Last season the Blues finished in second place behind the Blackhawks in the Central Division. They won their first two playoff games against the Kings before dropping four straight to end their season. The Blues had a busy offseason that included avoiding a long term hold out with defenseman Alex Pietrangelo. They also traded David Perron to the Edmonton Oilers for Magnus Paajarvi. They capped off their summer by bringing in Derek Roy, Keith Aucoin, Alexandre Bolduc, and penisloaf Maxim Lapierre.
The Blues should be the biggest competition within the Central Division this year. I have asked Laura from St Louis Game Time to help us with our look at the Blues.
The Blues were the sexy pick to come out of the West last season. What improvements have been made to help with a longer playoff push?
I think that having all of the cogs in place before the season starts is one of the more important things that the team has managed to do. Starting the year with Jay Bouwmeester and Jordan Leopold will help, as well having Ken Hitchcock finally able to run a full training camp. Scoring is still an issue, but Magnus Pajaarvi has that ability and he and Patrik Berglund have some chemistry. Adding him and an actual playmaking center in Derek Roy should get them over that hump.
Ken Hitchcock has a long history of success wherever he goes, but he also "lost" his teams at some point at each stop. Are their any concerns of this in St. Louis yet?
Not one iota. I think he has a much longer shelf life than Davis Payne or Andy "Green Goblin" Murray. He seems to be able to communicate his expectations to the players better than the other two; hopefully he'll be around and fresh for a while.
How nerve racking was it to watch to Alex Pietrangelo saga unfold and were you ever worried about a deal not being done?
Some Blues fans, especially those who post at STLToday.com's forums (which we refer to as the Asylum) were having full-on panic attacks about the whole situation. My personal viewpoint, and I think this carried over to a majority at Game Time, was that it was going to happen sooner or later, so there wasn't any reason to worry. Signs were pointing to it ending sooner rather than later, so there wasn't much for fans to worry about. Of course, you always have that group who will freak out about anything, but I think that group was pretty small with this one.
The Blues are very deep in goal with Jaroslav Halak, Brian Elliott and Jake Allen (or Jay Gallon as he is called in Chicago). How do you see the games being divided up this season and are any of these guys potential trade candidates?
I think the only way one of them are traded is if it's Halak (it's a contract year) and the Blues are really scrambling around playoff time. Allen needs a little more time to really polish his skills and I'm not sure if anyone is comfortable handing the position over to him.
I'm assuming Halak will start and Elliott will backup, but if it turns into a 1A and 1B tandem again I'd be ok with that, too.
Who replaces the now departed David Perron in the top 6?
I wouldn't be shocked to see Vladimir Tarasenko take those minutes if he starts strong and can keep it up. Jaden Schwartz is also a very strong possibility - he's impressed the hell out of Hitchcock during camp and he looked very sharp during the playoffs.
The Blues have become a defense first time since Hitchcock's arrival. Where will they get their scoring from?
Probably Chris Stewart again, with help from Tarasenko, T,J. Oshie, and Alex Steen. I have a feeling that Blues fans will be clamoring for Brett Hull to wedge himself into a uniform again at some point this season - I'm ok with scoring by committee, but the number of goals the team scores sometimes makes me nervous.
The Blues jumped on the "keep Blackhawks fans out" bandwagon that was started in Nashville, forcing people to buy a ticket to a second game if you wanted to purchase tickets to a Hawks game. Is this the smartest marketing strategy for a team who is having some financial struggles?
I pretty much think it's idiotic. I get not wanting a ton of opposition fans in your own arena - I used to hold season tickets for the Thrashers, so I know firsthand how much it sucks. The best way to fix that issue (and make money, too!) is to consistently win games and have some playoff success. Making it next to impossible for opposition fans from a city so close to get tickets doesn't strike me as the smartest idea. Fans road trip down from Chicago, get hotels, eat at St. Louis restaurants, and kindly contribute money to our local economy. I can't imagine the nightmare that would exist if the Cubs did this to the Cardinals; why do it to the Blackhawks?
I realize that the Cubs and Cards are more historic rivals than anything else, as opposed to the Blues and Blackhawks, whose games mean something (and I don't mean that in a bad way, Cubs fans - I have the utmost respect for you guys). The rivalry still makes money for both cities, though, and both organizations sponsor road trips to the other's stadium. The teams play off of that rivalry; I think it'd be more useful if the Blues and Blackhawks did the same.
Thanks again to Laura for helping us out. The Blues and Hawks will exchange pleasantries five times this year. The Hawks will travel to St Louis on October 9th and December 28th. The Blues will make three trips to Chicago on October 17th, March 19th and April 6th.