Blues and Blue Jackets: The Good, The Bad, and The Not So Different
This of course is a reaction to the games played on Jan. 12 and 18. On Jan. 12 the Blues defeated the Blue Jackets at home 4-1, but were defeated 4-2 a week later in Columbus. The Blues played very well in the first game. They could score and were physical. But a week later they had trouble with the Jackets. To sum it up, I think they are similar teams. They both have young players that could turn into stars and some veteran names. But if you want to compare the two teams, you must look at each different aspect of a hockey team.
STL: The Blues don't really have a top tier goalie, even though Chris Mason plays like one at times. This is not a knock on Mason, but he is a very good second tier goalie. I wouldn't say he is elite. With some consistency he could be a top goalie. Ty Conklin is a number two guy who could play every night. He has struggled at times this season, but had a very good season in Detroit last year and held the number one role for about a third or more of the season when Chris Osgood struggled.
CLS: The Blue Jackets don't have a number one at the moment, although Steve Mason can be that good. The problem is that this year he isn't playing well and Garon is like Conklin. He is a very good number two guy, but probably more of a number two than a number one.
Advantage: Blues (for now) - Chris Mason is playing better than Steve Mason. If Steve turns it around and plays like he did last year he is probably better. Looking to the future, I would have to believe that Steve Mason recovers and plays similar to the way he did last year. The Blues will have to decide if they want to play it safe and re-sign Chris Mason. If not they will probably rely on Conklin and prospect Ben Bishop.
STL: The Blues have a lot of nice pieces and developing kids, but no true star power. They don't have that guy who is by far their best player. Boyes, Perron, Oshie, and Berglund have shown signs of this, but they are either still developing or have hit their high point. Brad Boyes had 43 goals in 2007-2008 and 33 goals last year. This year he is on pace for about 20 goals.
Many Blues fans are very disappointed in this because they expect more out of him. But what if Boyes isn't that kind of player? What if he is more like a Mikael Samuelsson, who can score 30 to 40 goals but is more likely to score 20 to 30. If the Blues have the wrong expectations of him, then of course they will be disappointed. He is still a very good player, but maybe not a 40 goal guy. David Backes may be the best player on the team. He had 31 goals last season and is also a tough guy. He is a guy who can score and is not afraid to mix things up. He could very well develop into a true star for the Blues.
Andy McDonald, Paul Kariya, and Keith Tkachuk are the veteran stars and their roles are different. McDonald has had a nice season with 14 goals and assists. He still has his speed and finesse even after missing much of last year with a broken ankle. He is a great assist man, but shouldn't be the team leader in goals, which he currently is.
Kariya was signed to a huge contract and hasn't produced like many hoped he would. He had a sub-par year in 2007-2008. Last year he missed pretty much the whole season due to injury. If he plays the rest of this year with the Blues, at his current pace he will have around 20 goals and 20 assists. That isn't the Paul Kariya of old. More like an old Paul Kariya.
Tkachuk is a physical player who acts as a mentor to the young players. He is doing his job, but the offense isn't going to come from him. The Blues supporting cast (Steen, McClement, Winchester, Crombeen etc) could be used as second line players in some cities. This is one of their strong suits. They have good depth.
CLS: The Jackets also have some developing players, but they have Star power. Rick Nash is a proven veteran all star caliber player. He is an annual 40 goal scorer and something the Blues lack. Supporting cast isn't as proven as Blues third and fourth liners.
Advantage: I would have to say they are even. Nash almost gives Columbus the edge, but the Blues have been able to rotate all of their players into the top two lines over this and last season. Their depth has helped them in many ways and I just don't feel like the Jackets have that kind of production throughout their entire lineup. If the Blues had a player like Nash, then they would have the advantage in my mind. This is why they signed Kariya, but it hasn't worked out that way.
STL: Plenty of good D-men, but no true number one defenseman. Erik Johnson showed signs of a bright future, but he seems to be wearing down. Remember that he hasn't played a full NHL season yet. Carlo Colaiacovo has improved since coming to St. Louis last season. He has gotten better on defense and has shown that he can be an offensive weapon. But he is still more of a second or third line guy.
As for the others, Brewer is fine defensively and ok on the attack, but nothing special. Barrett Jackman is not what he used to be. He was a feisty enforcer when he came into the league. Now he is slow and can end up out of position. He has a strong voice in the locker room, but that is about it. Polak, Weaver, and Sydor are solid D-men who are good at what they do: defend. They are not much on offense and usually play on the third pairing. The Blues do have Alex Pietrangelo and Jonas Junland in the minors. They are both good offensively and I would expect to see them at some point next year.
CLS: Similar to the Blues in the fact that they don't have a true number one defenseman. The difference is that their +/- seems to be worse.
Advantage: Probably Blues. Again, their depth helps their cause. Columbus has a good to two in Fedor Tyutin and Anton Stralman, but they don't have as much behind them. Those two are definitely the top two, where as in St. Louis, Johnson is probably the number one, but any of the others could be number two.
Overall, I would say that the two are about even. The Blues have depth throughout their team and organization. Any guy could play on any line or pairing and both goalies are solid. The Blue Jackets have the star power up front that the Blues wish they had in Rick Nash and Fedor Tyutin but they lack the secondary players behind their stars that the Blues have.
While there is speculation about the Blues trading for a star at the trade deadline, it is unlikely because the cost would be too high. They would have to give up more than one of their young stars. It is more likely that they will try to sign a good free agent in the offseason and continue progressing the kids. If the Blues could get a top tier player, then they would have the edge over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
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