In order to win it all in the NHL, you need dedicated versatility. If a team wants to make it through a season and the playoffs, you need talented individuals all over your roster.
Remember how many Stanley Cups the St. Louis Blues won with Brett Hull, one of the greatest goal scorers of all time? Zero. While Hull drank his fair share of celebratory beers in the spring of 2019, he never tasted the golden champagne while playing in St. Louis. The Blues were not packed with versatility back then, or couldn’t keep up-even with Hull-in the scoring gambit that was hockey in the late 1990’s.
2021 is a different story. Enter Mike Hoffman, a guy who has averaged right around 28 goals per season over the past seven years. You put that kind of goal scorer on this team, and another Stanley Cup isn’t a mere goal anymore. It’s a definite possibility.
Once it became clear that Alex Pietrangelo wasn’t coming back, General Manager Doug Armstrong had to pivot elsewhere so he could keep St. Louis near the top. The bubble, the round robin, and the wild yet effective playoff format from this past summer/fall should just be labeled a bump in the road for the Blues, who still have the versatile array of skilled forwards and defensemen, to win Cup #2.
Hoffman is the real deal. This is not a hopeful 15-20 goal guy that may turn into something. Hoffman is someone who can perform inside of a shit cloud. He’s accumulated impressive goal totals for shit teams that smothered his talent. St. Louis has experienced loss this offseason-in addition to Pietrangelo, there’s Alexander Steen and Jay Bouwmeester as well-but they still have the lines to be a fierce enemy of any team in the league.
Now, Hoffman is only signed to a professional tryout contract at the moment, but that is merely a formality. Consider that a “wait while Doug figures out where he can squeeze money from” scenario, with Vladimir Tarasenko’s salary most likely being moved to Long Term Injured Reserve. Armstrong will do that so Hoffman can fit under the cap, but it’ll have to be worked out for when #91 is making strides to coming back. That is, if Tarasenko actually does come back during this shortened 2020-21 season.
While Hoffman isn’t a direct match for the injured Tarasenko, he does offer a pretty good impression. Each winger rips off 220+ shots per season, can put up very good goal totals, and are known to be suspect defensively. But you have to hang your hat here on the offense projected. Last year, in just 69 games, Hoffman scored 29 goals. It would have been his second straight 30 goal season in a full year, so the Blues are getting a difference maker.
Couple that with the bold and quick signing of Torey Krug, and this team is set to go another huge run. A run that won’t include fans in stands, at least to start the season, but one that should generate plenty of excitement for fans wanting to know if this team can do it again, and soon. Hoffman makes them a genuine contender not just for the playoffs, but for Lord Stanley’s summer zip code.
Please, don’t worry about the money. Armstrong will figure it out. It’s what he’s become very good at over the past five years. Don’t worry about the suspect defense either. The Blues need to score goals. I am tired of this team leaning on goaltender and defense in order to pave their roads; they need a true scoring touch. If you are complaining about the +/- rating of a winger, see yourself out right now, because you’re missing a lot.
Hoffman has been “that guy” the Blues need for years. His name has circled this team almost as much as Taylor Hall. Heck, the esteemed Laura Astorian wrote about it for St. Louis Game Time two months ago. Now, via a professional tryout contract (which is humorous, considering the stats), one of those guys is here and ready to contribute.
If you give Armstrong credit for one thing, give it to him for knowing how to react to a roster churn. Yes, he did sign Justin Faulk as a necessary parachute for Petro leaving. Yes, he signed Brayden Schenn to a long term deal to ensure the team had legit center depth for the foreseeable future. Yes, he acquired Krug when doubt settled in about his blue line. Yes, he could turn heel and trade Vince Dunn if a move presented itself.
He’s a first class businessman and a better thief than Danny Ocean. Mike Hoffman is just the latest example of this. Boy, could Armstrong and Tom Stillman teach Bill DeWitt Jr. and John Mozeliak a thing or two about where to put your money.