|Paul Stastny – C||Ryan Miller – G|
|Carl Gunnarson – D||Vladimir Sobotka – C|
|Nate Prosser – D||Derek Roy – C|
|Peter Mueller – C||Roman Polak – D|
|Chris Butler – D||Brenden Morrow – LW|
|John McCarthy – LW||Adam Cracknell – RW|
For the third season under head coach Ken Hitchcock the St. Louis Blues finished in the top-2 in the Central Division and qualified for the postseason.
The Blues were one of the NHL’s deepest team and it helped them stay consistent throughout the season, en route to their first 50-win season since 1999-00. St. Louis acquired Ryan Miller before last season’s trade deadline, but the Miller experiment did not work. He was expected to come in and close the door and lead the Blues to the Finals. Instead, he posted a 2.70 GAA and .897 SV% in six playoff games as the Blues were bounced in the first round by the Chicago Blackhawks.
St. Louis let Miller walk in free agency (signed with Vancouver) and enter the season with a goaltending duo of Brian Elliott and Jake Allen. In a back-up role, Elliott has been spectacular in three seasons with St. Louis. He has quietly posted a 55-24-7 record with a 1.86 GAA, .927 SV% and 16 shutouts. The problem for Elliott from a fantasy perspective is that he only started 43.6 per cent of games over that span. Entering 2014-15, he will be in a similar situation as he battles for playing time with the 24-year-old Allen. He spent four seasons in the AHL where he went 84-74-10 with a 2.53 GAA and .917 SV%. Allen had 15 strong appearances last season and is ready to be a full-time NHLer this season. It should start out as Elliott’s job, but Allen is the goaltender of the future and the better fantasy investment for keeper leaguers.
Up front, the Blues look basically the same, except for two fresh faces down the middle. They landed one of the big free-agent fish when they signed Paul Stastny to a four-year, $28 million dollar deal on July 1st. He spent the first eight years of his career in Colorado, where he scored at least 20 goals in six of those seasons. He also has two seasons of at least 50 assists, which shows his playmaking and goal-scoring abilities. In St. Louis he will play second banana to David Backes, but will have a ton of talent on his wings, regardless of who he ends up with. The Blues are loaded and that should lead to another 20-plus goal, 30-plus assist season for the 28-year-old pivot. The Blues lost Vladimir Sobotka to the KHL, but then pulled Jori Lehtera over from Russia. He spent the last four years in the KHL where he was teammates with Vladimir Tarasenko for one season. The 26-year-old will definitely chip-in on what is shaping up to be a dangerous third line. Jaden Schwartz could be the third member of that line. In his second full NHL season, Schwartz, 22, recorded 25 goals and 31 assists (56 points) in 80 games. The breakout campaign spells good news for Schwartz and the Blues, but as of right now, the restricted free agent remains unsigned and the two sides are said to be “significantly apart” on a deal. Should they get him signed before the start of the season, Schwartz has the look of a 30-30 guy in 2014-15.
You can’t forget about Blues’ veterans like Backes, Alexander Steen and T.J Oshie. Backes is a consistent two-way centre that fits the Blues system perfectly. He is always close to 50 points, but has shown he can pull off a 30-30 season. Backes also contributes with a healthy amount of penalty minutes and strong plus/minus. After a stunning breakout season in 2013-14, expect Steen to return to his normal self. Prior to last year he had just 23 goals in the previous two seasons combined. A 20-20 year is much more likely than a repeat 30-goal year. After battling injury in 2012-13, Oshie stayed healthy and had his best season to date in 2013-14. He cracked the 20-goal mark (21) for the first time as well as a career best 39 assists. He has battled injuries in the past, but when he is healthy, he is a consistent winger.
That sounds like a forward group that is going to do a lot of damage this season, but the problem for the rest of the NHL is that their blueline is just as stout. Alex Pietrangelo has already established himself as one of the league’s elite defensemen. He has only missed five games in his four-year career and already has two 50-plus point seasons under his belt. He’ll be one of the first blueliners off the board for good reason. Kevin Shattenkirk bounced back from a so-so lockout year with career-highs in goals (10), assists (35), points (45), game-winners (5) and power-play points (26). Shattenkirk is a top-15 fantasy D-man and it looks like he still has room to grow. Lastly they have Jay Bouwmeester, who clearly likes playing in St. Louis a lot more than in Calgary. In his first full-year with the Blues, the 30-year-old had 37 points (4G / 33A), just nine points off of his career-high he set eight years prior. Entering the 2014-15 season, single digit goals and mid-30’s point production is likely the best you can expect out of Bouwmeester. He makes for a nice mid-to-late round pick who will stabilize the back-end of your D-corp.
Look to the Draft (Ranking Blues’ Fantasy Players)
- David Backes – C
- Alex Pietrangelo – D
- Kevin Shattenkirk – D
- Jaden Schwartz – LW
- Paul Stastny – C
- T.J Oshie – RW
- Vladimir Tarasenko – RW
- Jay Bouwmeester – D
- Jori Lehtera – C
- Dmitrij Jaskin – LW
Click HERE for the Blues’ potential line combinations heading into the 2014-15 season.
Season prediction: The Blues will finish second in the Central Division, not far behind the Blackhawks.
Other Season Previews: Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Calgary Flames,Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars,Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, Montreal Canadiens, Nashville Predators, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators,Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks