Blues Season Preview
Going into this season, the Blues have been projected by the Hockey News to reach sixth place in the western conference. This is no surprise to anyone whom knows this Blues team. What is a surprise is the fact that the team added no scoring this summer. Whether it was due to the thin market for snipers outside of the lazy Russian, not so lazy $100 million Russian range, or Blues ownership issues, the St. Louis Blues have quite a few question marks at the forward position. Highly touted forward prospects Aaron Palushaj and Lars Eller are gone via trades for franchise goalie Jaroslav Halak and third liner Matt Dagostini. Keith Tkachuk retired and Paul Kariya temporarily ended his playing days in the NHL for at least a season. This puts a significant weight on the shoulders of Andy McDonald, Brad Boyes, David Backes, David Perron, and especially Patrik Berglund. This group will be expected to produce goals at a rate that they have never been relied upon to do. On paper, this group looks inexperienced and thin. Lucky for them, hockey isn’t played on paper. There were countless criticisms by fans and media (including myself) of former coach Andy Murray’s rugged Canadian coaching style. His style would have worked great with the Anaheim Ducks or a team of veterans. It didn’t work so great with a young team struggling to find itself in the tough western conference and tougher central division. Enter Davis Payne. Davis Payne’s coaching style is more suited for a younger, faster, creative roster, which is the exact kind of team the current Blues have.
On defense, last year’s Blues’ defensive corps was among the league’s lowest in offensive output. Blue chip prospect Ian Cole and NHL #1 prospect Alex Pietrangelo are likely to bolster that blueline this year as well as a more experienced Eric Johnson are expected to boost the Blues’ attack from the back end. When looking at last year’s Los Angeles Kings and Colorado Avalanche, it is easy to see that a young team with a strong transition game and solid goaltending can do a lot more than expected. That’s where the Blues sit right now. Montreal playoff hero Jaroslav Halak will be expected to pick up where he left off while in the Blues’ net. This is not an unrealistic expectation. Halak has won at every level including upsetting the highly favored Russian team and nearly knocking off Finland to take the Bronze medal at the Vancouver Olympics in February.
The Blues’ current ownership situation should be resolved by January 1. Throw in the fact that the Blues have a strong pipeline of young talent awaiting a crack at the NHL, it is not unlikely that the Blues will make a move for a scorer at some point in the season. If they are in the top ten in the western conference by the trade deadline, this is almost certain.
About the Author
Written by Patrick McLellan