As many teams added to their rosters via free agency and trades the first week of July, the Blues stood idle as they continued their ownership quest. Blues nation was going to have to (once again) “wait until next year” while cash strapped Dave Checketts and soon to be ex-Blues owners Towerbrook Capitol were not willing to partake in the frenzy that saw millions of dollars thrown at free agents. After seeing the deals that Christian Erhoff got from Buffalo ($40mil for 10 years) and Tomas Fleischmann got from Florida ($18mil for 4 years), I was rather relieved to see Blues GM Doug Armstrong make a deal by making no deals. Yes, the Blues would hopefully make the sixth to eighth seed in the western conference playoff race if they overachieved and suffered little to no injuries, and then we could all focus on next year’s Blues, who would be for real this time. Sound familiar? Watching Columbus and Chicago add to their rosters while we stood pat did not feel too good either.
Then Armstrong proved us all wrong by bringing in three experienced veteran forwards in Jason Arnott, Jamie Langenbrunner, and Scott Nichol along with veteran defenseman Kent Huskins and goaltender Brian Elliot. At first glance, none of these guys are particularly exciting and were reminiscent of Larry Pleau’s waiver wire acquisitions; Steve Martins anyone? Arnott is the only forward that came close to 20 goals last year (17), Huskins was merely a third pairing shut down d’man on the Sharks blueline, and Elliot was a back up for a piss poor Avalanche team and a rebuilding Senators squad both of which had defensive issues. However, what these signings did was bring much needed depth to all three positions.
Although none of the Blues UFA signings were particularly exciting, their whole is greater than the sum of their parts. The Blues spent the greater part of the 2010-2011 season with their top powerplay unit on the injured reserve list. Top shutdown defenseman (Polak, not Jackman) had his wrist sliced by Crosby’s skate in a collision behind the Blues’ net and also missed significant time. The most intriguing of the signings has to be the pair of Arnott and Langenbrunner whom have both played with each other on and off for years and have the most winning experience. At $2.5mil each, there is little risk and a lot of reward to be had there.
With Perron on the shelf indefinitely and question marks surrounding Berglund’s growth and Oshie’s maturity, having Arnott and Langenbrunner on the third (possibly fourth) line and able to step into a top six role is important. Throw in Nichol’s facoff prowess and penalty killing abilities; the Blues’ group of forwards suddenly looks less thin. Add Kent Huskins to a group of defensemen that boasts a 22 year old as their number one man and a goaltending tandem (Bishop and Elliot) instead of handing the reigns to Bishop uncontested, the Blues are more likely to finish in the western conferences top eight than they are less likely and having to overachieve to make it there.
About the Author
Written by Patrick McLellan