Starting Fresh

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Last season was anything but spectacular for the St. Louis Blues. Going in with such a young team, I don’t believe there was much expectation out there. Injuries certainly didn’t help the team. The biggest blow obviously came when T.J. Oshie, when he suffered a broken ankle in November. Other notable injuries came from Roman Polak, Carlo Colaiavoco, Barret Jackman,  and David Perron. The worst thing about it was that all five of the mentioned players suffered their injuries within a 7-game span. Now, tell me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure that doesn’t boost any momentum for an already unsure team. It was pretty downhill from that point on. In the end, the Blues would finish 4th in the division and 11th in the conference with a 38-33-11 record(87 points). They were never very close to nabbing a spot in the playoffs, trailing 8th place Chicago Blackhawks by 10 points. A new season now means a new chance, a new beginning, and a new reason to play harder. Can this team get back in the playoffs after an incredibly long drought? Let’s take a look at Blues off-season acquistions along with the eight teams that did make the playoffs last season and see if this team finally has what it takes to get back in the hunt.

The Vancouver Canucks. You can’t say a bad thing about them, well except the fact that they dropped the ball against Boston in the Stanley Cup Finals. What an incredible season for this group. The Sedins, Luongo, Bieska, etc. The list goes on in on. Without a doubt, this was the best team in the NHL and I see them possibly being in the same position next season. Here are their off-season signings.

  • Mike Duco
  • Alexander Sulzer
  • Matt Climie
  • Steven Pinizzotto
  • Chris Higgins
  • Nolan Baumgartner
  • Mark Mancari
  • Marco Sturm
  • Sami Salo
  • Maxim Lapierre
  • Andrew Alberts
  • Kevin Bieska

Finishing 2nd in the West were the San Jose Sharks. I have mixed feelings with this bunch.  While I still see them as a playoff contender, the level they can contend at has lowered. When you lose both Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi, I personally don’t think you can make that up by obtaining Martin Halat and Brent Burns. Time will tell I suppose. Here are the Sharks’ acquisitions.

  • Andrew Murray
  • Benn Ferriero
  • Ben Guite
  • Thomas Greiss
  • Matt Pelech
  • Michal Handzus
  • Jim Vandermeer
  • Martin Havlat
  • Brent Burns

Third in the conference was none other than the Detroit Red Wings. I’m expecting big things from them this upcoming year(when am I not?).  This team has a remarkable history, and at this point, I don’t see why they won’t live up to those exact expectations. They haven’t had a lot of activity this off-season, but here’s what they’ve gathered.

  • Jordan Pearce
  • Ty Conklin
  • Joey MacDonald
  • Chris Conner
  • Logan Pyett
  • Garnet Exelby
  • Ian White
  • Drew Miller
  • Patrick Eaves
  • Jonathon Ericcson

How on earth did this team find themselves in the 4th spot in the playoff standings? I honestly don’t get it, but the Anaheim Ducks found a way. They ended the regular season on an incredible high-note. The addition of Ray Emery proved to be one of intelligence. Unfortunately, they did not last long, being ousted by the Predators in the first round. In my eyes, they still have a bit to do to reach the playoffs next season, but here’s they work they’ve done so far.

  • Andrew Cogliano
  • Mathieu Carle
  • Matt Smaby
  • Jeff Deslauriers
  • Jean-Francois Jacques
  • Bryan Rodney
  • Andrew Gordon
  • Kurtis Foster
  • Sami Vatanen
  • Emerson Etem
  • Liro Tarkki
  • Patrick Maroon
  • Nick Bonino
  • Dan Sexton
  • Brain McGrattan
  • Nate Guenin
  • Sean Zimmerman

Next up are the Nashville Predators. As much as I hate to admit, this is probably my 2nd favorite NHL  team(gotta support that southern hockey).  It was disappointing to watch them go down to the Canucks, but not surprising either. Unfortunately, I just don’t see this group reaching the same level they were at last season. With departures of Sullivan, Ward, etc, I’m not sure they’ve made the right moves to get them back in playoff form.

  • Brodie Dupont
  • Sergei Kostitsyn
  • Matt Halischuk
  • Nick Spaling
  • Carl O’Reilly
  • Chris Mueller
  • Kyle Wilson
  • Zack Stortini
  • Niclas Bergfors
  • Brett Lebda
  • Robert Slaney

Now we have NHL’s most beloved team, the Phoenix Coyotes. I won’t go into why I claim them NHL’s beloved team, but being a former Thrashers’ fan, I think you can figure it out.  This club basically gave Ilya Bryzgalov away and I’m not convinced that  Jason Labarbara and Mike Smith can pick up the slack. Here are the moves they’ve made thus far.

  • Lauri Korpikoski
  • Brett MacLean
  • Kyle Chipchura
  • Marc-Antoine Pouliot
  • Nathan Oystrick
  • Dean Arsene
  • Matt Watkins
  • Keith Yandle
  • Curtis McElhinney
  • Tyler Eckford
  • Alexandre Bolduc
  • Raffi Torres
  • Mike Smith
  • Radim Vrbata
  • Boyd Gordon
  • Marc-Antoine Pouliot

Finishing 7th in the West were the L.A. Kings. Here’s another one of the teams that I feel are on the verge of a true Cup run. They didn’t last long in last year’s playoffs, being eliminated by the Sharks in round 1. I think the tables will turn next year if Quick can be a top goaltender and the recent addition of Gagne lives up to expectations.

  • Marc-Andre Cliche
  • Rich Clune
  • Andrew Campbell
  • Patrick Mullen
  • Jeff Zaktoff
  • Trevor Lewis
  • Brad Richardson
  • Alec Martinez
  • Simon Gagne
  • Colin Fraser
  • Mike Richards
  • Rob Bordson

Getting the 8th and final playoff spot were the former-Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks. This club certainly didn’t perform near as well as their championship year. They barely even made it to the postseason where they were removed in round 1 by Vancouver.  Something slipped and got away from them in the regular season and they were just never able to pick it back up. Don’t expect the same outcome from the Hawks this upcoming season. They’re on a mission. Here are the players they’ve signed/resigned.

  • David Meckler
  • Michael Frolik
  • Sami Lepisto
  • Rob Klinkhammer
  • Alec Richards
  • Viktor Stalberg
  • Andrew Brunette
  • Jamal Mayers
  • Sean O’Donnell
  • Daniel Carcillo
  • Rostislav Olesz
  • Steve Montador

Now, let’s get back to our St. Louis Blues. After recapping these other 8 teams, I’d have to say our off-season signings are a bit impressive. Many will say that all we’ve received are “washed up”, “has-been” players. They could be right. Have they proven that point? Absolutely not. These players are still in the NHL aren’t they? That means they must have something to give. By no means have some of these guys given what they have in the past, but you never know when that could change. I personally think they are what this team needs. They just need to get decent, productive lines established and they need to stay healthy. Here are signings by St. Louis over the break.

Nothing can be proven until that first game is played in October, but as I’ve said, I think this may be a club with the ability to reach the playoffs once again.  Stay healthy, play hard, keep a good pace going and you’ll find yourself in the postseason. One more thing…GO BLUES!

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Tags: Anaheim Ducks Chicago Blackhawks Detroit Red Wings Los Angeles Kings Nashville Predators Phoenix Coyotes San Jose Sharks Vancouver Canucks

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