Jori Lehtera will return to action on Tuesday when the St. Louis Blues host the Winnipeg Jets. Lehtera, the most criticized player currently on the roster, has had a rough season. That point aside, head coach Mike Yeo is still confident in the 29-year-old center. Maybe a bit too confident.
Yeo’s comments via STLToday:
“(Lehtera) is a good player. Let’s be honest, there’s a reason he played in the World Cup this year. Regardless of what his game has looked like at different points of the year, I’ve seen him perform at a really high level for us, I know what he’s capable of. When he’s ready, I would fully expect him to get a good chance and a good opportunity to prove that he belongs with the group, that he can add to the group and we have every reason to believe that he can, too.”
A head coach is supposed to be confident in his players. It’s his job. Still, Yeo’s comments should result in more than a view eye rolls from Blues fans.
If Lehtera has played at a high level for the Blues this year, it must’ve been an extremely brief instance. His 19 points in 61 games while spending a chunk of time with Vladimir Tarasenko isn’t exactly impressive. His play at times has been decent, but it hasn’t come close to living up to his $4.7 million cap hit.
Lehtera’s overall contributions this season were put into perspective when he went down with an injury. While Lehtera missed time, several other players stepped up. In fact, it was easy to forget that Lehtera was missing as Ivan Barbashev was consistently pretty awesome and reminded Blues fans what could (and should) be seen on a more regular basis.
At the very least, the Blues have options. A healthy Lehtera is a good thing even though he hasn’t added much because he’s at least another healthy body.