The leaves are beginning to turn a series of reds and yellows. The air smells a bit crisper as fall begins to show signs of its appearance. Halloween decorations are already being displayed in nearly every store across the country and it is only September. And, in just a few short weeks, the Blues season begins. The blues pre-season has already begun, and the team is 3-3 with wins over the Blue Jackets, Penguins, and the Capitals. Even though Blues season is almost upon us, there are new faces and new numbers that will make their St Louis Blues debuts on Opening Night against the Penguins on October 4th. In case you are one of those fans that was too focused on baseball season to pay attention to the Blues offseason, here is the summary of trades and hirings that occurred over the summer that improved an already potent Blues team.
1. The Blues hired Steve Ott, a former Blue who left the team after the 2015-2016 season, as an assistant coach to Mike Yeo for the next three seasons. That was a big part of the defensive sets s in the 2016 playoffs, where the blues went to the Western Conference Final. Ott was referred to as a ‘goon,’ and had a way of getting on the other team’s nerves. Some fans laughed at this move, but it was a pretty decent decision by the front office.
2. The Blues hired Darrell Sydor as an assistant coach as well. Sydor never played for the Blues, but he did win two Stanley Cups in his career, before retiring in 2010. Stanley Cup experience is a much-needed key to the Blues winning one of their own, so hiring Sydor was a good move.
3. The Blues made another coaching move, hiring retired Blue Barret Jackman as their development coach. This move is one that we can hypothesize was more to keep Jacks as part of the staff after he signed a one-day deal just so he could retire Blue. There is no doubt a respect for what Barret Jackman has done in his playing years, and fans should look forward to having him as a part of the coaching staff.
4. Since these trades occurred soon after the other, we will do these together. David Perron was not signed as a free agent by the Blues, even though he had a consistent season with St. Louis. The Blues decided to keep Vladimir Sobotka, and the expansion team, the Las Vegas Golden Knights, picked up Perron instead. Then the Blues traded Ryan Reaves to the Penguins in exchange for center Oskar Sundqvist and a 31st round pick, a decent move in regards to the improvement of the future.
5. The Blues signed Beau Bennett to a one-year deal.
6. The Blues selected center Robert Thomas with the 20th pick of the first round of the 2017 draft. Robert is only seventeen years old, but he is expected to begin playing immediately with the NHL team. Practically another Vladimir Tarasenko, Robert will be an exceptional addition to the 25-man roster.
7. The Blue signed three and lost one. Paajarvi, Butler, and Chris Thorburn all signed a contract for the 2017-18 season, but they lost a decent player in Kenny Agostino due to there not being enough money or room to sign the young talent. Agostino signed with the Bruins.
8. Nail Yakupov signed with the Avalanche, though he did not contribute much to the 2016-17 season, so this move should improve the team rather than harm them.
9. The Blues signed Colton Parayko to a one-year contract, a blessing since Parayko has been a key asset to the Blues defense after Shattenkirk was traded. Soon after, the Blues went all in on Parayko, giving him a five-year deal so that the team would avoid arbitration with the young defensive star.
10. The Blues signed defenseman Nate Prosser to a two-year deal, a great addition to the weakest part of the team, the defense.
11. Probably the biggest move of the offseason, the Blues traded Jori Lehtera to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for Brayden Schenn, who had 55 points (25 goals, 20 assists) and the 2016-17 season. He was tied for first place for the most power play goals in the NHL with 17, a great help to a Blues power play that struggled tremendously in the playoffs last season.
Now that we have taken a look back at the new faces and the names that have now left St. Louis, we can make a better inference as to how this season will go for the team. Every fan wishes for their team to win the Stanley Cup every year, but this may be the first time in a long time that the Blues have both the coaching and the players to win their first Stanley Cup. The Blues made it more improvements in the offseason than they did mistakes, and that always bodes well for a team that is already desperate to win their first Stanley Cup since the franchise was made in 1967. This will be the Blues 51st year without a Stanley Cup, the longest drought in NHL history. Even though this team looks like a team that could finally do it, there have already been injuries to key players during the preseason and the offseason.
