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Oshie celebrates a goal
St. Louis Blues center T.J. Oshie celebrates after scoring a goal during a Feb. 4 game against the Edmonton Oilers at the Scottrade Center. (Chris Lee / clee@post-dispatch.com)

T.J. Oshie is supposed to be one of the cornerstone players of the New Blues, one of the up-and-coming teams in the National Hockey League.

Of course, Erik Johnson was supposed to be THE cornerstone of this team -– and currently he labors for the Colorado Avalanche.

Oshie should reflect upon this while accepting his punishment for missing Monday’s practice for no good reason. Blues general manager Doug Armstrong is driving this franchise forward and he clearly lacks patience with stragglers.

As the Blues close out this season, everybody is under the microscope. GMs and coaches learn the most about players when times are difficult.

And make no mistake, times are difficult for the depleted Blues. They are playing out the string at the end of this lost season.

Injuries undermined their playoff bid. Armstrong got a head start on his house cleaning before the trade deadline, off-loading veterans Eric Brewer and Brad Boyes for draft picks. Additional injuries after that deadline forced the team to rely heavily on temporary help from the Peoria Rivermen.

Despite this adversity, several players stood out. Newcomers Chris Stewart and Kevin Shattenkirk played like the emerging stars they are.

Power forward David Backes has been a force. Center Patrik Berglund stepped up his play. Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo starred. Goaltender Jaroslav Halak elevated his game at the end of his up-and-down campaign.

Oshie has done some good things on the ice in recent weeks. But his unexcused absence Monday cast a shadow over that performance.

Immaturity cost this team big-time last season. The Blues’ inability to remain focused during homestands killed the team’s playoff hopes and cost coach Andy Murray his job.

Under successor Davis Payne, the Blues have fared better within the St. Louis city limits. The team restored its home-ice advantage.

But issues remained. Berglund missed a practice last season and Oshie was nowhere to be found Monday. These guys aren’t rookies any more.

It must be nice to be young, relatively wealthy and beloved by hockey fans. The perks are tremendous. But with such high standing comes great responsibility.

These young men should reflect on the Erik Johnson Story. The former first overall pick wrecked his knee during off-ice high-jinks and damaged his career.

He took a big step backward this season for the Blues and got traded to a reeling franchise. Many NHL scouts doubt he will ever achieve the greatness forecast for him.

He stands as an example of how careers can go terribly wrong. Maybe E.J. will turn it around, maybe he won’t.

This is something for Oshie to ponder while defining his future in professional hockey.

Will he become an impact offensive player? Oshie shows flashes of greatness, using his speed and creativity to generate scoring opportunities. But he has scored just 42 goals in 177 NHL games.

Will he settle into a third-line role? Oshie throws his body around and plays with a lot of energy, so this would be a decent fallback. But for somebody who appeared to have Jeremy Roenick potential, that is not great, either.

Will he get a long-term contract commitment from the Blues? Or will he be asked to keep proving himself, as Johnson was when he negotiated his current deal?

Oshie is a restricted free agent due a hefty raise. With two weeks left in his third professional season, pulling a practice no-show was not bright.

T.J. cost himself some money. The team didn't fine him for missing practice, but the responsibility issue could factor into contract talks.

But if this expensive incident serves as his wake-up call -– convincing him how much is at stake with his still-promising career -– then it could be money well spent.

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