When Jaden Schwartz went down with an ankle injury on December 9th against the Detroit Red Wings, the Blues were 20-8-2 and battling for first in the league. He had 35 points in 30 games (14 G, 21 A) and was on track to be an all-star along with Schenn, Tarasenko, and Pietrangelo.
Since that point in time, the Blues went 9-10-1 and slipped to third in the Central division. Tarasenko and Schenn have had their struggles without him and so has the rest of the team. Schwartz’s injury affected almost every aspect of the Blues’ game, both their defense and their offense.
Now, he’s back in the lineup tonight against Colorado. What should we expect?
The Blues are about to go nuclear.
Most people forget, or don’t even know, that Schwartz was actually drafted BEFORE Tarasenko in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. The Blues picked Schwartz at 14th overall and Tarasenko 16th overall. Schwartz can play. He isn’t just some guy the Blues drafted late and he ended up working out. He has an amazing skill set and a high hockey IQ, which means he always makes the right play at the right time — he rarely makes big mistakes.
Schwartz brings just as much to this hockey club as Tarasenko and Pietrangelo, if not more.
For starters, the lineup will look more normal. We could see something similar to this:
Barbashev – Stastny – Tarasenko
Schwartz – Schenn – Steen
Sobotka – Berglund – Thompson
Upshall – Brodziak – Jaskin
Edmundson – Pietrangelo
Bouwmeester – Parayko
Dunn – Bortuzzo
Schwartz coming back will allow players to settle into their usual offensive roles and Schenn will have his buddy back (and non-producing forwards like Sundqvist and Paajarvi won’t have to play).
Schwartz also brings something else to the table that no other player on this team can: the forecheck. Schwartz is one of the hardest working individuals on the ice, night in and night out. The Blues often had trouble sustaining offensive zone pressure without him in the lineup, leading to a lower goals per game average. His energy is contagious throughout the roster and he makes everyone a better hockey player. He has the “It” factor.
The best way to describe Schwartz is super glue. He is the player that holds everything together. Without him, the team fell apart. He literally could fix all of the Blues’ problems. Carter Hutton was good duct tape. But just like when you fix something with duct tape, it doesn’t look the same. With super glue, it’s almost like it was never broken in the first place.
Schwartz is one of the most underrated players in the NHL. His high intensity, high skill, and hard-working style of play should elevate the Blues to new heights. Tarasenko can go back to being his best self because he won’t have to try to supply all the offense. The Schenn-Schwartz connection can find its spark again. With the increased forecheck, the defense can move up in the play like they did earlier in the year (which helped the Blues sustain their successful offense). Lastly, the goalies, Hutton and Allen, won’t have all the pressure to keep opposing teams below 2 goals per game since the team can’t score.
(Maybe super glue can even repair the shattered vase that is the Blues’ power play.)
Yes, the Blues are going to go nuclear. They were 20-8-2 with Schwartz and there is no reason they can’t play at that caliber, or better, again.
It seems like only fate that Schwartz brings with him A New Hope as he makes his return on Star Wars night at Scottrade Center.
May the Schwartz be with us all.