The Force of Jaden Schwartz

       Before the injury that put Blues star Jaden Schwartz on the injured reserve for six weeks, The Blues were playing to their maximum potential. The team was 19-8-2 at the time, a solid record that put the team in competition with the Tampa Bay Lightning for the President’s Trophy, the award given to the team with the best overall record each season. Jaden Schwartz had been named the NHL Third Star of the Month in October, and though he missed out on being one of the Stars in November, his linemate, newcomer Brayden Schenn, seceded him and was deemed the Third Star of November. Everything was going just as the Blues had hoped, and though they were heading on a downward slope entering December, they had such a great start that no one expected them to lose the division anytime soon.

           It was a blocked shot that put the Blues star out for six weeks. The play seemed harmless enough, and truly could not have been intentional. Red Wings defenseman Mike Green had wristed the puck towards Blues goalie Jake Allen, looking to get a shot on goal in hopes that the Blues netminder would give up a juicy rebound, but Jaden Schwartz took the blow and fell to the ice. Schwartz was helped off of the ice, and he did not return to the game. The next day, it was announced that Schwartz would be out for six weeks with a lower-body injury (more specifically, his ankle).

           Truth be told, the Blues have been here before with Schwartz. He suffered a minor wrist injury in the preseason of 2016, and before that, he suffered an ankle injury that kept him out of the 2015-16 season for 49 games. These Blues teams got by with Schwartz on the IR, and in fact, the 2015-16 team went on to the Western Conference Final, the farthest the Blues have been since the 2000-01 team lost in the same series. It has become nearly that at some point in every season, Jaden Schwartz will suffer an injury. This season and the two prior prove that theory. However, in the other two seasons, the Blues were able to maintain success. How is this season different from the other two?

           The simple answer is the production of Jaden Schwartz so far this season. In 2015-16, Schwartz only had the opportunity to play in 33 games, but in those 33, he only recorded 22 points (8 goals, 14 assists) and had a +/- of 8. For only 33 games, that isn’t bad, but it really isn’t too good either. In 2016-17, Schwartz played in 78 games. The last time he had played that many games in a season was the 2014-15 season, and he had recorded an incredible 63 points (28 goals, 35 assists). It was hoped that he would return to this phenomenal production with another full year under his belt. However, this was not the case. Though the amount of assists Schwartz recorded were matched with his assist total from 2014-15, the amount of goals he scored dropped by nearly 10. He recorded 55 points (19 goals, 36 assists), which was good, but not what the Blues had been hoping for. This year, though, Schwartz was on pace to shoot his personal records out of the water. In just 30 games, he had 35 points. That is over 1 point per game. Extraordinary is the correct term for his performance, and Schwartz was carrying the team on his back for the first two months of the season. Underperformances from Alexander Steen, Vladimir Tarasenko, and Paul Stastny were able to be ignored with Schwartz producing so much, but now that he is injured, they stick out like a sore thumb. At the halfway point of the season, Vladimir Tarasenko has recorded 38 points, and if he were to match this total in the second half of the season, he would beat his own personal points record, but only by 1. This goes to show that Tarasenko is having an average Tarasenko season, but he isn’t putting up Schwartz’s numbers, and Blues fans have expected the Russian to step up and take over with the injury to their fast star. The reality in that is simply that Tarasenko cannot be Jaden Schwartz. He can only be Vladimir Tarasenko, and most of the time, that’s a good thing, but right now, it doesn’t look like it’s enough. The Blues are 4-8-0 since the injury to Schwartz, and during this stretch, they have not been able to score more than 3 goals a game. They have only scored 3 goals 3 times through this big slump, and to put things in an even broader light, they have been shutout 2 times, matching the number of times they had been shutout during the entire months of October and November.

           Based on the evidence, it is safe to say that this year, the team relied too heavily on the production of Jaden Schwartz and that is now haunting them as they enter the 2018 season looking for a fresh start. In 3 weeks, Schwartz will be reevaluated, but the Blues do not have that much time to waste. They have already lost the Central Division to the Winnipeg Jets and are third place in the standings, and though they are only out of first by two points, they have played 1 more game than the Jets, and 3 more than their other foe, the Nashville Predators. The Schwartz has definitely not been with the Blues during the month of December, so they will have to find another way to win, and there is not a better time to find a resolution than at the beginning of the new year.

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