Thursday, September 15, 2011

NHL 30 in 30: St. Louis Blues

Injuries and failed expectations derailed the possibility of the Blues making the postseason a year ago, and even two years ago, off of the playoff visit of 2008-09. They made some big moves in order to change the team during the season, and even in the offseason, so now, do the Blues have enough to make it back to the postseason?

Strengths: The youth on this team continues to be the big strength. Part of the blockbuster Erik Johnson trade a year ago, was bringing in winger Chris Stewart, who scored 23 points in 26 games, and D Kevin Shattenkirk, who had a +7 rating a season ago. This is only one example of the youth on this team. They lost David Perron, T.J Oshie, and Andy McDonald to injuries for parts of last season, but they will all be back and healthy this year, as well as integral parts of the young team. David Backes is the captain, and the major offensive cog in the team, as well as younger offensive players like Patrik Berglund and Chris Porter. They added two big veteran influences this offseason in Jamie Langenbrunner and Jason Arnott to help with the veteran influences on this very young team. And of course, Jaroslav Halak is a very good young goaltender who has some lofty expectations to live up to, but he has the potential to do so easily.

Weaknesses: There is a lot of youth on this team, so the typical problems with young teams could challenge Davis Payne. Also, the depth on this team could be a question mark, as well as the lack of amazing, proven big scorers. This team needs one, especially playing what is arguably the toughest division in hockey, the Central. They will also need strong veteran guidance from the newcomers, and also some breakout performances from the good young talents.

Any Help Coming? The Blues have possibly one of the top 5 farm systems in all of the NHL, and it's lead by one of the most promising prospects in hockey: Vladimir Tasarenko. The RW can score with ease, due to his quick hands and sudden release. He will play in the KHL again this season, and possibly will make the jump next season. Also around are C Jaden Schwartz, who is a very good passer, G Jake Allen, who is fast between the pipes, and D Ian Cole, who is very strong.

Outlook: The Blues will need a combination of breakout performances by a good chunk of their young talent, and some luck in the Central, to challenge for the postseason. They have a good young team that is on their way up, however there is some doubt as to whether the time is right for this team to take the next step after missing the postseason 5 out of the last 6 season.

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