The Sports Daily > Frozen Notes
Vladimir Sobotka’s offense is an unexpected surprise

When Vladimir Sobotka returned to the St. Louis Blues at the end of the 2016-17 season, it was easy to be pretty critical of the 30-year-old forward. The whole “will he / won’t he” story fans were forced to follow was exhausting. It felt kind of silly getting all wrapped up in a player possibly returning considering said player wasn’t a top offensive weapon or much more beyond a grinder with a solid faceoff reputation.

As we all predicted, Sobotka is currently one of the Blues’ top offensive contributors.

Wait, what?

Sobotka is currently sixth on the Blues in total offense with three goals and seven assists for 10 total points. To put that in perspective, Sobotka’s career-high in points was 33 in 61 games back in 2013-14. Beyond that, Sobotka has been a 20ish-point player. In other words, he’s not known for his offense.

In 2017-18, Sobotka has been heavily (and unexpectedly) involved in the Blues’ offense, but he has been shying away from the gritty side of the game. That’s a trade many fans would be more than happy to accept.

The media thinks Sobotka needs to recover his “nasty” side despite his offensive success. Though that’s not a bad opinion to have (that side of Sobotka’s game was always a strong area of his presence on the ice), it feels silly to scrutinize Sobotka’s game considering his offensive breakout. Who really wants grit over goals and assists?

Ideally, Sobotka will be a touch more feisty while maintaining his current offensive rush. He’s at his best when he’s skating on the edge, but he’s even better when he’s helping score goals.

5 thoughts on “Vladimir Sobotka’s offense is an unexpected surprise

  1. This first wound up on my radar when someone mentioned that he was only a couple of points in arrears of Schenn (who’s been having an undeniably good go of it with Schwartz thus far) at the time the comment was made a day or two before Schenn’s four-assist game against the Leafs. I thought to myself, “Surely, that can’t be right”, so I did what any right-thinking Blues fan would do – tabbed over to my fantasy team, where I’d drafted Schenn and grabbed Sobotka as an injury replacement off waivers, and slapped the “2017-18 season stats” button. Lo! and behold, said comment-maker was, in fact, making an accurate point.

    Open admission number one: I was fully on-board with the “Trade Sobotka’s rights to anybody who’ll take ’em, for whatever they’ll give in return” idea.

    Open admission number two: I was wrong about the value Sobotka brought back to the team after his stint in the KHL.

    Could this all go sideways after a hot start? Sure. Would I be happier if the Blues were in a position to play him on the third line (which has been a total tire fire this season)? Absolutely. That said, he’s overperforming my expectations, and when I stopped and took stock of it, I realized that I couldn’t actually complain about what he’s done through the first month of the season.

    While we’re on the topic of players betraying my expectations to the positive side, Jaskin is still leading the team in driving even strength possession (though the Schenn/Schwartz/Tarasenko line is finally gaining on him). No, he’s not contributing on the scoreboard at the kind of rates we’d want of a middle six forward. However, in a world where an NHL team actually wants/needs to be able to roll four lines, he’s a night-and-day difference on the wing of the fourth line with Brodziak/Upshall as compared to Thorburn (Serenity… err… Pressbox Now!). More ideally, he could help solidify the third line… Unfortunately, that line’s going to need a lot more help than just Jaskin.

    Thankfully, the wins keep piling up, so the bottom six has time to sort itself out into a couple of useful, consistent lines. Hopefully, we’re not still talking about it as an issue at the end of November, though with the eventual return of Berglund in the wings later on, I don’t know that I’d be willing to send up the emergency flares on this until the turn of the new year.


    1. You did inspire the main topic of this article. I was pretty surprised to see it, mostly because others have stolen the spotlight. Jaskin I think has been good, but I’m still not sold on him over the long term. He’s burned out and been so unreliable that I feel he has to come back down sooner than later. Hopefully later.


      1. From the perspective of Jaskin as a player with top-six potential, I agree absolutely. Now, hear me (or, at least, the fancy stats) out about his new role:

        Even Strength Corsi For%
        2014-15: 55.3 (54 games played)
        2015-16: 55.3 (65 games played)
        2016-17: 52.5 (51 games played)
        2017-18: 57.4 (12 games played)

        Even Strength PDO
        2014-15: 99.9 (8.4 SH% + 91.5 SV%)
        2015-16: 99.3 (6.0 SH% + 93.3 SV%)
        2016-17: 101.3 (7.7 SH% + 93.6 SV%)
        2017-18: 105.6 (12.0 SH% + 93.6 SV%)

        Yes, the team is probably due for regression in on-ice shooting percentage to bring that PDO down, particularly if we’re envisioning Jaskin in a bottom-six role – this is me guessing that that number is inflated by his stints with Schwartz/Schenn to start the year. Other than that, however, it’s a very stable set of numbers over enough games to call it a reasonable sample of what the player is capable of. Until this season’s relatively small sample size, he’s not getting overly- or underly-lucky to any great degree, and he’s also consistently driving positive possession.

        Interestingly, if we dig a little further into the fancy stats, this season is actually a marked jump in defensive deployment for Jaskin.

        Even Strength Zone Starts (Offensive/Defensive)
        2014-15: 46.8/53.2
        2015-16: 47.2/52.8
        2016-17: 49.0/51.0
        2017-18: 34.6/65.4

        In other words, he’s still driving positive possession even though he’s being deployed substantially more often in the Blues end than in the past.

        Admittedly, from an actual offense production perspective, there’s not a huge amount to like. However, rather than say that he burned out, I’m not entirely certain that he ever more than briefly flared up to begin with. He dropped from a .33 points/game player in 2014-15 (his age 21 season, and first full year with the team) to .2 points/game in 2015-16 and .21 points/game in 2016-17. Currently, he’s pacing at .33 points/game again, though, admittedly, twelve games isn’t much to write home about. If we look at him instead of an option on RW in the bottom six, though, with the ability to slide up the lineup for a limited time in a pinch, I’d say there’s still a player there worth having on the roster.

        Compare, if you will, to a former Blue with more offensive upside, and a penchant for totally vanishing for long stretches, Chris Stewart. Counting full seasons, he’s been a positive impact on even strength possession a grand total of once since the 2011-12 season with the Blues (his final full year with the Blues in 12-13 clocked in at 49%, incidentally), for Anaheim two years ago. He was well underwater for Minnesota last season (40.5%, nearly 300 more shots against than for when he was on the ice, at 572 for/841 against), and is right on track to do the same thing this year (41.6% thus far, 117 for/164 against) playing in a fourth line role (I believe they were deploying him in a third line role last season).

        Given a choice between the two for a bottom-six role, I think Jaskin is the easy choice. Doesn’t mean I’m not disappointed that he couldn’t manage to turn those flashes of brilliance into sustained success as a top-six winger, though…

        Liked by 1 person

  2. As always, awesome comment. And, that’s all very, very interesting. That all comes during what I would label as his “make or break” season with the Blues. I do think that expectations play a huge role in the ultimate disappointment, so maybe he can slide into a more permanent role at the bottom of the lineup. Still, that seems to be a bit of a crowded area of the roster.


    1. The team is going to have an awful lot of options in that regard in the near future. That particular logjam will be interesting to watch, as there are a lot of bottom-six contracts coming due for renewal or other disposal after the season. Brodziak, Upshall (who almost didn’t make it back this time) and Paajarvi as UFA, Jaskin, Sundqvist, and Bennett as RFA, and none of that accounts for young forwards stewing in the minors, some of whom could certainly entertain time on the third line next year if they can’t crack a spot higher up the roster.

      One thing working against Jaskin that I didn’t mention earlier is his relative cost to the other options, as an arbitration-eligible RFA already pulling in a $1M contract. That could be a crapshoot the team might rather avoid, given his underperformance of expectations, particularly since Stastny’s contract is *also* ending after this season, so some amount of money is going to be needed to shore up the top-six center segment (again? I feel like we *just* did this… somehow, it’s been four years). Not that I’d particularly expect that contract to increase in cost for the next go-round, if he does re-sign here, but it’s part of a situation that’s a lot more immediately meaningful to the team than the structure of the bottom-six, given the options in play there. In this case, we’re comparing to Brodziak at 950k, Upshall and Paajarvi at 800k, Sundqvist at some raise over 675k, and Bennett similarly at something over his current 650k.

      Now, on the plus side, from the team’s perspective, they still have an awful lot of season left to go to see how all of these players shake out and perform in their various roles. With the cap being what it is, though, the money question does need to come in at some point.

      Anyway, we’re well off the beaten path from Vladimir Sobotka, surprising top-six forward at this point. Just another thing to keep an eye on as the season goes along.


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