According to the Hockey News, the Blues are projected to finish 6th overall in the western conference for the 2010-2011 season. For a team with a dismal offense in 09-10 that didn’t add any FA scorers, many outsiders may find this projection questionable. However, anyone whom has followed the Blues in recent years knows that this team is due for a breakout. After a disappointing 09-10 season, the Blues finally have positioned themselves to utilize the depth in their system. Up until two months ago, Hockey’s Future ranked the Blues depth as #1 in the NHL. They’ve since slid to number two after the departure’s of Eller and Palushaj. Highly touted Danish forward Lars Eller was swapped (along with Ian Schultz) for Habs playoff hero Jaroslav Halak. Palushaj was traded (also to Montreal) for 3rd liner Matt D’Agostini. World Junior best defenseman (and the NHL’s number one prospect) Alex Pietrangelo is poised to finally make the roster. Notre Dame defenseman Ian Cole as well as centers Brett Sonne and Phil McRae will also be showing up in training camp vying for a spot with the top club.
Another x-factor with the Blues this season is coach Davis Payne. It was no secret that Andy Murray was a defensive specialist whom was hesitant to give ice time to young players. The majority of the teams’ focus under Murray was getting proper defensive match ups and avoiding mistakes. Not a good recipe for a young team. The offense was in the bottom five of the league for the majority of the season as well as the teams’ record and Murray was out of a job on new years day. Enter Davis Payne; a young coach experienced in Junior and Minor League hockey. Payne’s system focused on a fast paced puck possession style reminiscent of the 05-06 Sabres. This was exactly what the team needed. With an entire training camp under Payne, higher expectations and roles for Backes, Oshie, Berglund, and Perron, and young star goalie Halak between the pipes, the Blues rightfully earned the Hockey News’ 6th place finish in the west.
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Written by Patrick McLellan