Good afternoon. 

Warm Up Note: Good luck to Blues goaltender Charlie Lindgren who will make his first start in the NHL since March 7, 2020 for Montreal. Lindgren isn’t a an emergency goalie guy. He hasn’t been driving a truck, or tending bar, or teaching school, or installing cable TV. He didn’t have another job. He’s been busy playing very well in goal for the Blues’ AHL affiliate in Springfield. And he’ll be in goal for the Blues against Detroit tonight at Enterprise Center.

1) We’ve cut the Blues some slack because of the injuries and the Covid and the roster chaos and the idiotic roster restrictions imposed by NHL bureaucrats. But I can’t give a pass to Blues defenseman Colton Parayko. I don’t know what’s wrong, all relevant testimony reaches the same conclusion in at least one area: unlike last season, he’s healthy. Before the season the Blues gave Parayko an eight-year, $52 million contract that conveyed their belief in him as a cornerstone defenseman. But he’s playing nowhere close to that level so far this season. Compared to other NHL defensemen, he’s far below average. 

2) Parayko, who twice has scored 10 goals in a season, has one goal in 25 games this year. But that’s not the primary concern. Here’s the stuff that should open everyone’s eyes: 

* Among 76 defensemen that have played at least 400 minutes at five on five this season, Parayko ranks 75th with an expected-goals percentage of 40.87%. For those unfamiliar with the metric, it comes down to this: much individual quality is a player contributing? Specifically, how much shot quality does a player’s team generate when he’s on the ice? And how much shot quality does the opposing team generate when that player is on the ice? In Parayko’s case the Blues should score about 41% of the goals with Parayko on duty at five on five. That’s really bad. 

* As far as actual goals at five on five, the Blues are just under 43 percent in share of goals scored when Parayko is on the ice. That ranks 65th among the 76 defensemen that have 400+ minutes at five on five. And with Parayko playing at five on five, the Blues have a 40 percent share of high-danger shots – putting Parayko at 75th among 76 defensemen. And they have 45.2% of the shots on goal, which places him at No. 65. 

* Since Oct. 28, the Blues have an expected goals percentage of 39.4% when Parayko is patrolling at five on five. And in actual goal counts, they’ve been outscored 25-14 with Parayko defending at five on five. 

* Parayko’s current Corsi For percentage (43.06) is the lowest of his career. That percentage accounts for the team’s share of shot attempts when Parayko is working at five on five. 

* Parayko’s expected goals percentage averaged 53% at five on five in his first five seasons as a Blue. But in the last two seasons that percentage has dropped to 46% and 40.87%, respectively. So in that context, a healthy Parayko isn’t performing as well as the injury-slowed Parayko last season. And given the Blues’ investment, that’s a legitimate concern. 

* Parayko ranks fourth among NHL defenseman in minutes played at five on five this season. That’s to be respected, of course. He logs a ton of minutes. But pragmatically speaking, the value of the bulk minutes is reduced by ineffective play. 

* If we measure a player’s aggressiveness by hits applied on opponents, Parayko’s rate of 2.36 hits per 60 minutes so far this season would be the lowest of his career in a single campaign. That would reinforce the view that he’s playing passive. Is this perhaps a natural reaction to last season’s injury-plagued experience? Or a drop in confidence? And if indeed Parayko has moved in a more passive direction, the value of his performance won’t match the financial value of his contract. And this is particularly problematic for a Blues defense group that was pegged as a vulnerable area before the start of the season.

3) The Blues are back in action tonight at Enterprise Center, facing the Detroit Red Wings. Is hating the Red Wings still a thing around here? The Red Wings haven’t played here since March 21, 2019. And after being switched to the Eastern Conference the Wings have played only seven games in St. Louis since the start of the 2013-2014 season. We need some damn Kris Draper up in here! 

4) Random nonsense: As I type this, I’m listening to Beach House and dipping mini-carrot sticks and red-pepper slices into garlic hummus for lunch. This is all very fine, but I’m not sure when I turned into a wannabe hipster. Actually, I haven’t done that. This isn’t a lifestyle thing. A memory triggered my choice of music, and I’ve been spreading assorted raw vegetables for years. Do you want me to eat healthy, or what? Fine, I’ll grab a sack of salt and vinegar chips. Why am I so defensive? 

5) Our Town’s Bradley Beal is struggling. After averaging 31 points per game over the past two seasons for Washington, Beal is producing 22.6 points per game this season. Problem: Beal’s shooting is off target. His .441 field goal percentage is 30 points less than his .471 percentage over the previous five seasons. And after making 37% of his threes over the past five seasons, Beal has dropped to 26% on threes so far this season. 

Beal’s assist rate is up – but so is his turnover rate. In fact, Beal’s 13.6% turnover percentage would be the worst of his career. The increase in assists isn’t really making a difference; Beal’s overall offensive rating so far this season (102) is 10 points down from his 112 ORtg over the previous five years. After a 10-3 start the Wizards have gone 5-8. But Beal did have 26 points – while shooting 53 percent from the floor – in Wednesday’s victory at Detroit. 

6) In many parts of the nation there’s a shortage of youth-hockey referees; they’re quitting because of safety concerns, having been physically attacked or otherwise abused by trashy parents and coaches who can’t control themselves. One ref in Colorado was sprayed in the eyes with Lysol disinfectant by one parent. Massachusetts Youth Hockey reports being down by about 900 officials from pre-pandemic levels, but that doesn’t account for all of the problems. Youth hockey officials have had enough violent episodes. 

