ST. LOUIS -- Human nature is to evaluate trades in sports, and rarely is one made without some sort of short-term reaction.
The Blues haven't even wrapped up training camp and already the critics are questioning the departure of David Perron to Edmonton, bringing Magnus Paajarvi and a second-round draft pick to St. Louis.
The reason, in part, is because Perron sits with five goals and one assist in four games with the Oilers. Also, on Thursday, Paajarvi was taken off a line with Patrik Berglund and Vladimir Tarasenko and relegated as an "extra" forward in practice.
"I don't know what the plan is (with Paajarvi)," Hitchcock said. "All I know is he's getting better every day. I think you give him time with us and he's going to be a real good player. That's how I look at it."
Hitchcock acknowledged that he could envision the Blues opening the season with the top nine forwards who were on the practice ice Thursday, with Brenden Morrow on the No. 2 line with Derek Roy and Chris Stewart and Jaden Schwartz dropping down to the No. 3 line with Berglund and Tarasenko.
That would be disappointing to Paajarvi, though he said, "I don't take too much out of it. Of course, I want to be playing with the top guys but it's up to the coach. There's really not too much to say about it."
The Blues knew that they were giving up a potential goal scorer in Perron, who had 21 goals in 57 games in 2011-12. They believed they were getting a confident and tenacious winger when the deal was made.
"He's played opposite of what we thought, and today at practice was the first time we saw the player that we traded for," Hitchcock said. "What I mean by that is his ability to make plays on the rush, his abilities to make plays on the cycle, his offensive instincts were way better than what we thought they were.
"What we saw in the last 20 games in Edmonton was a high level of tenacity and something you can build on. He hasn't shown that here. He's shown at times like he's overwhelmed, but he's showing more offensive ability than we thought -- ever."
Hitchcock said early in camp that Paajarvi, Berglund and Tarasenko were the Blues' best line. But in three games, Paajarvi has no points on eight shots, and as a group, the line has no points on 21 shots. (Berglund had a 4-on-4 overtime goal in a 3-2 win over Dallas).
"I felt like we've been playing really well together," Paajarvi said. "I felt like there is some chemistry there. We've had so many scoring opportunities in the games, (but) we haven't executed and that could be a reason (for the change)."
Hitchcock said that it has more to do with Paajarvi's ability to create turnovers.
"He needs to continue to work to get up to speed from a checking standpoint, so that he has a bigger impact in the game," Hitchcock said. "He uses his speed with the puck really well. Where we need him to use his speed more is separating people from the puck."
Berglund, a fellow Swede, agreed.
"He's got such good speed, but like 'Hitch' is saying, he needs to adjust and start playing that game that we play here," Berglund said. "It's not always very pretty, but we're doing a good job at it and that's obviously something that he needs to buy in on."
Paajarvi admitted that the Blues' coaching staff has conveyed that to him.
"That's one of the first things they said," Paajarvi said. "Use my speed to catch players off-guard and get the puck for teammates and myself. That's what I'm trying to do. I know I can do it. I've done it a little bit and I know I can do it better for sure."
Hitchcock liked the way Paajarvi responded Thursday.
"If the way he practiced is the level he can play at, he's going to be an effective player for us because he was on the puck, hard on the puck, using his speed as a checking mechanism, which is what we saw in Edmonton," Hitchcock said. "If that's what he is, then that's really good stuff.
"(Thursday), when it got down to crunch time, and he could see numbers, there's 15 forwards here ... he went at it. He does things on the rush that you just can't teach ... he buys time for other people to get included in the rush."
The Blues are on the verge of a difficult decision, trimming one forward before Monday's deadline to get to 23 players. Paajarvi, who signed a two-year, $2.4 million contract this offseason, would need to clear NHL waivers to be assigned to Chicago.
"It goes so fast in this game, on and off the ice ..." Paajarvi said. "Mentally you kind of have to be consistent and mentally you have to be in the right spot because if you get too high and too low, it's not going to end up well."
Said Berglund: "Magnus has to stick in there and play hard and show that he wants a spot on this team."
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