Growth from Within

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Oskar Sundqvist will be a big part of the offense next season, and beyond.

What’s the most likely scenario regarding Alex Pietrangelo? The sentiment among “experts” and fans is split pretty evenly. It seems like a toss-up whether he stays or goes.

Let’s assume he stays, signing a deal north of $8 million per season over 7 or 8 seasons. That contract will presumably preclude the Blues from upgrading the offense this offseason, because the money freed up from the Jake Allen trade, Bouwmeester’s contract, and probably another salary dump, will be tied right back up again in Pietrangelo. The Blues will be up against the salary cap again.

And the Blues need to get more offense, as they could be without Vladimir Tarasenko for a time. They got great seasons from Brayden Schenn, Jaden Schwartz, and David Perron. Ryan O’Reilly led the team in assists (49) and points (61). But after that, it kind of dropped off.

There were some promising developments, of course. Zach Sanford played on a scoring line much of the time, and scored 16 goals. Robert Thomas continued to grow as a playmaker. Whereas the other young forwards were more balanced in their goals and assists, Thomas had 3x as many assists as goals. He needs to shoot more, and if he is intentional about that, more goals will come.

The Blues really need to get more goals from this group: Sanford, Sundqvist, Thomas, and Blais. These are the forwards that will fill spots in the 2nd and 3rd lines (the “middle six”). There is a lot of potential from this group, and they’ve made progress in realizing it. Gone are the days of the Blues filling out the roster with 4th line/AHL types. Look at these stat lines from last season:

Thomas: 10 G 32 A

Sanford: 16 G 14 A

Blais: 6 G 7 A

Sundqvist: 12 G 11 A

There’s more there from each of these guys. These are the guys around which a successful season is built. Doug Armstrong has done a great job building out the bottom half of the roster. Thomas and Blais were home-grown, while Sundqvist and Sanford were acquired in trades.

They have the advantage of playing with veteran offensive guys like Perron, Schenn and O’Reilly. All 4 guys have above average shooting percentages. They’ve not been thrust into feature roles without support. I think that’s a big reason for their development the past couple seasons.

And I think next season will have some great things for these guys.

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