The St. Louis Blues have had a rocky first half of the 2020-21 season, to say the least. Through 29 games, a little over half of the shortened season, the club is 14-10-5 for 33 points. They’re barely hanging onto a spot in the Stanley Cup playoffs as they are three points ahead of the Los Angeles Kings in the Honda West Division.
They’ve dealt with tons of injuries, leaving players that you didn’t expect to have significant roles, with significant roles. Some players have stepped up to the challenge and some haven’t – let’s roll into the 2020-21 Blues’ midseason awards.
This is tough, but I think the most consistent forward for the Blues has been Brayden Schenn. He has been himself all season, throwing his body around and playing well with all of his linemates despite Jaden Schwartz missing an entire month. Schenn has been terrific even without Schwartz.
Schenn comes in at third on the team in scoring with 12 goals and 12 assists for 24 points, and he’s tallied six of those points on the power play. He’s done what is expected of him which is to play as hard as anybody – he’s the definition of that mentality. That is looked at as old school these days, but it fits perfectly in St. Louis.
Speaking of throwing the body around, he’s second on the team in hits this season with 68 – the only player above him is Justin Faulk. Either way, Schenn continues to be everything the Blues have wanted and more after acquiring him from the Philadelphia Flyers in 2017. He signed an extension of eight years in the early part of last season, so he is here to stay.
It’s hard not to pick Faulk for this award as he’s been terrific for the majority of this season. Despite being known as an offensive defenseman during his time with the Carolina Hurricanes, he’s stepped up his 200-foot game with the Blues this season.
As mentioned earlier, he leads the team in hits with 70 of them through 29 games. He’s been as good as anybody in the NHL at closing gaps and stopping plays from developing. Gap closure is a staple of Blues hockey and Faulk has been marvelous at it.
He’s second on the team among defensemen in points with 13, behind Torey Krug in that category. He leads in goals among defensemen for the Blues with five. He’s been the Faulk of old and more for the Blues this season – it’s making Blues’ general manager Doug Armstrong look a whole lot smarter after that deal prior to last season.
Most Surprising Player
Hear me out on this one, we all knew that Jordan Kyrou had sky-high potential coming into this season, but he has exceeded expectations with his first-half performance. He’s been what we thought Robert Thomas might be this season, but Thomas got injured in the early part of the season.
Kyrou got off to a lightning-fast start this season – he’s slowed a bit since then, but he’s still fourth on the team in points and has been great for most of the season. He has tallied 21 points (8 goals and 13 assists) over 29 games, a terrific leap for the 22-year-old.
The great thing that Kyrou does is that he can fit on any line for this team and has speed off the charts. He’s a playmaker and has a good shot – he does a lot well, but the only thing you may not like is he isn’t great on the defensive end. That is expected with a true speed and skill player that is so young.
I have confidence that the Blues can squeeze some defensive potential out of him at some point – either way, it’s been slightly surprising that he is already as good as he is.
Most Disappointing Player
Fair or not fair, Zach Sanford has been a big disappointment this season based on the expectations of improvement that I had for him. He hasn’t been on a consistent line this season, which has hurt him, but he has been really disappointing.
Sanford has eight goals and four assists this season – six of his goals are over an 11-game stretch and he’s been up-and-down all season. His defense has been bad, to say the very least – he’s had countless awful turnovers that either led to a goal or close to it.
Sanford has to be better, and I know the fanbase picks on him a lot, but it has been mostly warranted this season. He has to be put on a consistent line when the team gets back to near full strength – that will help him, but with his height, he should be better in all three zones.
What to Expect in the Second Half
I expect the Blues to have a strong finish to this season with how many returning players they will have. This is a team that has missed Tyler Bozak, Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz, Colton Parayko, Robert Thomas and more for lots of this season. That has unquestionably hurt them, and I am happy with the way that have stayed in the playoff picture.
The second half will absolutely be better – I trust Blues head coach Craig Berube more than many coaches this team has had in the past. They have a great staff and a great team, when they get healthy, they’ll return to their previous elite status.