31 Takes: Blues could inspire some weird decisions this summer

It’s a copycat league, so they say.

And because the St. Louis Blues won the Stanley Cup, some Very Serious People are now saying Very Dumb Things like, “Well, shouldn’t everyone try to get big and strong and physical like they were?”

Doesn’t feel like it should have to be said, but here we are: The Blues won the Cup because they had great coaching and a lot of talent, and for the most part are well-managed. Their size helps, insofar as it’s still better to be big in this sport than small, but what helps more is that these are guys who can skate and who play a system well.

Let’s put it this way: I feel like I heard somewhere that this team was in last place in early January. Their size then was effectively unchanged from what it is now — they made no significant changes to the roster at the deadline but certainly added talent (all of it 6-foot-1 or under). Not that being this tall makes you a small man in everyday life, but it certainly doesn’t make you size-y in the NHL, either. The average NHL player this season was 6-foot-1 and weighed 199 pounds. The Blues were a fifth of an inch and four pounds heavier than that to start the season. Cool.

To have turned things around like they did and literally gone worst-to-first, there needed to be more at play than their size.

Know what probably helps? Getting Ryan O’Reilly, Brayden Schenn, Oscar Sundqvist and a first-round pick for the combined cost of three mid-to-late-first-round picks, two second-round picks, Ryan Reaves, Jori Lehtera, Patrik Berglund, Vladimir Sobotka, and Tage Thompson.

And good coaches, I think, tailor their systems to their rosters and, if they have enough talent on those rosters, tend to succeed. It’s tough to say whether Mike Yeo was trying to square-peg a round hole with this group but Craig Berube came in and found a way to pull all the right strings. Does it help that Colton Parayko is 6-foot-6 and 230 pounds? I think it does. And if you can go out and get a 6-6 guy who can play that heavy and still move like that, by all means go out and get him. Colton Paraykos, by and very large, do not grow on trees.

Alex Pietrangelo, meanwhile, is a titanic… 6-3, 210?

St. Louis Blues center Oskar Sundqvist (70), of Sweden; defenseman Colton Parayko (55); and Vladimir Tarasenko (91), of Russia, celebrate after the Blues scored a goal against the San Jose Sharks during the third period in Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Western Conference final series Tuesday, May 21, 2019, in St. Louis. The Blues won 5-1 to win the series 4-2. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Colton Parayko, center, is an imposing figure on the ice. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Put another way, if someone like Johnny Gaudreau or Torey Krug could do what he does at Parayko’s size, he wouldn’t even have to retire before they enshrined that guy in the Hall of Fame. And lord knows GMs have tried to make 6-foot-5 projects into high-end NHLers for as long as they’ve been tying knives to the bottoms of boots. There’s an elephant’s graveyard full of mid-first-round picks whose most attractive quality was that they were 77 inches tall and maybe they’d figure out the rest later. It’s incredibly rare that they do.

The league, by the way, is starting to recognize this. The average drafted player is an inch shorter and something like 15 pounds lighter than he was at the start of the cap era. Some have suggested to me that the outsized loss in weight comes from the league formalizing measurement procedures, but it also seems like GMs are far less likely to use even a late-round pick on some 6-foot-5 Coke machine who racked up 230 PIMs in his draft year.

Anyway, most of the other guys on the Blues in the “that’s a big fella” category weren’t really moving the needle too much: Robert Bortuzzo, Joel Edmundson, Jay Bouwmeester (really more or less along for the ride getting big minutes), Sundqvist, Sammy Blais, Carl Gunnarsson. Some, like Sundqvist and Blais, were fine. Others were outright bad.

The only two who had a more definitive impact in terms of quality on-ice play were 6-foot-4 Zach Sanford, and Pat Maroon, who’s an inch shorter than that. The Blues’ four best offensive players, meanwhile? They range from 6-1 (Schenn and O’Reilly) to 6 feet even (Vladimir Tarasenko, though he’s also 225) to 5-foot-10 (Jaden Schwartz).

No one’s saying they didn’t play physical hockey or that this type of game wasn’t part of what turned the Sharks and Bruins into ground hamburger meat by the end of their respective series. But to reduce their quality to being a size issue does them a disservice even taking into account that their best forwards are of average size at best.

But hey, if your team wants to chase the 6-foot-5 Guy dragon, go nuts. But just don’t be surprised if he ends up being a lot more like Robert Bortuzzo than Colton Parayko.

31 Takes: Playoff Edition (coverage of all 31 teams returns after the draft)

Boston Bruins: Turns out Jake DeBrusk played through a good chunk of the playoffs with concussion symptoms and of course the meatheads in the Boston media were like, “What a warrior.” This sucks, morons! Y’know, if you have a broken thumb or a cracked rib or a wonky groin and you wanna play though it, I suppose you can’t be too mad at that even if I think it’s not good for you. If you have a brain injury, the fact that your team would even let you play is [expletive]-ing vile. Players are gonna try to kill themselves to win a Cup and I guess I can’t blame them. But their employers absolutely shouldn’t allow them to do it. As much crap as the Warriors caught heat for letting Kevin Durant risk blowing out his calf or Achilles, the Bruins should catch 50 times more for letting a guy “battle through” a concussion. And the media should be ashamed of itself for cheerleading it. Holy hell.

St. Louis Blues: Don’t have too much more to say about these guys, but as it relates to the Blues and a divisional or conference rival, well: “lol” and “lmao.”

Gold Star Award

Ryan O’Reilly should have been a top-3 Hart guy in awards voting and it’s a joke that he wasn’t but damn if he didn’t go all the way off in the Cup Final. Good for him.

Minus of the Weekend

With Andrew MacDonald and Dion Phaneuf getting bought out this weekend, and (as of this writing) storm clouds looming over David Backes, you gotta wonder once again just how many contracts that were obviously “they shouldn’t have done that” deals on Day 1 end up getting bought out. My estimate is and remains: 80 percent.

Play of the Weekend

Credit where it’s due: This is the save that probably guaranteed a Blues title.

Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week

User “jonlin” had me at “Toronto - Carolina blockbuster!”

Hurricanes get:

- Kadri 4,5M/yr 3yrs

- Nylander 6,96M/yr 5yrs

Leafs get:

- Brett Pesce 4,025M/5yrs

- Julien Gauthier

- 2020 1st

- 2021 2nd


Some folk’ll never eat a skunk, but then again some folk’ll, like Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel.

Ryan Lambert is a Yahoo! Sports hockey columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

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