The Blues aren't a high scoring team. Some who don't follow along too closely might assume that it's because of Ken Hitchcock's defensively sound system. Many assume that the Blues play a trap style of hockey, though Thursday night's game against the New Jersey Devils should have taken care of that assumption fairly quickly.
No, the Blues are having issues scoring because two of their top scorers, Andy McDonald and Alex Steen, have been out for an extended period of time with concussions. Steen, who was on a line with David Backes and T.J. Oshie before his injury, and he's still third on the team with 13 goals. With the re-addition of those two (and their remaining healthy through the end of the season), scoring should go up a bit. Don't expect any dramatic jump, but production should increase with them added back onto the first and second lines.
Assumed first and second line players Patrik Berglund, Chris Stewart, and Matt D'Agostini, however, aren't living up to expectations this season. Last year he had 15 goals in 26 games after the trade that sent him and Kevin Shattenkirk to the Blues. So far this season, for whatever reason, he hasn't been able to replicate his performance. He doesn't seem to be moving his feet, and is nearly invisible during stretches of games. In 50 games he has 22 points, one less than his total with the Blues last year. He had a goal and an assist on Thursday night, but also managed to turn the puck over in very non-advisable situations.
Matt D'Agostini had 21 goals in 82 games last season; thus far he has but nine. He also has a possible concussion. This year really won't be a repeat of last, though his +15 rating is saying a lot. He's out there for goals and his smart play has made several possible. He's just not lighting the lamp.
Finally, Patrik Berglund has 13 goals this season, good for third on the team with Alex Steen. He hasn't necessarily been terribly underperforming as far as the standards of the low scoring Blues go. As far as his personal standards it's not that bad either. He's projected for 20 goals and 14 assists, which is off of last year's totals by two and 16. His point total drops off because of his projected assist numbers.
All three of these guys have been floated as supposed trade bait with AHL goaltender Ben Bishop come the NHL trade deadline on February 27th. Will it happen? Chances are no, and here's why. Partially, I agree with St. Louis Game Time's Gallagher: you don't trade players who are underperforming and get something out of it. The potential of the three players probably well overrides the draft picks and non-impact players that the Blues'd get in return. Factor in D'Agostini's noggin knock, and those three are generally safe.
The other reason I believe that they're safe is that the Blues aren't going to make any moves, or at least any big ones. think about it -- what was the last major trade deadline move that GM Doug Armstrong made? The trade deadline's for renting guys to help you through the playoffs.Who're they going to pick up that'll make that much of a difference? Ignore reports that they need a defenseman. Why? To replace who? In what parallel universe is Johnny Oduya a viable rental player and an upgrade over anyone that the Blues currently have?
Scouts have been out and about, probably trying to find someone who can get the puck in the net or the puck to someone that can get the puck in the net. With the return of McDonald and Steen, you get those back without having to make a deal. The constant line juggling for chemistry could be easily put to an end, and perhaps D'Agostini, Berglund, and Stewart can find a home with someone who can wake them up.
When they're scoring, the Blues have everything that they need. The concern is that they need to get scoring, and might need a bit of extra oomph to do so. But unless something amazing is offered up a la last season's trade, why get rid of three young players who might be a spark away from a goal explosion? It seems counterproductive and risky to me, and Armstrong is nothing if not conservative. He's waiting on healthy players before he makes decisions.
"Our goal is to get healthy and see where we fit in," Armstrong said. "Obviously our team needs to play to the level that they're capable of playing. There are a number of players on our roster that aren't having the season that they had a year ago. But I think it's too easy for everyone involved to look for someone else to come in and fix the problem, when I think the answer is right down there (on the ice). And I'm very comfortable that they think the answer is right down there too. We need players that we know can produce offense to produce offense."
Does that sound like a GM ready to wheel and deal on deadline day to you?