Our Jewish Blues Fan Of The Day / Why Faulk looks like a different player this season

Max Palmer Blues Fan Of The Day

Dan Buffa

From their founding, the St. Louis Blues have had a proud relationship with the local Jewish community, who has supported them for more than 50-years. Today, we begin a new tradition, as the St. Louis Jewish Light recognizes the team’s Jewish fan base, with our “Jewish Blues Fan Of The Day.” 

Today’s Jewish Blues Fan Of The Day is Max Palmer

Age: 17
Year Of First Game: 2005
Favorite Player: Ryan O’Reilly
Best Blues Memory: Attending Game 3 of the Stanley Cup
If you would like to become our Jewish Blues Fan Of The Day, email a photo and answers to the above questions to [email protected]

Now, here’s today’s commentary from Dan Buffa. 

Why Justin Faulk looks like a different player this season

When the St. Louis Blues traded for Justin Faulk late in the summer of 2019, there was a sneaking suspicion that General Manager Doug Armstrong was making the out-of-nowhere move for the then-Carolina Hurricanes defenseman to have as a safety net just in case Alex Pietrangelo bolted in free agency. While the truth in that will never quite be determined, the expectations for Faulk were immense before he even made it to the Midwest.

It didn’t help that his first year was largely one to forget. For a guy who didn’t have a problem putting up 35-40 points in a single season before, Faulk only mustered 16 points in 69 games, often looking like the odd man out during certain pivotal moments on the ice. Think about it for a second. You’re coming over to a team that just won their first Stanley Cup, and there’s a possibility that this could be the final season of their Captain. Faulk was a fish in a brand new sea, skating around with a team that already had what it took to get to the finish line. 

From the moment the guy stepped on the ice at the Enterprise Center for Opening Night, he looked like a guy idling on the sidewalk until his Uber ride arrived. He crashed the party after Lord Stanley was raised, but unlike a guy like Pat Maroon, who also ran into first season troubles, Faulk had a giant contract to back up. 

He signed a seven-year, $45 million dollar extension after the trade with St. Louis, adjourning himself to a team that he hadn’t taken a single shift for. Faulk, who was making $4.8 million per season with Carolina, received about a $2 million raise with the Blues. Some things just take time, like a new employee getting the hang of a system, slowly but surely. 

It wasn’t just a weird made-up fable about a guy producing 12 power play goals in a season or putting up double-digit goals in four of the five years in Carolina; Faulk wasn’t someone who had a great season and got a big deal. Thankfully, as the calendar year flipped to 2020 and his first season aged a little, Faulk improved. He started shooting the puck more often, and looked assertive while doing it. In the first two months of the season, you just about had to yell at him to unleash a big shot. He accumulated 200+ shots in four different seasons in Carolina, and that guy was finally showing up right as the entire world was starting to get swallowed up by COVID-19. 

During the Round Robin of the playoffs, and into the first round matchup against the Vancouver Canucks, Faulk was the Blues best defenseman. He was moving the puck with confidence, seeing his possession metrics go up. That consistent improvement has bled into the current season. A great defender has to do all the little things correctly, not just shoot and score. Control the puck in each zone, decrease another team’s scoring opportunity, reverse the action back towards the opponent net, and don’t get burned by a young player called Jordan Kyrou. They have to have eyes in the back of their head, and the first time something goes wrong, the head coach or defense will be blamed. 

Faulk has looked like a different player this season, even taking the puck around three Anaheim Ducks defenders for a nifty score-and throwing his body around as well. Faulk already has 41 hits this season, which is half of his total last season in 57 less games. Corsi and Fenwick help calculate a player’s possession of the puck, informing you if the team controls it more with that particular player on the ice or not. If the percentage is over 50%, it signifies the defenseman is doing their primary job well. Faulk’s Corsi and Fenwick both sit comfortably over 50% as February stretches its legs. 

If the Blues were mindful of their troubles, they’d allow Faulk to quarterback a power play unit, which is currently 6-65 with the extra man this season. A pathetic special teams unit seeing little success could use a guy who put up 40 power play goals with Carolina. Faulk’s total power play goals with St. Louis? One. One goal. With Pietrangelo gone and the rank on the defense evolving and changing, head coach Craig Berube would be wise to push more on Faulk, one of his more active and successful players. Just an idea to score some more goals. 

Here’s the last thing. I don’t put much worth into  +/- ratings. They are a more simplistic form of Corsi and Fenwick. But they can tell a story of turnaround. For the majority of his career, Faulk’s stat in that category was negative, meaning more goals went into his net while he was on the ice, as opposed to being scored at the other end. Faulk’s +/- this season is +10, the best mark of his career. 

Sometimes, players need time to get acclimated in an environment, especially one that was just refurbished with a champion’s Cup. Many called the trade a mistake and wrote Faulk off before a full season was played. One would think the franchise’ first Stanley Cup would have softened the gaze of Blues nation, but it really didn’t. “What have you done for me, lately” still looms large in the world of sports. 

Thankfully for Faulk, he’s done quite a lot of good since a slow start. It turns out a post-Petro world was all he needed.