Camp Surprise – Samuel Blais

Training camps in the NHL can be odd. Sometimes there are players that surprise, that emerge from obscurity and open a bunch of eyes, score a bunch of goals in scrimmages and preseason games. But more often than not, players perform pretty much as expected. Teams go into the season with the same roster they anticipated going into camp.

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Five for 20

Robby Fabbri will be motivated to break out in 2017-18 as a top offensive threat.

Defense and goaltending may win championships, but scoring is sexy. For the past few seasons, the Blues haven’t been known as one the league’s most productive offenses. Last season, there were only two players that cracked the 20-goal plateau – Vladimir Tarasenko with 39 (duh), and Patrik Berglund with 23 (whuuuuutt).

The Blues easily could have had five or more. Paul Stastny was well on pace to reach 20+, but his season was interrupted by injury. He ended playing 66 games, and scored 18 goals. Jaden Schwartz was just 1 goal shy of 20, with 78 games played. And now ex-Blue David Perron scored 18 goals.

Injuries are the great unknown of any sports  season, but barring anything serious, here are my Top 5 candidates to reach at least 20 goals for the 2017-18 season.

  1. Vladimir Tarasenko – This one’s a no-brainer. Tarasenko is truly an elite forward now. He has 116 goals over the past three seasons, for an average of just under 39.
  2.  Jaden Schwartz – He has two 20+ seasons in his young career, and he’s improving as an all-around player. He went through a 14-game goal-less stretch last year, which hurt his goal totals. Jaden is expected to rebound, as he has a full year between him and his injury-shortened 2015-16 season.
  3. Robby Fabbri –  There is a lot riding on Robby’s year. Blues management and coaching are fully expecting him to A) be heathy; and B) put up numbers as a 2nd-line forward. He will have more opportunity for ice time, considering the loss of David Perron in the Vegas expansion draft. He’s definitely penciled in to the Top 6 forwards.
  4. Brayden Schenn – I’m really looking forward to watching Schenn play. I was so thrilled on draft night when I read the news of his acquisition from the Flyers. And for Jori Lehtera – addition by subtraction! Seventeen of Schenn’s 25 goals last year came on the power play, so he will no doubt beef up the punch of special teams. Whether he plays at center or wing, he’ll bring a skill upgrade to the top 2 lines.
  5. Paul Stastny – I think a majority of fans would consider Stastny to be a partial bust as a free agent signing. His numbers here have fallen well short of what he put up in Colorado. But last year was his most productive, even with injuries. He was on pace for cracking 20, and now playing in a contract year, he’ll be motivated to earn his next contract.

I think we’ll see an offensive improvement in 2017-18. I can’t wait for hockey to start again, and to see what kind of numbers these 5 will put up. But what do you think? Any season always brings its own surprises.

Thanks for reading.

Will Parayko Be Worth It?

Last week, Colton Parayko signed a five-year, $27.5 million contract extension to remain with the St. Louis Blues. The signing meant he and the team avoided an arbitration hearing, and ensured he’d be a key part of the team’s blueline for years to come.

My tendency with any Blues contract signing has usually been a reaction like the following:

My expectations (and hopes) for each contract has been woefully under what they end up being. To  me, you should be able to get a 20-goal scorer for $3 mil/yr and a middle-pair defenseman for the same.

But earnings in the league continue to go up, as they always do, so in reality, Parayko’s contract may actually be a good value. I went back and looked at some of the most recent signings of defensemen.

Last summer, Seth Jones signed a 6-yr, $32.4 million contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Jones scored 17 goals and 52 overall points in his first two seasons in the league. Like Parayko, he’s big at 6’4. He rewarded the Jackets with a career high in points (42) last season.

Torey Krug, a Boston Bruin, also signed a contract in the summer of ’16. His was 4 years with a total value of $21 million. He scored 44 points in the ’15-16 season, a career high, prior to signing the contract.

This summer, Dmitry Orlov signed a 6-yr deal worth over $30 million. He puts up good points, but he doesn’t have Parayko’s size.

Of the 3 I mentioned, Parayko is the biggest. His size adds to his worth, since it’s valued by clubs. And Parayko has shown smarts in using his size to full effect. He should score more goals as he continues to develop. Among Blues defensemen in the 2016-17 season, only Alex Pietrangelo put up more points (48), then Parayko (35).

As far as the AAV, $5.5 million seems like elite money. But the salary cap is now at $75 million, and $5.5 mil is far, far under the maximum salary a player can earn, which is $15 million. Mentally, I’m stuck in the time when Paul Kariya’s $7 million/yr was pretty close to the league maximum.

Also contributing to my preconceived notions is the Jay Bouwmeester contract, which at $5 million plus is a lot of dough for a guy who contributed only 15 points last season. In his prime, he regularly notched 40-plus.

So do I think Parayko will be worth it? Yes, I do. He and Pietrangelo will be a solid 1-2 for a long time, allowing the Blues to develop such youngsters as Jake Walman, Vince Dunn, and Jordan Schmaltz in the years to come.

Thanks for reading.