We’ve made a career out of mocking and hurling insults at the St. Louis Blues. At this point it’s basically batting practice. Luckily for us, we’ll have our bread and butter this year. Again. Because we always will. Nothing is ever going to change in Missouri, as they attempt to roll out essentially the same roster that got domed by the Preds in Round 2 last year, and basically the same one that hasn’t really ever come close to winning anything. Same as it ever was. You can set your watch to it.
St. Louis Blues
’16-’17 Record: 46-29-7 99 points (3rd in Central, out in Round 2 to NSH)
Team Stats 5v5: 50.1 CF% (15th) 50.4 SF% (15th) 51.0 SCF% (10th) 8.3 SH% (7th) .923 SV% (17th)
Special Teams: 21.2 PP% (8th) 84.7 PK% (3rd)
Goalies: The overall numbers don’t show it, but last year was finally the kind of play Blues fans had been waiting for from Jay Gallon for years. He put up a .933 in February and a .953 in March, and backed that up with a .935 in the playoffs as the Blues were pretty much scorched by the Predators and Wild and Gallon got them 11 games, which is at least five games more than they deserved.
Does that mean Jake Allen is ready to do that over a full season? Three months do not a confirmation of that make, but he’s probably not the question mark he once was. He also doesn’t have Ken Hitchcock there to hand him the starting role and then yank it out from under him every couple weeks, which couldn’t have helped anything. Also, there’s no other option here, as Carter Hutton remains the backup and you’re not turning anything over to him.
All the tools for Gallon are there, he just had a habit of letting in a terrible goal. He’s quick, he’s big, and he doesn’t get silly with his angles or leaving his net or overplaying. If the back half of last season was some sort of marker, than that will be enough to make sure the Blues aren’t bad.
Defense: I guess this is a point where I’m supposed to say something like, “Well Jay Bouwmeester being out for months is going to be a real problem.” Except it’s not. J-Bow has been terrible for at least the past two years, and if the Blues can’t weather the storm without him then they weren’t going anywhere anyway. That doesn’t mean this is a stellar unit in any form.
Alex OrangeJello will still man the top pairing, and he still won’t do it as well as Blues observers will have you believe. He doesn’t turn the ice over against top competition, which is what Norris-contenders are supposed to do. He holds the line well enough, which was fine when Kirk ShattenKevin could beat up the lesser lights on opponents after that. ShattenKevin isn’t here anymore. Colton Parayko is supposed to be that guy. You will be told Paryako is that guy. He is not that guy. He’s a 6-6 mattress that gets put in the blender by any forward worth a damn in the corner and down low. His possession numbers were only stand-out when he got to play on a third pairing and were pretty middling last year on just a second pairing, which is where he’ll be this year. The rest of this crew blows, as you know because you’ve seen enough of Carl Gunnarsson, Robert Bortuzzo (he’s got ouzo for two-zo, people), and Joel Edmundson to know this. The whole structure Hitch put in place might be enough to keep this team from getting shelled, chances- and shot-wise, but it’s going to have to.
Forwards: Now here is an injury that will be an issue for them, as Fabbri Robby is out for the year after injuring the knee he already had surgery on. Fobbri Rabby was the only player beyond the top line that contained a player that could find his own shot, so now that bottom nine lacks any dash whatsoever. The top line is obviously always going to be a threat as long as Tarasenko is there, and Mike Yeo will probably have the good sense to not use Paul Stastny purely as a checking center as Hitch did.
But beyond that? Getting rid of Jori Lehtera for Brayden Schenn is an upgrade. Except he’ll be centering Dmitrij Jaskin and Vladdy Sobotka, who are most certainly pluggers. They’re going to need Tage Thompson to be the realness, because there is really nothing on lines 2-4 other than Schenn. Whatever it is, it’s the same collection of assembly line punters its been for years. They’ll hit a lot, they’ll skate hard, and they’ll rugby scrum in some goals. But not nearly enough, especially if teams can throw everything at the top line and dare the Blues to beat them with their bottom forwards.
Outlook: I generally Mike Yeo, but it’s hard to see what he’s supposed to do here. The switch mid-year to him was in theory to get away from the ultra-conservative system of Hitch and free up their skill a little more. It didn’t quite work, and there isn’t really a lot of skill here. And Yeo doesn’t carry the gravitas that Hitch does, if say Tarasenko or Stastny wants to get bitchy. The defense isn’t as good as it’s been, and the Fabbri injury is huge. And no, Patrik Berglund isn’t going to fix that. Zach Sanford can’t fill it, because he’s hurt too. Alex Steen is already hurt. And old.
While everyone is bitching about the Hawks not being able to compete in this division, the Blues look shorter than that. They don’t even have the firepower of the Preds, and nor the blue line. You could argue the Wild have more at defense. There’s still 90+ points here, especially if Jay Gallon from February on is the one they’re getting. But is 92 points enough? 93? You tend to doubt it. The Blues are in deep here.
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