Pivotal Year for Chris Stewart
Chris Stewart carried some big expectations into 2011-12. Fifteen goals and a total of 30 points later, Stewart exited 2011-12 with a thud, causing fans to ask what happened to the dynamic forward they saw when he first arrived in 2010-11. With his contract set to expire, the Blues were placed in an awkward position with Stewart. Will he rebound or are his best days behind him? The team elected to give Stewart a one-year, $3 million deal in the hopes he turns things around in 2013. In the past, I've talked about teams giving out "prove yourself" deals to their players. Chris Stewart's one-year contract is the definition of a "prove yourself" deal. He has one more year - well, 48 games - to prove that his 15 goals in 26 games back when he arrived in St. Louis in 2010-11 weren't a fluke. Chris Stewart is a difficult player to analyze, but I feel the Blues made the appropriate decision in how they handled his contract. His potential is enormous and the Blues would have been kicking themselves had they let him walk only to see Stewart find his game with a new club. Instead, they retain him and give him another opportunity at a relatively low price. Stewart has done some pretty impressive things in his brief career. In 2010-11 he tallied a total of 28 goals over the course of 62 games which were split between Colorado and St. Louis. Prior to that, he notched 28 goals in 2009-10. Expectations heading into 2011-12 were that Stewart should be a 30-goal man that could approach the 40-goal plateau. Aside from pure offensive accomplishments, Stewart is a forward with some grit and size. He's not afraid to dish out a big hit and he's not afraid to drop the mitts. However, this might be an area Stewart focused on too much in 2011-12. He ended the year with 109 penalty minutes, often getting into a scrap and taking unnecessary penalties when his attention should have been focused on improving his offense. What should we expect from Stewart in 2013? I expect Stewart to improve. Just how much he improves when compared to 2011-12 is a different debate. Several outlets, ESPN included, have listed Stewart as their story to watch in St. Louis. They mention Stewart had a strong training regiment that should improve his speed, stamina and agility/ability. Hopefully Stewart's sluggish shifts during 2011-12 were a product of poor stamina as opposed to poor focus and determination. I think Chris Stewart will more closely resemble the player we saw in St. Louis when he first arrived as opposed to the one we saw last year. If he stays focused and locked in and keeps his cool, there's really no reason why he shouldn't rebound. He knows his next contract is counting on it.