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2010-11 NHL Previews: St. Louis Blues

| by Sports Nickel

2009-10 RECORD:
40-32-10/90 pts
4th in Central Division
9th in Western Conf.
—————-
GM: Doug Armstrong
COACH: Davis Payne
—————-
2010-11 PAYROLL:
$42,773,000 ($19.8M below cap)

It’s funny… for a quarter of a century, the Blues were the model of consistency in the NHL. The rosters changed from year to year, the coaches behind the bench would switch spots and blazers, and St. Louis would be right there in the postseason every time. Sometimes they’d make a run, sometimes they’d bomb out right away, but there they were. The one dilemma? There was never a Stanley Cup run in that entire 25-year span. After this proud franchise had become the first expansion team to play for the Cup for three consecutive years from 1968 to 1970, they’d take a playoff berth this year.

Last year the team reached the 90-point plateau but fell five points short of the playoffs. It was a small blow for the team — especially after reaching the postseason in 2009 for the first time since the lockout. They retooled in the offseason, as free agent departures and retirements will have this year’s edition of the Blues looking a lot different than last year’s roster. Led by their new high-profile netminder Jaroslav Halak, acquired in an offseason trade with Montreal and signed to a four-year deal, St. Louis will be hoping to remain competitive in a tough Central Division. And perhaps, just maybe, they will scratch together a few more wins (especially at home, where they were just 18-18-5 versus 22-14-5 on the road) and get themselves back into the playoffs…

# POS Name Height Weight Age
42 F David Backes 6′ 3″ 225 26
21 F Patrik Berglund 6′ 4″ 215 22
22 F Brad Boyes 6′ 0″ 200 28
26 F BJ Crombeen 6′ 2″ 210 25
36 F Matt D’Agostini 6′ 0″ 198 23
77 F TJ Hensick 5′ 10″ 185 24
55 F Cam Janssen 6′ 0″ 215 26
18 F Jay McClement 6′ 1″ 200 27
10 F Andy McDonald 5′ 11″ 190 33
74 F TJ Oshie 5′ 11″ 194 23
57 F David Perron 6′ 0″ 200 22
17 F Vladimir Sobotka 5′ 10″ 183 23
20 F Alexander Steen 6′ 1″ 206 26
15 F Brad Winchester 6′ 5″ 231 29
4 D Eric Brewer 6′ 3″ 222 31
28 D Carlo Colaiacovo 6′ 1″ 200 27
23 D Ian Cole 6′ 1″ 211 21
5 D Barret Jackman 6′ 0″ 210 29
6 D Erik Johnson 6′ 4″ 236 22
27 D Alex Pietrangelo 6′ 3″ 206 20
46 D Roman Polak 6′ 1″ 225 24
33 D Tyson Strachan 6′ 3″ 205 25
29 G Ty Conklin 6′ 1″ 190 34
41 G Jaroslav Halak 5′ 11″ 179 25

MOST IMPORTANT COG IN 2010: Eric Brewer (D) — After the past two seasons have been plagued by injuries and just 87 appearances over that span, Brewer hopes to be healthy this season once again and back to the form that led St. Louis to nab him for their blueline back in 2005. The captain of the squad and the most veteran defenseman on the roster, Brewer must remain healthy for the Blues to remain in contention for a playoff berth. And with the retirement of Darryl Sydor, it is doubly important that Brewer play in most if not all 82 games this year. If he ends up missing twenty, thirty or more games with his usual assortment of back, knee and shoulder problems this team could find itself without enough NHL-ready players on the back end to stay afloat in a tough Central Division.

KEY ACQUISITION: Jaroslav Halak (G – trade from Montreal) – There was one place where GM Doug Armstrong felt this team could really make one improvement and elevate its overall results. After Chris Mason had played his way back out of the savior role in St. Louis, the net needed tending and Armstrong made a splash. Trading with Montreal for their playoff hero (and Slovakia’s Olympics hero) Halak, the Blues now have a guy hungry to prove that he’s no flash in the pan. With just 101 regular-season and 21 postseason NHL games under his belt, there’s no guarantee of that. But if the Blues want to improve their record — at home and on the road — they’ll need Halak to steal a game or two, especially with the new young faces on the blueline playing prominent roles.

KEY DEPARTURE: Keith Tkachuk (retirement) — Ignoring his 2007 trade deadline stint with Atlanta for that franchise’s only-ever playoff run, Tkachuk has been a staple of Blues hockey for a decade after coming to St. Louis from Phoenix in 2001. The power forward was part of the team’s fearsome lineup at the beginning of the decade and has helped ease in the transition to the new generation of Blues. But now his time has come to hang up the skates, tuck away the stick and the pads and get on to the next phase of his life. The 38-year-old decided last year’s 15 games missed were evidence that his body wasn’t ready for the grind once more. By the end of his career he was still good for around 50 points in a full 82 games, nothing to scoff at. And having put up over a thousand points in his career, Tkachuk retires knowing he was one of the best Americans of his generation on the ice. His gain of newfound freedom is St. Louis’ loss on offense.

KEY YOUNGSTER: T.J. Oshie (C/23 years old) — The first-line center for the Blues may have just two years of NHL experience and 133 games under his belt, but he’s about to see his role increase prominently in this offense. Oshie has seen his points totals improve from 39 in his rookie year to 47 last year… expect a much higher leap this year as he finds more confidence centering Andy McDonald and David Backes. That trio is going to be the determinant as to just how well this season goes for St. Louis. If the Blues can get more scoring from its top three forwards — say the 80-point range or so from each of the guys, nothing otherworldly even — then they are definitely going to be grasping at a playoff berth come April. It all centers around the pivot on that top line, though, and Oshie is going to have to play beyond his years for his wings to get the space necessary to boost points totals across the line.

OUTLOOK: The Blues are still a little green to be contending for the Central Division crown, but there is hope on the Mississippi still as the team has a legitimate shot at making the playoffs a second time in the past three years. Halak should provide them the edge in a few close games that went against them last year, and he will definitely help improve on that abysmal home record that was put up last year in St. Louis. The team is in transition, with Tkachuk and Sydor both on to other things in their lives and a youth movement hoping to blossom in its wake.

Chicago and Detroit are still the class of this division, but if everything continues to go as Armstrong hopes we might just see the Blues pushing both these teams for the top-three playoff seed as division champ in the next few years. It all starts with this year, though, and the playoffs are in reach after coming oh-so-close last season. That is the goal this year for Davis Payne’s roster, and they should be able to meet their benchmark for a successful season in 2011…

FINAL PREDICTION:

  • 43 wins
  • 97 points
  • 3rd in Central/7th in Western Conference

2010-11 NHL Previews: St. Louis Blues is a post originally from: SportsNickel.com - In Sports We Trust

 

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