The purge in the desert continues after trading away Keith Yandle and Antoine Vermette over the weekend. Arizona Coyotes defenceman Zbynek Michalek was traded to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for yet-to-be-determined draft picks.
The first note here is that Michalek is injured. While he is listed as having an upper-body injury, there have been reports that he is dealing with a concussion, specifically. As even casual sports fans are aware, not every concussion is the same, and not every player “recovers” the same. After the trade, on the Trade Deadline coverage from TSN, Michalek stated that he was supposed to skate for the first time since the concussion today. He obviously will push that as he packs his things for a new area code.
Michalek took the long route to the NHL, not being drafted, and earning himself a roster spot in the American Hockey League. He’s been a regular in the league since the 2005 lockout.
Michalek is very much unheralded in the NHL. He’s not a defenceman who will run a power play or make a game-changing rush, but does all the small things a modern NHL defenceman needs to do to be an effective player. He doesn’t just block shots, he can make a first pass; he doesn’t just hit, he can force turnovers. This tweet from Sportsnet’s Steve Burtch displays how underrated he really is:
For the uninitiated, dCorsi Impact helps account for things like zone starts, competition faced, teammates, time on ice, and other contextual factors, and produce a single number. Remember that while all those players listed are all defencemen, they all don’t play a similar role. A defenceman playing top minutes like Calgary’s Mark Giordano has a dCorsi Impact considerably more impressive than San Jose’s Jason Demers, given how they are used, despite similar ratings.
Here’s the thing with Michalek: he’s played the toughest minutes of any Arizona defenceman over the last three seasons, including this year. He’s been playing over 21 minutes a night over that stretch, or second pairing time on ice behind Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
Being in Arizona, and playing on the same blue line has Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Keith Yandle has really suppressed Michalek’s profile. With the goaltending concerns in St. Louis, this is a perfect pickup for the Blues. He’s a player who, after the Alex Pietrangelo–Jay Bouwmeester pairing, can be used in a shutdown role, and stifle the opposition.
The key here with Michalek will be his health. If he can rebound close to 100-percent going down the stretch, the Blues may have made the pickup of deadline day.