Zach Sanford is one Blue who should get more ice time in the wake of the Tarasenko injury.
Next man up is such a cliche. You expect to hear it from players any time a star goes down to injury. Were Sid the Kid to break his leg, you’d hear “No time to dwell on that. It’s next man up. We’re in a playoff hunt.” Were Clayton Kershaw to develop thoracic outlet syndrome, you’d hear “You know, it’s next man up around here. Rich Hill is like Clayton Kershaw-lite.”
There’s some truth to this cliche, though. Sports teams have to keep playing games, no matter who gets injured or traded or has to take personal time. And while the concept of “next man up” implies the same level of play and production, that’s almost never how it plays out.
So what are we going to see from the Blues over the next several days as Vladimir Tarasenko is on the shelf? Brayden Schenn and David Perron have both missed significant time because of injuries. Schenn returned just two games ago. Those two guys, plus Vladdy and ROR, carry the offense on most nights. The secondary scoring hasn’t been there with any consistency this season. Just two other forwards have cracked double digits in goals: Oskar Sundqvist and Tyler Bozak.
Notice a name missing from that group? You should – it’s Jaden Schwartz. Now the purpose of this article isn’t to blast Jaden Schwartz. It’s just to reiterate what you already know: he’s really having a down year. He’s 4th on the team in assists, and 14th in goals. You read that right – 14th. If he were having a “regular” season, the reality of losing Tarasenko for any extended period wouldn’t be near as dreadful.
The fact is there is a short-term opening on the top line. And every line, for that matter. Perhaps, with talent more dispersed across the lines, the lower lines will get more ice time.
Right about now would be a great time for a Steen scoring spurt (will we ever see that again?). And as we wrote about here, the stretch run is the time for younger players to impress and secure jobs for next season. Are Sammy Blais, Zach Sanford, or Robby Fabbri going to develop into top 6 forwards. Obviously, we really hope they are, and there’s no time like the present to see more signs of that.
We should see more ice time for Blais. Coach Berube said as much recently. He is averaging less than 10 minutes. We should see that climb while Tarsasenko is out. I’d kind of like to see Berube ice a Fabbri – Sanford – Blais line, just to see how they play together.
The Tarasenko shelving gives Coach Berube an opportunity to try a few things, just to see if they spark a player or two.