The St. Louis Blues are a young team, filled with potential. I feel like I have heard that before. Maybe because that is the story of the St. Louis Blues. We seem to go through major transitions each decade, getting a bunch of great young players then the team gets sold, and finally we trade youth for veterans and their blue collar work ethic.
The real question her is, is this the Blues team that breaks the mold? The new ownership in St. Louis, led by Tom Stillman, brings local ownership back to the Blues, but more so brings hockey fans to the ownership. I don’t see the new owners gutting the team, I don’t see them jeopardizing the future of the team by getting rid of the young players that are developing into stars.
So will Tom Stillman be the owner that breaks the mold? Will he be the owner that gives the league’s best GM the ability to retain the current potential and add to it? I hope so.
So looking at the current roster, what does the future of the St. Louis Blues look like? With Stewart signing a one year, “prove it”, deal, I think that we expect to see a rebound from him. So on the right side I think we can expect to see Oshie and Tarasenko in the top 6 with Stewart and Reaves in the bottom six. That leaves Backes most likely making the move to Center to play with Oshie and Perron on his left. Coach Hitchcock has already stated that he sees Tarasenko playing with Steen on the left and McDonald in the middle, so you have to expect that those guys will fill the second line. Berglund has shown to have some talent when playing with Stewart, so you would think the Blues would slot the young let winger Jaden Schwartz with them on the third line. The question here is whether Hitchcock thinks that Lagenbrunner is better suited with that pair. Frankly, I think that putting Schwarz with Stewart could help to propel Stewie to where he should be in the NHL. Those two skilled scorers with a great set up man in Berglund could lead to one of the best producing third lines in the league.
The question comes more so on the fourth line. I see Langenbrunner on the left, Nichol at Center, and Reaves on the right. This gives the line more than enough brute strength with Nichol and Reaves and enough finesse in Langenbrunner. One of the other potential match-ups would include Chris Porter, but let’s not open that can of worms. I can’t stand Porter and I don’t see the use in having him on the roster.
On defense, a big question will be who is Pietrangelo’s partner. Blues fans had hoped the offseason would bring someone new into the organization to fill this hole, but we have yet to find anyone. Personally, I would like it if the Blues could try to find a younger prospect in the AHL with a lot of potential for a year or so down the line. We need to at least give Ian Cole a shot at proving what he can do in the big league. Cole has shown flashes of brilliance and I am hoping that will develop into a great addition to our blue line.
With Barrett Jackman resigned, Blues fans can expect consistency out of him. A great 2011-12 made Jackman more like the player that won the Calder so many years ago. Playing with Shattenkirk is a great plan for him, but with a lacking for the top pairing, you have to wonder if they will be split up to take on the top 2 role.
The other interesting question for me is where Woywitka will fit in. He could be great in Peoria and could be OK with the big club. He and Cole will have to fight to play with Russell on the third pairing. Right not Russell is playing fairly well in Europe and Blues fans have to hope he will continue to develop as Nikitin played wonderfully in Columbus once traded. I hope the Blues see the better end of this deal moving forward, but who knows.
Coming back from one of the best years that anyone could have imagined, the tandem of Halak and Elliott hope to repeat the success that they saw last season. Elliott was by far a big surprise to Blues fans and fans around the NHL alike, so it will be interesting to see if he can continue to build on that growth. In the second round of the playoffs we saw Elliott struggle every night and it became clear that he is most likely not ready to be a steady started. Splitting the time between the two seems quite beneficial as they both seem to need something to motivate them. Let’s hope they can repeat and that Halak can stay healthy all year.
So while the Blues have a ton of talent at the moment, are they a team that can contend for a Stanley Cup? I don’t think that they are ready to win a cup just yet. I see the next season as a defining year that needs to see the team reach the conference finals. If they can manage to do that, they should have the experience and knowledge of what it will take to win a cup. Within the next 5 years the Blues should be able to hoist the trophy they have fought to win since joining the league in 1967, but that will only happen if ownership continues on their current path and does not trade potential for aging talent.
So what do you think? What will the Blues lines look like? Who, if anyone, should or will be moved? How far do you see the Blues being from a cup.
Well, that is all for now Blues fans, and, as always, LET’S GO BLUES!