Not feeling the blues
When your captain is David Backes, you can be sure that players in the locker room are held accountable for their actions, and can put up some respectable numbers as well. He plays with heart night after night and that speaks volumes about the team’s direction. They want to win now. Down the middle they resigned Patrick Berglund who commands height and weight with a scoring touch. He more than doubled his assist tally last year with 17g-8 assists. Signing Derek Roy to a contract is intangible. His role in Vancouver did not help the team come playoff time. One expects that he can still factor in as a #2 center for St. Louis. They have wingers that can create problems for any opposition. TJ Oshie, and Chris Stewart are seasoned NHLers. Stewart is a power forward that can put the puck in the net; Oshie is a more fine-tuned player with soft hands to set up the play. Last year Vladamir Tarasenko was a big boost to the Blues’ future. Still young, he needs some work but if he fully recovers, he will fit very well in the top-6. A future star for the Blues could emerge in Jaden Schwartz, a product of the NCAA; he has the ability to score at the next level, scoring 9 goals in only 50 career appearances with limited ice time. His role will be more important this season on a blue squad hoping to take home the cup.
The only thing that they lack is a true veteran. The oldest regular is Roy at 30 years old. Come deadline they will be shopping for a veteran presence.
Assuming they re-sign Alex Pietrangelo, the St-Louis blueline has a cup contending defense. Pietrangelo is 23 years old and has maintained just over half a point per game pace, (121pts in 224gp). He quarter-back’s the powerplay and logs just over 25 minutes a game. To better observers, Pietrangelo is the real deal. Kevin Shattenkirk is another gem, this one acquired in a trade with the Avs. His offensive upsides nearly equaled Pietrangelo and add the fact that he is also 24 years old; one realizes that this blue-line is set for a very long time. On the older side of the coin they have long time Blue Barret Jackman whose defensive game is his biggest contribution. Helping shoulder the shutdown load is Jordan Leopold. The NHL journeyman will bring more defensive structure throughout the lineup. Meanwhile Jay Bouwmeester comes into a situation where the team is now expected to make the playoffs. His first taste of playoff hockey was cut short by the Kings, but this NHL iron man should give the blues the ability to maneuver players throughout the pairings.
It’s good to have 1 starter, often necessary to hold 2, but to have 3 capable goaltenders is unheard of. The question as to who will be starter usually falls on the shoulders of the healthy goalie. Jaroslav Halak suffered injuries last year that made it necessary to call up Jake Allen to play second fiddle to Brian Elliott. How did this turn out? Everyone elevated their game. It seems that on entry, Halak should get the chance to prove himself, but if not, there is the likelihood that a goaltender controversy becomes the talk of the town.
Without a doubt, the Blues seem to be chasing the Hawks. But if they can shutdown their offense and match up with their lines, the blues could be the central division champions. The Blues will be a team to watch for the next few years.