ST. LOUIS - Jaden Schwartz will return to the lineup this Friday after missing 49 games due to a fractured left ankle. The Wilcox, Saskatchewan native is currently in his fourth full NHL season and has contributed significant scoring pop over his past two seasons, including 25 goals in 2013-14 and 28 in 2014-15.
The numbers suggest that Schwartz is just the Tabasco this club needs. Over the past three seasons, he’s missed 56 regular season games. During his absence, the Blues have posted a 26-20-10 record along with a minus-9 goal differential. Compare that with to his presence, when the team has logged a 55-21-6 mark and a robust plus-54 goal differential.
It would be short-sighted to assume that Schwartz is solely responsible for the above discrepancy. But his inclusion in the lineup has not only meant his production, but production from his teammates. Paul Stastny and Schwartz were in the lineup together for the first five games of 2015-16 and Stastny recorded a point-per-game average (one goal, four assists). Alexander Steen and Schwartz both dressed in the first seven games this season and Steen registered a point-per-game average (three goals, four assists). Vladimir Tarasenko and Schwartz also appeared in the first seven games together and Tarasenko produced five goals and four assists.
It’s wishful thinking to expect Schwartz to cure the Blues’ scoring ailment immediately. He’ll need time to regain strength, comfort and most importantly, confidence. However, his mere presence drastically alters the look of the Blues' lineup. The opposition will be forced to mind an additional offensive option, and when a defense is stretched in too many directions, it’s more vulnerable to a breach.
On a less tangible note, Schwartz is one of the most well-liked guys in the room, and for my money, the funniest Blue currently playing left-wing and wearing No. 17. The old adage goes ‘if a guy is good in the room, leave him there.’
But in this case, we’d prefer he join the team on the ice.