St. Louis Blues: How to Compensate for Loss of Paul Stastny


The St. Louis Blues announced on Saturday that center Paul Stastny will miss at least the last two games of the team’s current six-game road trip, and possibly more, as he recovers from a lower-body injury that was sustained when he took a puck off his skate during Friday night’s game against the Vancouver Canucks. For reference, Stastny’s linemate, Vladimir Tarasenko, missed five games during the tail end of last season (April 2-April 9) with a similar-looking injury, so Stastny likely stands to miss a few games.

Considering that Stastny was largely quiet during 2014-15 and delivered the worst full-season points total of his career (16 goals, 30 assists in 74 games), we know that the Blues, who had 109 points and won the Central Division last season, can survive without him in the lineup. With that said, Stastny’s play through the first five games of the 2015-16 season was much more indicative of the form he had displayed during the course of his eight seasons with the Colorado Avalanche (a goal and four assists through five games), so it’s frustrating for the team to lose a guy who had been a valuable first-line playmaker thus far.

For the time being, veteran center Scott Gomez will join the Blues’ top nine forward group and figures to center the Jaden Schwartz/Troy Brouwer line, with Jori Lehtera moving back up to play with Tarasenko and Steen, both of whom he played with at various points last season. Considering Gomez’s productivity as a setup man for the New Jersey Devils last season (7 goals and 27 assists in 58 games), it’s certainly possible that he’ll be a solid fit in the top nine during Stastny’s absence. Gomez didn’t really stand out during the preseason or in his regular season Blues debut on Friday, though, and his status as a defensive liability (combined -55 rating in 262 games since 2010-11) might hinder his line’s success.

If there’s any team to test the (allegedly) 5-foot-11, 200-pound Gomez’s current level of skill against, it’s the Winnipeg Jets, the Blues’ Sunday opponent, whose 21 active skaters average a height of 6-foot-2 and a weight of 208 pounds. Gomez, who by his own admission isn’t the most physical player around, will have to hang tough against one of the most difficult teams to play against in the NHL. Considering coach Ken Hitchcock’s typical patience with veteran players (and really, the Blues’ need to get as many playable former Stanley Cup winners in their lineup as they can), it’s unlikely that Sunday’s game will be do-or-die for Gomez.

If Stastny is out for a while, though, the Blues might want to look at some of their minor-league depth players to help offset Stastny’s loss. The most obvious choice would be 22-year-old winger Ty Rattie, who hasn’t really stood out in 13 NHL games in the past two seasons for the Blues, but has consistently dominated the AHL and has four goals in his first three games for the Chicago Wolves this season. Rattie, who performed well this preseason, notching three assists in four exhibition games, might provide more scoring ability in a top-nine role than Gomez will be able to at this point in his career.

If the Blues are more content to cast Gomez into a regular role, another guy who could come up to provide depth and perhaps see some action would be Magnus Paajarvi. Paajarvi has two goals and three assists for Chicago so far this season, so he’s definitely doing everything he can to push for an NHL spot. Considering that the Blues are paying him $700,000 this year on a one-way contract, they’d probably like to get at least some form of NHL value out of him, even if it’s just to serve as a depth player and spend most of his time sitting in the press box.

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We saw this same type of move earlier this week when defenseman Chris Butler, who is signed to a $675,000, one-way contract, was recalled from Chicago to provide extra depth with Kevin Shattenkirk injured. The team just as easily could have recalled 22-year-old defenseman Petteri Lindbohm, who realistically is probably ahead of Butler on the organizational depth chart and would come up if there was an injury that actually opened up NHL playing time for a current minor-leaguer, but with the open spot being more of a token NHL roster position, Butler got the nod. The same philosophy could be used for Paajarvi over Rattie if the Blues are looking to recall an extra forward.

Ultimately, the Blues aren’t just going to be able to replace a top-line center who has at least 30 assists in every full NHL season that he’s played. With the impressive organizational depth that they possess, though, the Blues should have plenty of options when it comes to offsetting Stastny’s loss for a few games.

Next: Blues' Paul Stastny Ruled Out with Lower-Body Injury