KMOX – Keep your fingers crossed. The St. Louis Blues have begun an important week of hockey and it’s not just in the win/loss department. If all goes well, come Friday, the Blues could be facing some of the bigger decisions they have faced all season. Who plays, and who sits? On the surface it may seem easy, but that’s not always the case.
This Friday, the St. Louis Blues could get TJ Oshie, Vladimir Sobotka, and BJ Crombeen back, healthy and ready to go. How do you not put all three back in immediately right? Well who sits then? Sure, Adam Cracknell is on recall and can go back to Peoria, but he plays well in the NHL and every time he’s on the ice, good things seem to happen. Is it Chris Porter? Maybe but he is also playing very well. How about Ryan Reaves? The Blues believe he can continue to develop into a very good 3rd line NHL’er with size and toughness. Why shouldn’t he keep playing? Evgeny Grachev? He’s only playing his best hockey of the season and helping the team win. Is there another player that should sit to make room? What role does the overall on ice chemistry play in the decisions?
Injuries always seem to sort these things out. The Blues still have a road game tonight in Detroit before Friday’s game in Nashville. The unforeseen can answer a lot of questions for a general manager, let’s just hope that’s not the case this time. For the first time in a long time, the Blues have good NHL ready depth and that can force them into interesting decisions. Who gives the team the most flexibility in all aspects of the game? Who could help the power play, penalty kill or both? What are a player’s options in terms of waivers and going up and down from Peoria? That can be a big factor.
In the end, some guys that do not necessarily deserve to be a healthy scratch are going to be anyway. It is just as important they handle it with the right attitude and team mentality that they are currently finding successful on the ice. It will also create very interesting and very healthy competition for good ice time for those actually in the line-up, and make practices more intense. That may be the only chance for some guys to work back into the game day line-up.
And there’s more. Andy McDonald is skating again and trying to get back to action. Kent Huskins will be back at some point, and defensively Ian Cole is already on the outside looking in. Huskins has Stanley Cup winning experience which cold be huge down the stretch.
This of course is all based on the team remaining fairly healthy. Some guys will stay. Some will go back to Peoria, and who knows, some may be dealt. The key focus will still have to be about the team. Ken Hitchcock has players buying into the team philosophy and it’s a major key to success. Handling increased ice time, decreased ice time, or no ice time but waiting in the wings to get back in, in the right way, will all help determine the success of this season for the Blues. Just keep your fingers crossed. Let’s hope the hard decisions and interesting line-up choices start Friday night.