As one bad headache begins to relieve itself for St. Louis Blues head coach Mike Yeo, a new, good one is starting to begin.
By most estimations, Yeo’s St. Louis Blues simply weren’t supposed to be doing this well this early. Or even at all.
Decimated by injuries before one puck had been dropped in the NHL’s 2017-18 regular season, the Blues were forced to rely on depth players to carry some of the load.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch summed it up like this in late September:
In Patrik Berglund (shoulder), Jay Bouwmeester (ankle), Robby Fabbri (knee), Petteri Lindbohm (shoulder), Zach Sanford (shoulder) and Alexander Steen (hand) the Blues currently have 310 games, 53 goals and 81 assists from the 2016-17 regular season on the sidelines.
That’s a lot to replace and expect to still rattle off the wins.
Berglund’s offseason injury to his shoulder required surgery and a four-to-six-month timeline to heal – a tough pill to swallow on a team hoping for swift recoveries from Fabbri and Lindbohm, who also went under the knife.
And then training camp came and things got much, much worse.
Fabbri’s season was over as it was just beginning after he tore his ACL in his left knee on Sept. 24, the same ACL that was surgically repaired just months before in February. Seven days earlier, 15-year veteran defenseman Bouwmeester fractured his ankle and two days before Bouwmeester’s injury, winger Sanford dislocated his left shoulder, rendering him out for five-to-six months.
Yet, instead of crumbling, the Blues somehow managed to excel.
The Blues went 10-3-1 in October and two-thirds of the way through November, St. Louis is the top dog in the Central Division, the Western Conference, and the second place team in the whole of the NHL.
Not too shabby from the Band-Aid brigade. The depth general manager Doug Armstrong has managed to put together is impressive.
His offseason acquisition in Brayden Schenn has thrived in his new threads, with eight goals and 26 points and a current seven-game point streak. Schenn, the fourth-best point producer in the NHL thus far this season, is tied for the team lead in points with Jaden Schwartz, whose early season trends have him on pace for a career year, already having amassed 10 goals and 16 helpers.
The type of headache that doesn’t require an Advil begins for Yeo on Tuesday against the Edmonton Oilers, a game that will be live on NBCSN at 8 p.m. ET.
Bouwmeester will play his first game of the season on Tuesday as he’s been deemed fit to return to the lineup.
The 34-year-old is expected to resume commanding big minutes, as he has done throughout his 15-year career. Blues fans will be hoping he can help out their 23rd-ranked penalty kill. He’s been pretty good in that area.
His return leaves the Blues with eight healthy defensemen, leaving Yeo with what he called a “good problem to have” on Monday.
Yeo has played rookie Vince Dunn in all 21 games this season and the 2015 second-round pick has done more than just earn his keep in the Blues rearguard, averaging 16:38 per night. Yeo said Monday that Dunn needs to be playing. It’s expected that Carl Gunnarsson makes way for Bouwmeester.
Meanwhile, Lou Korac of NHL.com reported that Berglund could be ready come early December, if not earlier.
Berglund practiced in Monday’s full-contact skate and has been working with the team on-ice for a while now.
It appears more good problems are in Yeo’s future.
Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck