The St. Louis Blues made more than one free agent addition prior to the 2020-21 season, and the Kyle Clifford signing was overshadowed by Torey Krug. While that was the right move for Blues fans, to be more excited over Krug, Clifford has been a fantastic piece to the puzzle for the team in a smaller role.
The Blues signed Clifford, a two-time Stanley Cup champion, to a two-year deal worth a total of $2 million. He had spent the final 16 games of the 2019-20 season with the Toronto Maple Leafs after a trade from the Los Angeles Kings. He is the exact player type that Blues’ head coach Craig Berube likes to have on his team.
Clifford’s Goal Scoring
He’s only scored three goals in 14 games, but they have been timely and well-placed throughout the season. His career high in goals was when he tallied 11 during the 2018-19 season — he won’t reach that in a shortened 2020-21 season, but he’s done well in that department when you consider the track record.
He’s only playing 8:21 per game, so him producing a little under a goal every four games isn’t all that bad when you look into the numbers. He’s been a key piece on the fourth line and has been able to transition into different spots on that line with a lot of players that have rotated on and off.
If you look at his shot percentage, he scored those three goals on 14 shots, which is 21.4 and well above his other seasons to this point. Weirdly, his highest career shot percentage was during the 2012-13 shortened season of 48 games where he had a 12.5. If he can stay at this pace, he should finish with some good numbers.
This is the main reason that the Blues brought Clifford in. They lost Alexander Steen to retirement prior to the season and he was the ultimate bottom-six guy in the Berube system. While they have different individual skills, Clifford has been a great replacement for Steen.
He was originally playing on the fourth line with Oskar Sundqvist and Ivan Barbashev, but lines have been moved around plenty due to injuries. That hasn’t affected Clifford’s play, he’s been steady with all of his various linemates this season. He’s played the last few games with Jacob de la Rose and MacKenzie MacEachern — they’ve been an energy line for the Blues and setting the tone on each shift.
He’s been in two fights this season and I’m sure there will be more of them to come throughout the season; he’s the player that can set the tone well. He has just 12 penalty minutes on the season and 10 of those have been from fights. Not only is he a player that will drop the gloves, but he’s also been one of the most physical players on the team as well with 22 hits.
How He Can Finish the Season
He can continue to make a large impact on this team if he can stay healthy. He will stay on that fourth line and the hope is that one day during the season, the Blues can be healthy enough to have the original trio of him, Barbashev and Sundqvist together.
I’d expect him to tally more goals, more fights and more hits, but that is obvious. If he is able to see the ice more and that fourth line becomes the x-factor that it was during the 2019 Stanley Cup run, that will make him even more impactful.
He’s a player that has won two Cups — been there, done that. He will be a key physical presence when the Blues reach the playoffs and that is why a smart general manager like Doug Armstrong knew they had a need to get him and bring him into this group.
It has worked out well thus far and as anticipated by most Blues’ fans, he’s been a physical presence on the fourth line and a terrific fit for this team. If he stays healthy, the team is in great hands to have an anchor like Clifford on the fourth line. Another excellent value move by Armstrong and the Blues.