With the presumptive addition of Mike Hoffman, the Blues have 15 forwards in the mix for playing time. That number increases to 16 when Vladimir Tarasenko (shoulder) is ready to go. The population issue isn’t a problem. For obvious reasons, this is a positive.
So don’t worry about what Hoffman’s presence means for the development of prospect Jordan Kyrou. Do not fret over Hoffman taking a line spot that could have belonged, full-time, to Zach Sanford. I don’t mean to be cold here, but if Hoffman makes it official and signs a one-year contract with the Blues, I’m not stressing over the potential ramifications for any Blues’ forward that isn’t named Ryan O’Reilly, Jaden Schwartz, Brayden Schenn, David Perron or Robert Thomas. And as it looks, Thomas will have to earn (and retain) his occupancy on one of the top lines.
This is good. Competition is a sharpener. Quality depth is extremely valuable. But based on some of the reaction out there … my goodness. I didn’t realize J. Kyrou was David Pastrnak.
Everyone will be called into action. And where they skate doesn’t matter. There are four lines, and the Blues have a surplus to supply them. I’ve never understood the obsession over line assignments. NHL coaches remix lines every 27 seconds. If a guy is getting the job done, he’ll be in the lineup.
There will be injuries.
The Covid is still here.
There will be slumps, and lineup decisions based on opponent matchups. NHL teams will grind through an insane schedule, loaded with games played on consecutive nights. There is nothing easy about the 56-game schedule.
The Blues will have plenty of bodies to make it through. This is a plus. It sure as hell isn’t a negative. And if Kyrou has to wait a while longer, well, sorry … but I don’t see a reason to file a report with Amnesty International.
The Blues have a win-now approach. Rebuilding teams can prioritize player development at the NHL level, but the Blues obviously believe they have the horses to make another run for a Stanley Cup. Hoffman fits that objective.
Hoffman also serves as insurance for another Tarasenko injury or a setback in rehabbing his shoulder.
We’ve talked a lot about Hoffman’s goal-scoring prowess.
Let’s refresh and add something to his profile.
— He’s one of only 13 NHL players that currently has a streak of six consecutive seasons with 20-plus goals.
— Over the last past six seasons, Hoffman is tied for 16th in the NHL with 169 goals.
— Hoffman has deposited 49 power play goals over the past four seasons, ranking fourth among NHL forwards over that time. In his two seasons with Florida, Hoffman was tied for fifth among NHL forwards with 28 power play goals.
— Now here’s something I didn’t realize last week when the Blues and Hoffman made their arrangement: Hoffman has worked hard on his passing ability, and it shows. Hoffman was also praised for his increased defensive awareness and amped physicality.
As writer George Richards wrote for The Athletic last season, “Everyone knows he has a booming shot, but Hoffman has been noticeable all over the ice. He is not only scoring — he always seems to do that — but is making sharp passes and opening up space for teammates. He is playing defense and showing a physical side to his game.”
Panthers coach Joel Quenneville made several observations:
“Hoff has had more speed, and when he has that, he finds the puck more and he has done some good things defensively,” Quenneville said. “The thought process of checking goes hand-in-hand with him having the puck more, and he has some awareness defensively. Offensively, he is good as there is and he had some real dangerous looks up the gut. He is a threat on the power play, when he has the puck in the offensive zone anywhere. I like his attitude, like his game.”
In his first season with the Panthers, Hoffman was minus 25. Last season he cut that down to minus 5. This could be viewed as the evidence of a conscience on the defensive end.
Add Hoffman’s underrated playmaking dimension to his proven goal-scoring capacity, and this is what you have: over the past five campaigns Hoffman is one of only 11 NHL forwards to accrue at 20-plus goals and 30-plus assists per season. The other 10 are Aleksander Barkov, Jack Eichel, Patrick Kane, Nikita Kucherov, Evgeni Malkin, Artemi Panarin, Mark Scheifele, Mark Stone, John Tavares and Blake Wheeler.
The Blues have partnered with Hoffman at a good time. Motivation won’t be an issue. He’ll be playing for a new contract. He has an opportunity to play a substantial role for a winning enterprise. To this point in his career, Hoffman has played in 25 NHL postseason games, and 19 of the 25 came in 2017, when Ottawa made it as far as the Eastern Conference finals.
For those chafing over Hoffman’s bizarre exit from Ottawa — his fiancee was accused of bullying the wife of a teammate — well, please calm down. That craziness occurred in 2017 and ‘18. There were no problems in Florida. By all accounts, Hoffman was respected and liked by his Panther teammates.
Does anyone really believe that Hoffman — with so much at stake in his career — is coming to St. Louis and create an internecine battle between Blues’ wives, fiancees and girlfriends? Y’all have been watching too much reality TV.
Hoffman isn’t a Kardashian, OK? This is silly. But not as cuckoo as the concerns over Hoffman cutting into playing time for the Blues’ unproven players. Last time I looked, this is the NHL — not the AHL. The Blues made an aggressive an opportunistic move to fortify their arsenal by adding an elite scorer at a bargain price. Be happy.
I’ll stop with the grumpiness now.
Thanks for reading …
Please listen to the Bernie Show, weekdays from 3-6 p.m, on 590-AM The Fan, KFNS. You can access the show and the show podcast at 590thefan.com
For the last 35 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.
While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.
Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.