The Blues expected more from their young core of Brad Boyes, TJ Oshie, David Perron, Patrik Berglund and David Backes but instead found themselves sadly disappointed. Oshie, Backes and Perron led all forwards outside of Andy McDonald with only Oshie actually increasing his point totals from the year before.
The main scorers represented the team’s top line essentially which showed regression considering Boyes previously scored 77 goals over the past two seasons. Backes, Oshie and McDonald ideally would make up the second offensive unit on any NHL team but as a first line proved too raw or in McDonald’s case too old.
Alexander Steen provided the lone surprise to the Blues’ top six. The former Toronto Maple Leaf and top draft choice finally showed his potential by potting 24 goals, good for second on the team. Perhaps the most impressive thing about his production was he mainly scored from the bottom two lines and managed to lead the team despite missing 14 games. His skill level may continue to give him success at the NHL level, despite his team or line mates.
The future looks bright with Eric Johnson at the helm and Alex Pietrangelo coming up through the system. Hockey’s future rated Pietrangelo as their top prospect this past season meaning he likely will carve out a solid NHL career. He failed to stick with the big club as Darryl Sydor managed to out work the kid during the opening games and returned to juniors. After another successful season including being names the top defenseman in the WJHC, keep the young blue liner on your draft sleeper list.
Currently, Johnson and Toronto holdover Carlo Colaiacovo led the Blues on the offensive side but the pairing of Roman Polak and Barret Jackman led the actual core. The two despite holding limited offensive upside kept the team in the game by limiting the offensive production of the rest of the division.
Mike Weaver and some combination of Sydor or Tyler Strachan rounded out the d-lines leading to the consensus opinion that Pietrangelo will get every opportunity to grab a spot this upcoming season. If he can see time with Johnson on the powerplay, he should post rookie production similar to that of Michael Del Zotto or Erik Karlsson this past season.
Chris Mason held the team together for numerous stretches despite the team failing to make the playoffs. Similarly to the year before he hit his stride down the stretch posting six wins in his last 7 starts. Although Ty Conklin seemed to be competition at the beginning of the season, the 34-year-old Mason kept the lauded backup at bay with his crafty style.
The Blues and Mason hit a snag during negotiations, forcing new GM Doug Armstrong to trade for RFA Jaroslav Halak. Even though netminding was clearly not a weakness in the system, Halak will stabilize the position for the foreseeable future. This past season, the Slovakian netminder displayed an aggressive style of play which established him at the top of his position. With his success in both the post-season and Olympics it would be hard to imagine his regression coming any time soon.
On the Bench:
Davis Payne came in mid way through the season for head coach Andy Murray. Despite Murray receiving much of the credit for establishing this team as a playoff contender, he shortly lost his job.
How rare is it for a Jack Adams candidate lost their job less than a year after their nomination?
Pretty rare. The Blues felt they could add new life to their young guns and Payne seemed to do the trick. As the second youngest coach in the NHL he led the team to a 23-14-5 record and made them one of the hottest teams down the stretch.
The Bottom Line:
After an off season, the Blues could be coming back on track. They traded from a strength to acquire an elite goalie and then replaced that very same strength through the draft. The blue line is young but solid and the team seems likely to try and run their young guns out there once again.
Expect more of the same next season as the team will fight for a playoff spot.