Offensive Troubles - Missing Tkachuk & Kariya
The St. Louis offense isn't one you'd describe as lethal. Or threatening. Or powerful. Often this season, the offense has failed to click and has placed immense pressure on the defense and goaltending. The blame has been placed on injuries and the blame has been placed on skaters struggling to meet their potential. But what about two players that the Blues had in 2009-10 but don't have this year, Keith Tkachuk and Paul Kariya? When Tkachuk hung up the skates for good, the Blues lost a huge presence both on and the ice and off the ice. Tkachuk was a leader and led the best way someone can - by example. His offensive talents declined as he reached the twilight of his career, but he still managed to be a force in front of the net, causing mayhem for opposing teams. We knew when he called it a career that the Blues lost their main man that would park himself at the top of the opponent's crease. In his final season, Walt scored 13 goals and added 19 assists for a total of 32 points. Then there's Paul Kariya. His last two seasons in St. Louis were marred with injury and 2009-10 saw him perform well under his bloated contract. Still, the winger managed 18 goals and 25 assists for a decent (by his standards) total of 43 points. Unfortunately, due to post-concussion syndrome, Kariya has chosen to sit out the 2010-11 season, but in almost all likelihood, would have been skating with a new team this season. When you add up Tkachuk's and Kariya's scoring totals you're left with 31 goals, 44 assists and a total of 75 points that are no longer on the roster. With the majority of the team left unchanged outside of these absences, the Blues brought in Matt D'Agostini and Vladimir Sobotka. D'Agostini appeared in seven games in 2009-10 but failed to register a point. This season he has performed extremely well scoring 12 goals and 15 assists through 55 games - totals that look even more impressive when you consider his tiny $550,000 contract. Sobotka has set new career-highs in numerous offensive categories (goals, assists, points) with five goals and 17 assists, but he is seen as more of a role player than a true offensive weapon. Are we really wondering where the offense has gone? D'Agostini has been a pleasant surprise, but the Blues are seemingly fielding more third-line talent than true threats to bury the puck. Make no mistake about it, losing 75 points from one year to the next is a pretty tough pill to swallow. Don't get me wrong - I'm a big D'Agostini fan and I like the intensity Sobotka plays with. However, from a purely statistical view, it's no wonder the offense hasn't grown considering the production that exited. Then, if you want, you can add the David Perron situation to the mix. He scored 47 points last season and a nasty concussion has all but eliminated him from the vast majority of play this season making it seem he isn't even with the club anymore. Perron falls into the very different injury category, but his missing offense doesn't help considering the voids left behind by Walt and Kariya. Coming into this season, we really should have seen this coming. We expected the youngsters to take a step forward, which some have and some haven't, but did we really expect a team filled with more guys known more for their roles than their goals to take this offense to the next level? Currently, the Blues are averaging 2.64 goals-per-game. So far, that number is down from the 2.66 they averaged last season. You may be thinking, hey, those numbers aren't too far off, that's not terrible. You're right - but that offense from 2009-10 was playing golf while the rest of the league enjoyed the postseason. This season was supposed to be the year the Blues finally pulled it together and made things click. With another year under the youngsters belt, they were supposed to take this offense forward. Unfortunately, that hasn't been the case and losing the leadership and talent contained within Walt and Kariya might have been a bigger blow than we anticipated. One could make the argument that the 2.64 mark is solid enough to make the playoffs and that the goals allowed number is where we should be looking, but that's a topic for a different day. Until then, here's to hoping that the Blues start finding their groove and in a hurry or we may see several of the team's role-players (take your pick, there's plenty) skating in new uniforms.