After years of playoff berths (and subsequent disappointments) the St. Louis Blues are in the process of trying to rebuild a franchise that was once known for its consistent success. John Davidson and crew have something brewing, but the Blues are probably another year away from trying to make their leap back to late-season relevance.
ST. LOUIS BLUES
2007-08: 33-36-13, 79 points (fifth in Central)
WHAT WENT RIGHT: The first half of the season, when the Blues were right in the thick of playoff contention in the Western Conference. Brad Boyes proved to be a steal from the previous trade deadline with his first 40-goal season. Manny Legace shouldered the load in net and was pretty good until near the end of the season. But the biggest developments for the Blues were almost certainly the progress of Erik Johnson and David Perron. Johnson is expected to be a superstar and proved to be on his way to at least something approaching that in his rookie season, while Perron was a training camp surprise and proved to be NHL ready as an 18-year-old despite being a late first-round pick.
WHAT WENT WRONG: The second half of the season, when the Blues collapsed to the depths of the conference. Paul Kariya became the $6 million ghost, and the defense wasn’t quite as good as should be considering the amount of money being spent on it. The power play was wretched at barely better than 14 percent. Legace’s second-half swoon might have just been a part of a team-wide failure, but it didn’t help dissuade his critics who say he can’t be a top-15 netminder, and it led to the acquisition of a $3 million backup.
ARRIVALS: G Chris Mason, LW Brad Winchester, D Mike Weaver DEPARTURES: C Ryan Johnson, RW Jamal Mayers, G Chris Beckford-Tseu
Can the old guys still hack it?
Keith Tkachuk had a very nice season with 27 goals, but he will be 37 in March. Kariya did not have a very nice season and will be 34 in October. On this team they are clearly the greybeards, but the Blues will need a repeat from Tkachuk and a bounce-back from Kariya to harbor any hopes of competing.
Who is serving the non-alcoholic beverages?
If Pietrangelo, the No. 4 overall pick in June, can make the roster in camp, the Blues could start the season with four guys under the age of 21 (and a fifth in Oshie who be just at this country’s legal drinking age. Who remembers the Dr. Pepper is far less important than getting guys like Berglund and Oshie established at the NHL level to keep Blues fans on board with the rebuilding plan.
PROGNOSIS: Forgive the fans in the Gateway City if they get a little restless by season’s end. After 25 straight years of making the postseason, this should be the fifth spring that the Cardinals have no competition for the sports fan’s dollars in late April and May. Also, Blues fans are likely to look around the conference and see similarly-rebuilding franchises like Chicago, Phoenix and maybe even Columbus making gains in the standings. But fear not, Blues fans, success might not far off on the horizon. There are more kids on the way, and one more high draft pick won’t necessarily be a bad thing in the long run. This is likely to be one more year that’s more about words like “progress” and “learning” than words like “wins” and “losses” but that could change a year from now.
|Paul Kariya||Andy McDonald||Brad Boyes|
|Keith Tkachuk||Patrick Berglund||David Backes|
|David Perron||T.J. Oshie||Lee Stempniak|
|Brad Winchester/D.J. King||Jay McClement||Dan Hinote|
|Eric Brewer||Erik Johnson|
|Barret Jackman||Jay McKee|
|Steve Wagner||Mike Weaver|
|Alex Pietrangelo||Jeff Woywitka|
*NOTE: This is not necessarily an attempt to guess line combinations