The Blues put both their captain and their most prolific scoring winger on IR on Monday, less than a week after defenseman Torey Krug was ruled out for more than a month because of a lower-body injury. With O’Reilly missing the next six weeks because of a broken foot and Tarasenko the next four with a hand injury, big absences are piling up for St. Louis near the midway point of the season.
”It’s a great opportunity for a lot of different players,” said Armstrong, who has been the Blues’ GM for more than a decade. ”Pro sports, injuries are part of the profession, part of the game, and winning people and winning organizations don’t dwell on what they don’t have. They look forward to working with the things that they do have.”
What the Blues have is a roster with a handful of underachieving veterans, whom Armstrong expects to raise their game down the stretch with the team sitting a few points outside a playoff position – 10th out of 16 in the West. He singled out forwards Brayden Schenn and Brandon Saad and defensemen Colton Parayko and Nick Leddy as players who ”aren’t playing to the standards that they set for themselves.”
”Players are going to go through ebbs and flows, and right now we need our veteran players to lead the group, and I know they can do it and I know they want to do it,” Armstrong said on a conference call from Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he is scouting the world junior championship. ”The challenge for them is to get their game back on par and lead us, and then we have opportunity for younger players.”
One of the next opportunities was supposed belong to big center Logan Brown, but he was injured in practice Monday morning and won’t travel with the Blues on their upcoming four-game road trip. They recalled Nikita Alexandrov from Springfield of the American Hockey League hours after bringing up fellow rookie forward Jake Neighbours.
”Guys that have been pining for more ice time are going to get them,” Armstrong said.
It’s still tough to replace O’Reilly and Tarasenko, who were key parts of St. Louis’ franchise-first Stanley Cup-winning team in 2019 and still remain important years later. But each player is in the final year of his contract and could be dealt before the March 3 trade deadline if new deals aren’t done and Armstrong decides the Blues are sellers.
They haven’t been in quite some time. St. Louis has made the playoffs in 10 of the past 11 seasons and missed out by one point the only other year during that stretch.
”Your record indicates what you do at deadlines, and then ultimately it takes two to make a trade,” Armstrong said. ”We have to want the players other teams are trading and vice versa. They have to want what we’re considering trading, and our record will dictate what we do at those times.”
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