*EDITORS NOTE: Column was written before the Blues signed Patrick Maroon.
There are several givens if a National Hockey League team is to win the Stanley Cup.
Goaltending is obvious; Stanley Cup winners, across the board, have very good if not great goaltending in the post-season. Every Stanley Cup champ must have its best players be its best players on a regular basis in the playoffs. For the Washington Capitals this year, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom were their top three scorers in the playoffs. As the Penguins won back-to-back Cups, Sidney Crosby, Evgeny Malkin and Phil Kessel were their top three scorers in the playoffs. The Hawks counted on Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, and on and on.
Stanley Cup champs have another common thread; depth. The Capitals used sixteen forwards and seven defensemen in their playoff run this year. The year prior to that, Pittsburgh used fourteen forwards and eight defensemen. The ’15 Blackhawks used fifteen and nine. The point is, champions need lots of good players to become champions.
The Blues gave up some depth when they traded three forwards…Patrik Berglund, Vladimir Sobotka and Tage Thompson…to Buffalo on July 1 to acquire Ryan O’Reilly. But as we learned on Sunday from 101 ESPN’s Blues insider from The Athletic, Jeremy Rutherford, Doug Armstrong isn’t stopping. J.R. reported that free agent St. Louisan Patrick Maroon is expected to sign with the Blues, although there are still other teams in the mix for his services. The Blues have a lot of potential up front, but a guy like Maroon couldn’t hurt.
— Jeremy Rutherford (@jprutherford) July 9, 2018
Think about it…if the Blues sign Maroon they could put Brayden Schenn between Jaden Schwartz and David Perron, and then have O’Reilly center Robby Fabbri and Vladimir Tarasenko. Then they could have newcomer Tyler Bozak between Maroon and either Alexander Steen, and a fourth line of rookie Rob Thomas or Ivan Barbashev between Nikita Soshnikov and either Dmitrij Jaskin, Chris Thorburn or Zach Sanford. Before signing a guy like Maroon, the Blues would be able to put some combination of Jordan Kyrou, Thorburn, Sanford, Jaskin or Barbashev in the pressbox or in San Antonio. That’s lots of forwards. Having the luxury of Kyrou developing more at the AHL level would be invaluable.
The fact of the matter is, you can never have enough good players. Maroon is a big fella…6’3”, 225 pounds…that plays with some grit and toughness and has scored 44 goals in the last two seasons; in 2015, Maroon scored seven goals in sixteen playoff games for Anaheim. He isn’t a top line guy, even though he’s played top line minutes for a large chunk of his career.
What Maroon would bring to the table is that depth that we talked about along with protection. Is Fabbri healthy? No? We have a replacement left wing. Is Steen struggling early again? No problem, there isn’t a better fourth line player in the league than Steen. Is Kyrou ready? No problem, there’s a veteran presence available just in case. Same with Thomas. If Thomas isn’t ready, he can get more seasoning while Steen plays center and Maroon plays left wing.
Signing Maroon would be a feather in the Blues’ cap. Bringing back another hometown boy…after Cam Jansson and Yan and Paul Stastny along with Ben Bishop for a few games played here…would provide another fun element to the 2018-2019 Blues because he knows the area. The St. Louis kids that have had a chance to play at home have had a great time doing so, and Maroon would provide more of the same.
The key for Blues fans is to understand that if Maroon is signed by the Blues, he’s not a superstar player. He’s a very nice complementary piece, but wouldn’t be the final piece to the Blues’ Stanley Cup puzzle. If Maroon arrives, he’s a top nine forward. And that’s a great thing.
While the Blackhawks, Penguins and Capitals have received great goaltending and outstanding top-end play in their Stanley Cup seasons, they’ve had to play a lot of third and fourth line players to win. The Blues don’t know if guys like Thomas, Kyrou, Sanford or Klim Kostin will be ready for the playoffs. They need to be prepared to use their depth during the season and, hopefully, the post-season.
Whether or not it works, give the Blues credit in taking their shot a Maroon. Last year at the beginning of camp, they didn’t anticipate having to use Sammy Blais on their top line on opening night, or Beau Bennett on the top line, or having to trade for Soshnikov. With the ability to have a full roster of players on their own minor league team, the Blues are trying to stockpile as much quality talent as they can. It’s one of the hallmarks of a Stanley Cup champion.