Patrik Berglund will be sidelined until December with a shoulder injury. Alexander Steen will be out until the end of the preseason. Zach Sanford, a promising rookie it, will be sidelined for 5-6 months with a dislocated shoulder that he acquired in training camp. Robby Fabbri was scratched from the lineup on Wednesday against the Blue Jackets with injured scar tissue, but was back on the ice against the Washington Capitals on Friday night. Injuries are part of the game, but if the Blues want a chance at the Stanley Cup, they need to stay healthy.
Since offense will be key to the Blues winning the Cup, here are our predictions for the Blues forwards the season:
Vladimir Tarasenko–2016-17: 75 points (39 goals, 36 assists)
2017-18 predictions: 90 points (47 goals, 43 assists)
Alexander Steen–2016-17: 51 points (16 goals, 35 assists)
2017-18 predictions: 58 points (19 goals, 39 assists)
Paul Stastny–2016-17: 40 points (18 goals, 22 assists)
2017-18 predictions: 47 points (22 goals, 25 assists)
Robby Fabbri–2016-17: 29 points (11 goals, 18 assists)
2017-18 predictions: 34 points (14 goals, 20 assists)
Jaden Schwartz–2016-17: 55 points (19 goals, 36 assists)
2017-18 predictions: 61 points (22 goals, 40 assists)
Brayden Schenn–2016-17: 55 points (25 goals, 20 assists)
2017-18 predictions: 64 points (30 goals, 24 assists)
Kyle Brodziak–2016-17: 15 points (8 goals, 7 assists)
2017-18 predictions: 20 points (10 goals, 10 assists)
Ivan Barbashev–2016-17: 12 points (5 goals, 7 assists)
2017-18 predictions: 30 points (11 goals, 19 assists)
Magnus Paajarvi–2016-17: 13 points (8 goals, 5 assists)
2017-18 predictions: 20 points (12 goals, 8 assists)
Vladimir Sobotka–2016-17: 18 points (5 goals, 13 assists)
2017-18 predictions: 30 points (11 goals, 19 asissts)
Jordan Kyrou rookie predictions: 20 points (9 goals, 11 assists)
Beau Bennett–2016-17: 19 points (8 goals, 11 assists)
2017-18 predictions: 25 points (11 goals, 14 assists)
Chris Thorburn–2016-17: 4 points (3 goals, 1 assist)
2017-18 predictions: 10 points (4 goals, 6 assists)
Oskar Sundqvist–2016-17: 0 points (10 games)
2017-18 predictions: 23 points (10 goals, 13 assists)
Robert Thomas rookie predictions: 30 points (17 goals, 13 assists)
These predicted statistics for the offense are based on last year’s statistics and the knowledge that each player needs to improve offensively for the Blues to become a true contending team. If these statistics are anywhere close to correct, the Blues will have a team capable of winning the Stanley Cup, which should be the goal of each player.
Goaltending has always been the Blues’ strength, and the starting goaltender this year will be Jake Allen, who will be entering his second year as the Blues’ starting goalie. His backup will be Carter Hutton, so the Blues goaltending has not changed from last year, a good sign because both goalies are solid. Goaltending will not be a problem this year, hopefully, and it will remain consistent between the pair of Hutton and Allen.
Blues fans have everything to be optimistic about as we enter the 2017-18 season. This team is better than it was last year, from the coaching staff to the front office to the players they will send on the ice for each game. If there’s one word that we could use to describe how every Blues fan should feel on October 4th, it would be this: relieved. The offseason before this one, the Blues lost much. They lost Brian Elliott, their starting goaltender that packed the team on his shoulders in the 2015-16 playoffs. They lost Captain David Backes, a notion that still stands for most Blues fans. They lost their best playoff goal scorer in Troy Brouwer. Those blows, at the time, seemed like they would have a lasting negative impact on the team. However, this season, the Blues made all the right moves to become a force again. It is amazing what a few months can do to make or break a team, and it a few more months, the Blues might just be making history.