump. Since Hitch took over he has been playing a bit better. Paired mostly with Chris Stewart and Matt D’Agostini, his +/- has suffered a bit he sits at a minus 3, and only has 12 pts through 30 games(7g,5a), If Bergie can turn it around a catch fire the 2nd line center could prove to be what the Blues need to really be a Cup contender.
CHRIS STEWART: D
Another player that had big expectations has just disappeared. This is what many Avalanche fans said after the trade and were pretty happy seeing him leave. After the trade he posted 23 pts in 26 games and giving the Blues the upper hand in the trade early on. Since then someone has forgotten to turn on the lights. He was suspended by Shanahan for 3 games and since his return seems to have lost his ability to get in players faces. When he actually moves his feet he is real dangerous but does not seem to have the motivation to do so. He is sitting at 4 goals and 7 assists for 11 pts and a +3.
MATT D’AGOSTINI: C-
After a break out season last year where he posted 46 pts, he has slowed his pace this year. While he has been great in the defensive end the Blues really need him scoring. Since frenchie came back from injury Dagger is back on the 3rd line with Arnott and Langenbrunner. If Dags can find the chemistry with the elder statesmen of the team he could find his offensive touch as Arny and Langs are not really looking to shoot as in their pass but set up plays. Dags easily has one of the hardest shots on the team and should be able to load up on the right side. He just seems lost right now. He does have 6 goals and 5 assists for 11 pts, and is at a +12.
JASON ARNOTT: B
I am giving Arny a B if any fan had the expectation that he would return to his prime glory you were kinda far sighted in that. I figured Arny to be good for at least 30 pts this year and hes well on his way to that he has 5 goals and 10 assists and is a +12. Arnott was brought in to be a leader in the locker room and on the ice. Doug Armstrong had big plans to make the playoffs this year and brought in a player he knew well for his playoff pedigree. Although he has slowed down a bit he still is producing on face offs and everything else the Blues have asked him to do.
JAMIE LANGENBRUNNER: C+
I had a bit higher expectations from him. I honestly did feel like he had a bit more left in that stick but been proven wrong. He still gets that grade because what he has been able to do without scoring. Playing on the PK and just being an overall pest has worn down the opposition night in and out. What the 3rd line has done is create space and scoring chances for the top 2 lines. He doesn’t quite have the speed he used to but still has wheels, he has only produced 2 goals and 8 assists but is still a +5. Another of Army’s pieces acquired for his rings, he has also donned an A on his should when on the road.
VLADIMIR SOBOTKA: A
Considered one of the engines of this team Sobotka is doing exactly what was expected and more. Widely considered to be having his best season of his career he is currently on IR after taking a slap shot from Steen in practice off the ankle. In 27 games he has 2 goals and 8 assists and a +9. While mirroring Langs production Vladdy was mostly expected to just be a shut down forward on the 4th line. He is the energy on the this team and the Blues were lucky to get him from Boston. He is a player on PK and just absolutely feisty, best known this year for his huge reverse hits on players about twice his size.
SCOTT NICHOL: B+
I didn’t know what to think of the Blues bringing in Nichol over the summer, known mostly as a face off specialist he has been placed on the wing when Sobe is healthy. What I have learned over the course of this season is the Sharks were dumb for letting this guy go. Another one of those energy players he has quietly made his presence known on this team. Relatively and older version of Sobotka he has been a joy to watch. He sits at 1 goal 1 assist and a -2, which is very deceptive of his play.
RYAN REAVES: C
He is mainly on this roster because fan favorite Cam Janssen did not get re-signed. Reaves showed a lot of upside last year in the few games he was in. Because of injuries he still is playing regularly and providing the tough guy role the Cam left behind. He is better then Cam though, better fighter, better hands, better skater, and better defensively. In 20 games played he has no pts at all and is a -1. Having no points though does not quite explain his play. He has not played great but has not played badly either.
CHRIS PORTER: C+
Another one of my favorites on this team that is also only playing because of injuries. What I like about Porter is the speed he brings, and the defensive game he plays as a forward. He has shown flashes of offense when needed but is known mostly as a shut down forward. Porter has 2 goals this year and is even on +/-.
EVGENY GRACHEV: D
Grachev was a player that rolled in preseason, but once it started counting disappeared. Although he is only 21 in 17 games he only has 2 assists. As the Blues begin to get healthier he will more then likely be sent back to Peoria to get regular ice time. Grachev has the ability but just does not have the motivation. The only plus so far this year has been his ability to protect the puck.
Andy Mcdonald: When healthy is a top 6 forward and the fastest on the ice. I see him anchoring the 2nd line with Bergie and Frenchie. Unfortunately Stewart will more then likely either be traded or moved to the 3rd line. I drop the trade rumor as BJ Crombeen will also be coming back and there are currently to many players that would have to pass through waivers to get back down to Peoria. Stewart and Crombeen in my opinion are the trade bait. If Porter has to be sent through waivers he will more then likely get claimed because of the speed and defensive prowess he has. Reaves however I do think could pass through.
BJ Crombeen: What Crombeen brings is a Sean Avery like presence on the ice. He is annoying and can score if you give him space. Once he is healthy he is much better version of Ryan Reaves. BJ was involved in his fair share of fights last year. As much as I like Crombeen I would love to him traded out for picks or defensive depth, so Porter can stay up and play.
That’s all I have for now look for the Defensive grades in the next few days then the goalies after that, thanks for reading make sure to look around the site and read some more. FOLLOW US ON FACEBOOK AND TWITTER @THE_HOCKEYHOUSE. FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER FOR UPDATES @evanhicksKC.