(Hockey StL) --
The Blues captain is as good a place as any to start the grading. David Backes was not the goal scorer he has been in past years. He’s never really been a guy the team expected to be the leading goal scorer, but he always found ways to score timely goals. This year, he had just six goals, good for 10th on the team. Perhaps the shortened season, with almost no training camp, hindered Backes, who is often a slow starter anyways. Perhaps it was his leadership role taking away from his play on ice. Either way, the goals didn’t come off of his stick like they have in past years. That being said, Backes was second on the team in points. He had a team-leading 22 assists and totaled 28 points on the season. Backes was back to his usual hard-hitting self this season. The 29 year-old forward was 7th in the National Hockey League with 158 checks. Most players will tell you that none of those hits were soft ones. In the playoffs, Backes’ team failed to make it out of the first round. Backes was as guilty as any forward at not converting on scoring chances. Backes did have three points (one goal, two assists) in the six playoff games, but that is hardly enough for a top-line center.
Regular season grade: B
Playoff grade: C
The fan-favorite spent 18 of the 48 regular season games sidelined due to various injuries. The more-serious stress fracture in his left ankle came late in the season. Oshie wasn’t expected to be back, but he recovered at a swift pace, and returned for Game 1 of the playoffs. Oshie has certainly had better seasons, though numbers are difficult to assess in a shortened season. The 26-year old forward, fresh off of a five-year contract extension, had 20 points (seven goals, 13 assists) in his 30 regular season games. Oshie is not expected to be a top goal scorer. He electrifies the crowd with his checks, and he dazzles with his nifty dekes, often times creating plays from nothing. Oshie, as usual, found success by being relentless on the puck. His backcheck is as good as anyone’s in the league, and he showed it again this year. In the playoffs, Oshie was one of the Blues’ better forwards (not saying much, I know) with two goals. However, Oshie had a minus-four rating in six games. If Oshie wants to start earning the $4.175 million, per year contract he signed this past offseason, he needs to stay healthy and contribute more offensively. It is difficult with the style of game Oshie plays to remain in peak physical shape, but his absence is greatly missed when his isn’t in the lineup.
Regular season grade: C
Playoff grade: B
David Perron is one of the Blues’ most skilled forwards, but by watching him this season, you wouldn’t be able to tell. Perron found himself taking penalties at critical times, and at critical places on the ice. Perron was fourth on the Blues with 44 penalty minutes in the regular season. For a forward, who is counted upon to make smart and well-timed plays, this number is much too high. Perron did have 25 points on the season, his first full season since being diagnosed with a concussion in 2010. Perron had the third-highest goal total on the team (10), but any offense he created will be overlooked because of his poor play. In the playoffs, Perron looked much better. Though he didn’t score, Perron made smarter plays, and looked to have regained some confidence.
Regular season: D+
Andy McDonald, who is in the final year of his contract with the Blues, was simply not an effective player this year. McDonald has been great for the Blues in past years, but the speed that he uses to make up for his height disadvantages was not present this season. McDonald, who is 35 years old, still contributed some offensively, but his offensive game just wasn’t as potent as it has been and understandably so. McDonald has been riddled with injuries in his career, but has always bounced back. This year, McDonald injured his knee in February, and it is possible that he never fully recovered due to the grind of the shortened season. He had 21 points (seven goals, 14 assists) in 37 games played, but if you asked McDonald, he would tell you that he would have liked to do better. In the playoffs, McDonald was hardly noticeable. He had no points in six games. Again, it is possible that he was battling an injury, which would have made it extremely hard to play against the big Los Angeles Kings. The Blues could have used the typical McDonald to assist them offensively, but he was nowhere to be found.
Regular season grade: C-
Playoff grade: D