Robby Fabbri

Previewing the 2019-20 St. Louis Blues

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(The 2019-20 NHL season is almost here so it’s time to look at all 31 teams. We’ll be breaking down strengths and weaknesses, looking at whether teams are better or worse this season and more!)

For more 2019-20 PHT season previews, click here.

Better or worse: The Blues are bringing back mostly the same team that won the Stanley Cup just a few months ago and that is generally a pretty good sign for a team’s chances. Whether or not they are any better or worse depends on your perspective and what your expectations are. There is a very good chance they finish as a better regular season team, but end up doing worse in the playoffs for no other reason than winning the Stanley Cup two years in a row is a brutally difficult task. If they finish with, let’s say, 105 or 106 points but get eliminated in Round 2 or 3 a year after winning the Stanley Cup are Blues fans going to be disappointed with that result? Going to guess they will not be.

Strengths: Their defensive play. They are a lockdown team that is one of the best in the league at limiting shot attempts against and as long as they get competent goaltending are one of the toughest teams in the league to score against. They have two great blue liners in Alex Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko, do not really have a true weakness anywhere on their defense, and have one of the best shutdown centers in the league in Ryan O'Reilly. Their other strength: Having one of the league’s elite goal-scorers in Vladimir Tarasenko. Since the start of the 2014-15 season only Alex Ovechkin (236) and John Tavares (183) have more goals than Tarasenko’s 182. Tarasenko has also played in fewer games than both during that stretch.

Weaknesses: It is probably more of a question mark than a “weakness,” but what will Jordan Binnington be able to do over a full season? His call-up was a turning point in the season and he fixed the team’s biggest early season flaw. But can he play at that level from the start of the year and maintain through the playoffs? That is the big unanswered question for the Blues entering the season and it will go a long way toward determining what they are capable of.

[MORE: Three questions | Under Pressure | X-Factor]

Coach Hot Seat Rating (1-10, 10 being red hot): Craig Berube has been behind the team’s bench for less than a year and in that time the Blues went 38-19-6 during the regular season (that is a 106 point pace over 82 games) and then won the first Stanley Cup in franchise history. His coaching hot seat rating is a 1 out of 10. It is probably even lower than that.

Three Most Fascinating Players: Robert Thomas, Jaden Schwartz, and Robby Fabbri are three players to watch.

The final numbers for Thomas’ rookie season do not really jump off the page, but keep in mind that he was 19 years old and playing meaningful minutes for a championship team. That is impressive, and even though it did not always result in goals or points you could see the potential he has and why the Blues are so excited about what he is capable of in the NHL. Does he take a big step in year two?

Schwartz had what was probably the worst regular season of his career offensively, scoring just 11 goals in 69 games, a massive drop from what he normally produces. It was almost entirely the result of a 6 percent shooting percentage that was entirely driven by a lot of bad luck. Every other aspect of his performance was right in line with what the Blues expect and it was only a matter of time until he bounced back. He did just that in the playoffs with 12 goals in 26 games, exceeding his regular season total. There is no reason to believe he will not be a 25-30 goal scorer again this season.

Fabbri is going to be fascinating just to see if he can get his career back on track. He is talented and had such a promising start four years ago only to be robbed of three years due to injuries. Can he get some better injury luck and still become the player the Blues hoped he would be?

Playoffs or lottery: As long as Binnington does not have a massive regression there is no reason this is not a playoff team again. They were built to win a year ago and the slow start in the first half was simply the result of not having any goaltending. Once they fixed that, combined with the improvement they saw under Berube, this team was a machine. They are not going away.

More
Blues turn back the clock with alternate jersey
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Fabbri gets one-year deal from Blues, looks to get career back on track

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The St. Louis Blues announced on Friday afternoon that they have re-signed restricted free agent forward Robby Fabbri to a one-year contract that will pay him $900,000 during the 2019-20 season. Once Fabbri was given a qualifying offer earlier this summer it was pretty much a given that he was going to be re-signed. The question now becomes whether or not he can get his career back on track after what were three mostly lost seasons.

During the 2016-17 season Fabbri looked as if he was on his way to becoming an excellent player for the Blues. He was a recent first-round pick, still only 21 years old, and was one of the team’s most productive and talented forwards that was building off of a promising rookie campaign.

But in early February of that season he suffered a devastating ACL injury that sidelined him for the remainder of the season.

Things got worse for him when he re-injured the same knee the following offseason, forcing him to miss the entire 2017-18 season.

He didn’t return to the Blues lineup until November of this past season after having missed nearly two full years of what should have been prime development years in the NHL. It proved to be a difficult season as he appeared in just 32 games, playing only 12 minutes per night (a three-minute per night drop from his first two years in the league) and scoring just two goals and six total points.

[ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker]

He added one goal in 10 playoff games for the Blues on their way to winning the Stanley Cup.

Fabbri is a fascinating player for the Blues this season because he is still such a talented player and is still young enough that there should be at least some potential there. He is a year removed from the knee injuries that derailed such a significant part of his career to this point, and prior to the injury was on track to becoming a legitimate second-line scorer. Before the ACL injury in 2017 he was scoring at 20-goal, 50-point pace over 82 games while also posting positive possession numbers. He was a really good player and one of the best ones the Blues had.

With his injuries now in the rear-view mirror and a chance to start the 2019-20 season healthy, he can hopefully get back to that level for the Blues.

With Fabbri now signed the Blues still have to re-sign restricted free agent forwards Ivan Barbashev and Oskar Sundqvist, defender Joel Edmundson, and starting goalie Jordan Binnington.

Sundqvist, Edmundson, and Binnington all filed for salary arbitration, with Binnington’s being one of the most fascinating cases on the schedule.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Stanley Cup Final: Blues’ Thomas out for Game 2 vs. Bruins

BOSTON — Robert Thomas is out and Robby Fabbri may be in for the St. Louis Blues in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final Wednesday night (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN; live stream).

Thomas did not play a shift following the big hit he received from Boston Bruins defenseman Torey Krug in Game 1. Having battled through an injury for the last few weeks, so much so he rarely participated in practices morning skates, Blues head coach Craig Berube said he made the decision to take the young forward out on Tuesday.

Berube noted that the decision to remove Thomas from the lineup is not related to the Krug hit.

Defenseman Vince Dunn, who’s been out with an upper-body injury after last playing in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final, will miss out again.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Fabbri, who hasn’t played since Game 5 in Round 2, slotted into Thomas’ spot on the Blues’ third line with Tyler Bozak and Patrick Maroon during Wednesday’s morning skate at TD Garden. He is a game-time decision, according to Berube. But with Dunn out, Fabbri will probably get in since there was no indication they were planning on going with 11 forwards and seven defensemen for Game 2.

“It’s a change, for sure,” Berube said. “But these guys are veteran players who have been around a long time. They’ll be fine. It’s going to be a different look for them, that’s all.”

Blues-Bruins (BOS leads 1-0) Game 2 is Wednesday night at 8 p.m. ET from TD Garden on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app.

MORE: Bruins get spark from Krug’s big hit: ‘That gave me some goosebumps’

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Lightning prospect Brayden Point’s patience pays off at world juniors

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No one wants to be the extra forward.

However, when Canada named Brayden Point its’ 13th forward for the world junior hockey championship, they used the Martin St. Louis’ example. St. Louis was part of a group of forwards, who rotated as the extra forward for Canada at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.

“The coaching staff told me about Martin St. Louis (at the Olympics),” said Point. “That’s a guy that’s making $6 million a year. It’s part of the team.”

The 18-year-old, who has 17 goals and 44 points with the Moose Jaw Warriors of the Western Hockey League, was in unfamiliar territory when the Under-20 tournament began Boxing Day.

“It’s a little different for sure, but I don’t think it’s tough. It’s awesome when we’re winning games,” he said. “The goal is the gold medal so it’s definitely not tough to watch other guys compete.”

Being patient and waiting for an opportunity has paid off for Point, who was selected in the third round (79th overall) by Tampa Bay at last June’s draft.

During the first period of Canada’s 8-0 quarterfinal win over Denmark Friday, St. Louis Blues’ prospect Robbi Fabbri was sidelined with a high ankle sprain. Fabbri, the Blues’ first round pick (21st overall) in 2014, will miss the remainder of the tournament. In Fabbri’s absence, Point was promoted.

“I’m disappointed obviously for Robby cause it is a huge loss for our team,” said Canadian coach, Benoit Groulx. “But I think Pointer has been very good with us since camp opened.”

Point netted his second of the tournament giving Canada a 7-0 lead during the third period Friday.

I thought I played pretty well going into a bigger role,” said Point. “You never like to see anyone go down.”

With Fabbri out, Groulx juggled his lines moving Point up to join Ottawa Senators prospect Curtis Lazar and top prospect Connor McDavid.

“I just think Connor needs that a little bit with them, a guy that can play with him, that can make plays with him,” explained Groulx. “We like to balance our lines with speed, with size, with skill.”

Added Lazar, Canada’s captain: “Brayden Point did a great job of stepping in. He fit in nicely with me and Connor, we were happy to get him a goal. He’s been a competitor and a player, for something to happen like that, it is the game of hockey and the way she goes sometimes but now there’s extra more motivation to win it for him.”

Canada plays Slovakia in Sunday’s semifinal. The Canadians have not won gold at the tournament since 2009.