They are leaving. And the shortage has led to a bunch of rescheduled or canceled games. A ref recently had to lock himself in a room at the rink to get away from a pursuing mob that tried to bust its way into the room until police arrived. 

“Since this season started, we have already experienced​ several troubling incidents, including: a referee ​needing a police escort​ after a 8U game; a young female referee quitting​​ in the middle of a set of games​ due to parent harassment​; a parent ​coming on the ice trying to get at a referee; and a parent entering​ the scorer’s box to berate a player on the other team for a penalty against her child. These are just a few examples of what is going on every weekend,” Massachusetts Hockey President Bob Joyce said in a statement. 

I have some solutions: 

–Throw the bums in jail, and let them stew about their unacceptable and criminal actions. 

– Ban their kids from playing. 

Why punish the kids? Because unless you put hooligan parents in the slammer, some short-term ban won’t be sufficient. Keeping them out of the building for a time won’t quiet or domesticate these animals. But if these unruly people understand that their misconduct will mean absolutely no more hockey for little Johnny, then maybe they’ll remain seated in the rink instead of whipping out the can of Lysol or jumping onto the ice to give a ref a beating. 

7) The Athletic disapproves of the idea of putting Parayko on the Team Canada roster for the Olympics. “Hockey Canada has so many options that I’m not sure why Parayko is one of them. It’s not 2018 anymore,” wrote analyst Dom Luszczyszyn. 

8) I’ve written about Jordan Walker twice in recent days here in the Bits. He’s the No. 1 St. Louis prospect according to Baseball Prospectus and Baseball America. But what about Juan Yepez, who had a strong 2021 campaign that prompted the Cardinals to put him on their 26-man roster for the NL Wild Card game? 

Both prospect graders aren’t as high on Yepez. Baseball Prospectus rates him No. 7 among Cards prospects, and Baseball America put Yepez even lower at No. 9. 

Why? His speed and his defense. 

In other words: he’s a designated hitter. 

Baseball Prospectus: “Put it all together and Yepez looks like a potential .260-.270 bat with 30 home runs. Unfortunately, that’s about where the value ends, as Yepez is a well below-average athlete with a fringy arm that not only limits him to first base, but makes him a poor defender there as well.” 

Baseball America: “He is a well below-average runner and below-average defender who is limited strictly to first base and may have to be a DH.” 

9) Both Baseball Prospectus and Baseball America aren’t all that cranked up about Cards catching prospect Ivan Herrera. But both agree that he’s still young (21) and developing. 

Baseball Prospectus has Herrera at No. 9 and offered this MLB projection: “Second-division catcher. You are hoping for something like average tools across the board here, but that leaves very little margin for error anywhere, and the hit tool is already starting to look fringier.”

Baseball America is more enthusiastic, slotting Herrera as STL’s No. 5 prospect: “Known for his above-average hitting ability, Herrera has a compact swing and makes solid contact. He has a good approach at the plate and does a good job of controlling the strike zone with low chase rates. Herrera posts low exit velocities and doesn’t hit the ball very hard with fringe-average power, but he makes so much contact he is still able to pick up extra-base hits. Herrera’s defense behind the plate is further behind. His receiving regressed during the coronavirus shutdown and he struggled with drops throughout the 2021 season … Herrera will have to improve his defense to be Yadier Molina’s successor as the Cardinals catcher.”

10) Congrats to Mizzou kicker Harrison Mevis, who was named first-team All-America by The Athletic, which got it right.  Quote: “Harrison and his brother Andrew, who kicks for Iowa State, have combined to make 38 of 42 field goal attempts this year. Harrison has been particularly prolific from long range, making all three kicks of at least 50 yards — including a 56-yarder to force overtime at Boston College — and 11 of 13 from 40-49. He’s also 40-for-40 on PATs.”

11) The Kansas City Chiefs have been winning with defense. So what’s wrong with the Kansas City offense?

A few things, with most of the focus on the passing game. 

KC’s receivers have dropped 27 passes when targeted, the second highest total in the league according to Pro Football Focus. That’s reduced the impact of QB Patrick Mahomes, who has been on target for a high percentage of his throws according to multiple stat trackers. Mahomes ranks 17th in completion percentage (64.6) among quarterbacks that have taken at least 50 percent of their team’s dropbacks. But PFF adjusts that completion percentage to 78% when removing dropped passes and intentional throwaways. That’s fourth best in the league. 

— Mahomes has faced more pressures (any kind) than any NFL quarterback this season, 174. That’s a lot. And he’s been average at best when pressured, with a passer rating of 92.4% that ranks 17th among 29 quarterbacks. 

— And the pass-rush pressure has another repercussion: because opponents can get after Mahomes with a standard pass rush, they can drop extra defenders into pass coverage. And that limits what Mahomes can do with his downfield throws. According to Pro Football Focus Mahomes has been blitzed on 13.6% of his dropbacks – the lowest percentage for any regular NFL quarterback. By deploying two safeties deep, defenses are taking away big-play completions by Mahomes. He’s averaging only 4.79 adjusted passing yards per attempt this season, and his average completion (11 yards) would be the lowest of his career. 

The Chiefs have the second-most turnovers, 23, in the NFL. And obviously that limits possessions and opportunities to score. 

Thanks for reading …