The Blues were one of the hottest teams in the league to start the 2017-18 season, opening the year with a 17-6-1 record. Unfortunately, they failed to carry that momentum throughout the season, struggling down the stretch. They finished at 44-32-6 and fell a single point shy of making the playoffs, ending a streak of six-straight playoff appearances.
Given how close the Blues were to making the playoffs, the trade of impending unrestricted free-agent Paul Stastny at the deadline may very well have cost them their season. Though it was too late for the 2017-18 Blues, general manager Doug Armstrong filled the void of Stastny and then some with the addition of Ryan O’Reilly this off-season. With their remaining core intact, expect the Blues to make it back to the post-season in 2018-19.
➕ Ryan O’Reilly (Trade)
➕ Tyler Bozak (Free Agency)
➕ David Perron (Free Agency)
➕ Chad Johnson (Free Agency)
➕ Patrick Maroon (Free Agency)
➕ Jordan Nolan (Free Agency)
The aforementioned O’Reilly isn’t the only new addition to the Blues’ top-six this season. Patrick Maroon is projected to start on the Blues’ top line after signing a bargain deal of 1-year, $1.75 million. The 30-year-old St. Louis native is coming off his second-straight 17-goal season. He scored 27 goals in 2016-17 while skating alongside Connor McDavid, so don’t be surprised if something similar happens this season with Vladimir Tarasenko. Tarasenko posted a career-high 306 shots in 2017-18 but shot a career-worst 10.8%. Some fortunate regression and the addition of O’Reilly should be enough to get Tarasenko back to 40 goals this season.
David Perron also made a homecoming of sorts to St. Louis this off-season, signing a four-year, $16 million contract. Perron played parts of six seasons with the Blues from 2008-2013, registering 198 points in 340 games. He is coming off a career year in Vegas in which he scored 16 goals and picked up an astonishing 50 assists. He’s set to start on the second line alongside Brayden Schenn and Jaden Schwartz. Schenn and Schwartz were incredibly effective together at 5v5 last season. Across 841 minutes they posted a 57.96 CF% and averaged 34 scoring chances per 60. They lose Tarasenko on their right wing but pick up a competent replacement in Perron.
The Blues lost some valuable depth in the O’Rielly trade, shipping Patrik Berglund, Tage Thompson, and Vladimir Sobotka to the Sabres. Despite that, the Blues still have a wealth of talent in their bottom-six, most notably Alex Steen, Robby Fabbri, and the recently-signed Tyler Bozak. All three can assume larger roles if necessary, though Fabbri may be sidelined with a groin strain to start the year. Jordan Kyrou, the No. 35 overall pick from the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, could also see some meaningful minutes this season. He’s projected to start on the fourth line but has skated in the top-six at times this preseason. Overall, the Blues have one of the stronger group of forwards in the league.
While it may not be as strong as it was in recent years, the Blues’ blueline is nothing to scoff at. They have a pair of right-handed defensemen anchoring their top-four in Alex Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko. Pietrangelo has been one of the most consistent producers from the back-end since he broke into the NHL, picking up at least 30 assists in every full season he’s played. He is a workhorse for the Blues, averaging at least 25 minutes a game in each of the last six seasons. He’s missed just 18 games over that span despite the heavy workload. Parayko is a reliable shot producer but has shot an abysmal 3.4% in his career. He has 15-goal upside if he could ever start finding the back of the net. His ice time should get another bump this season as he continues to develop into an elite defenseman.
Joel Edmundson and Vince Dunn are a pair of serviceable complements on the left side. Edmundson can handle the more difficult matchups at 5v5 and can chip in offensively as well, scoring 7 goals in 69 games last season. Dunn had 24 points in 75 games last year and posted a 54.7 CF%, but was sheltered in his ice time with a 60.8 offensive zone-start percentage. He should see more challenging minutes this year as he moves up to the second pair.
Jay Bouwmeester and Jordan Schmaltz aren’t without their question marks but should do fine in a third-pairing role. Bouwmeester is turning 35-years old and a hip injury limited him to just 35 games in 2017-18. Schmaltz is a former first-round pick of 2012 NHL Entry draft and has performed well at the AHL level, picking up 84 points in 144 career games. With just 22 NHL games on his resume, it remains to be seen how well his game will translate to the top level.
Jake Allen had a career-worst .906 SV% last season. He was flat-out outplayed by backup Carter Hutton, who led the league with a .931 SV% and 2.09 GAA. With Hutton gone Allen goes back to being the uncontested number-one and should experience somewhat of a bounce back from his dreadful 2017-18 season. His career. 913 SV% is mediocre at best but given how few shots the Blues surrender (29.7/GP in 2017-18), mediocrity is all they need from their goalie. Don’t expect backup Chad Johnson to at all threaten Allen for playing time like Hutton did.
|V. Tarasenko (39)||Ryan O’Reilly (37)||V. Tarasenko (74)||Brayden Schenn (12)|
|Brayden Schenn (27)||Alex Pietrangelo (37)||Brayden Schenn (61)||V. Tarasenko (9)|
|Jaden Schwartz (24)||Jaden Schwartz (36)||Jaden Schwartz (60)||Ryan O’Reilly (8)|
- 19. Vladimir Tarasenko — RW6
- 74. Alex Pietrangelo — D15
- 83. Brayden Schenn — C23
- 97. Jaden Schwartz — LW17
- 106. Jake Allen — G18
- 127. Colton Parayko — D29
- 144. Ryan O’Reilly — C35
- 232. Alex Steen — RW46
- 239. Robby Fabbri — LW38
- 245. David Perron — LW39
- 253. Chad Johnson — G43
- 261. Tyler Bozak — C57
Predicted Central Standings
The Blues have made the necessary alterations to their roster and seem primed to make it back to the post-season in 2018-19. Despite the losses of some key veteran pieces they still carry as much depth as any team in the league. Don’t expect them to challenge Winnipeg and Nashville for the top spot in the Central division, but they are the favourite to lock up that third divisional playoff spot. A dreadful first-round matchup is awaiting them either way, but the Blues are good enough to potentially beat any given team in a best-of-seven.