Just as everyone expected over the weekend in the NHL, specifically in St. Louis, craziness ensued. Once the dust settled and everyone gave themselves a 48-hour grace period to reassess (mainly me),we begin Monday asking ourselves, did the Blues just get better? On Friday night the Blues announced that they signed former Boston Bruins defenseman Torey Krug to a 7-year contract worth 6.5 million per year. This on the heels of reports Thursday night that the Blues & Alex Pietrangelo’s side had conversations in regards to a contract extension. For me, you see the news and can’t believe it’s real. Can’t believe the captain is not going to return. Then you take time to evaluate and here is what I’ve settled on.
Without question the Blues lost themselves an elite defenseman over the weekend. I cannot believe the amount of responses I received saying, “Alex is not elite” or “you can’t be elite if you don’t win a Norris Trophy”. Oh really? Is Kris Letang an elite defenseman? What about Dustin Byufligen? A Norris trophy is just that, a trophy. When it comes to evaluating “elite status” I will look to the play consistency & NHL success before a trophy. Out of the last 10 Norris winners, 4 of those players have Stanley Cups. You would take Roman Josi, Erik Karlsson or PK Subban on your roster over Pietrangelo? Forgive me while I catch my breath from laughing. Petro has been the model of health and consistency for the Blues, regardless of the criticism he received in his first couple of years as captain. He was the co-MVP in the entire postseason with O’Reilly & Binnington.
Here’s the deal, the Blues lose Pietrangelo and they lose themselves a player who is effective in every area of the game. Five-on-Five, PP (more goals for in on-ice situations than Josi), PK (less goals allowed in on-ice situations than Josi), ahead late in a game holding onto a lead, behind by a goal and need a spark. Pietrangelo has brought all of that to the line-up since he was drafted into the league in 2008. All of that while eating 20+ minutes a night. That’s not an easy thing to replace in your line-up.
With that being said, what Doug Armstrong did has to be acknowledged for adapting on the fly. The addition of Torey Krug flips the script on the Blues to an offensive juggernaut from the blue line. Adding Krug, who since being in the league has put together a .65 PPG (points per game), sitting only behind Karlsson, Burns, Letang, Hedman, Calrson, Josi, Klingberg, Byufligen & Giordano. Krug brings an offensive touch to a team that was desperate for support from the blue line this past season. He, along with Faulk & Parayko, provide speed through the neutral zone & an attack that can only benefit the forwards and offense through a full season.
The absence of Pietrangelo does provide a few questions for this team next season. How will they deal with not having the size on the blue line? Losing Pietrangelo and Bouwmeester takes away two D-men standing at 6”3 & 6”4 and replacing those two with Faulk (6”0) & Krug (5”9). Does that matter in the league today? The Stanley Cup champs didn’t have one defenseman who was smaller than 6”0 but Krug & Faulk are a different breed. Now the team will still have Colton Paryako and Marco Scandella who are both giants. Along with Bortuzo and rookie Nikko Mikola for the team to rely on when it comes to size. Armstrong said that Krug is “small but stocky and plays a heavy game” but Krug & Faulk provide speed and the ability to exit their zone with ease, which was a struggle in the postseason this year.
That leads me to my next question, if the Blues will suffer in their own end without Pietrangelo? The answer is yes, but not as much as you may think. Last season when Krug had a total of 53 “goals against while on-ice” which would have been THE BEST on the Blues roster this season. He did play 400 minutes less than Pietrangelo but it shows that Krug is not as much of a defensive liability as some might think. Krug also started only 26% of the time last season in the defensive zone for Boston compared to Petro starting in the d-zone 46% of the time. These are just numbers and the eye test will do an awful lot once the season begins in January.
There can be a lot of back and forth on this topic and an argument for each side is a viable one. The truth of the matter is that Doug Armstrong and company did not want to be the team waiting on one free agent while another is available and end up being the team that didn’t get any. If you don’t get Petro or Krug, you suffer a major blow in competitiveness. Now, you soften the blow by dipping a bit on one end of the ice and upgrading on another.
Many have questioned Doug in the past and it has proven foolish. Hopefully, he can prove those wrong once again.