Connor Keith returns to the Down the Frozen River scene with this season preview of the St. Louis Blues. This was written before final roster cuts were made, but the season came along quickly and I kind of failed as an editor when it came to posting things in a timely manner. But that shouldn’t make any of Connor’s analysis any less valuable! Enjoy.
St. Louis Blues (52-23-7, second in division, third in conference)
After yet another early exit from the playoffs (fourth time exiting the playoffs in the first or second round since 2008-‘09), the Blues look to do more than reclaim the division title taken from them by Colorado last season. Although GM Doug Armstrong resigned Head Coach Ken Hitchcock, Associate Coach Brad Shaw, & Assistant Coach Ray Bennett, he pulled the plug on Assistant Coach Gary Shaw & Goaltending Coach Corey Hirsch. In their place, he hired Kirk Muller (ex-head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes, amassing a record of 80-80-27) as Assistant Coach & Jim Corsi as Goaltending Coach.
One of the major turnovers from last year for the Blues is between the pipes. Last season’s leading goalie in games played & wins was Jaroslav Halak, who was traded to Buffalo with Chris Stewart, William Carrier, & two draft picks for Steve Ott & goalie Ryan Miller. Miller was acquired on the last season of his contract & has since signed with Vancouver, leaving the Blues with only Brian Elliot within their system with playing time last season. The Blues have called up Jake Allen from Chicago to be a second goalie for the Blues. Based on last season’s stats, I believe that this preseason could be a major factor in the decision for who is defending the crease against the Rangers on October 9.
Brian Elliot has the experience, playing 31 games last season (double Jake Allen’s career NHL appearances). He amassed a record of 18-6-2 last season. Of those 18 wins, four were shutouts (over 22% of wins were as a result of a shutout). He blocked 92.2% of all shots last season, allowing an average of 1.96 goals per game, .07 better than Allen’s 2013-’14 campaign.
On the other hand, Jake Allen played in 52 regular season games last season for the Chicago Wolves for a 33-16-3 record. Of those 33 wins, seven were shutouts (over 21% of wins were shutouts). He blocked 92.8% of all the shots he faced last season, .6% better than Elliot, allowing 2.03 goals per game. A main thing Allen has over Elliot is recent playoff experience. Although it was not for the Stanley Cup, Allen played nine games for Chicago, amassing a 3-6 record & allowing 3.29 goals against per game. His save percentage also dipped in the Wolves’ quest for the Calder to 87.9%, dropping almost 5%.
The Blues come into the season having lost some big names, most notably Vladimir Sobotka (signed with Avangard), Brenden Morrow (signed with Tampa Bay), & Derek Roy (signed with Nashville).
They lost two of the top 10 players with most regular season games with the Blues last season in Derek Roy & Roman Polak (traded to Toronto) both playing over 70 regular season games last year. Additionally, they lost five of the top 20 players with the most playoff games with the Blues last season in Vladimir Sobotka & Roman Polak (both played in all six playoff games), Adam Cracknell (five, signed with Los Angeles), Derek Roy (four), & Brenden Morrow (two). The Blues are adding players that can play most of a regular season, though, in Chris Butler (Calgary) & Carl Gunnarsson (traded from Toronto), who both played 80+ games last season.
The Notes are not bringing back three of their top 14 shot takers this year as Derek Roy (114), Vladimir Sobotka (102), & Roman Polak (83) are not returning. These three players accounted for over 12% of the Blues’ shots last regular season. Looking at only postseason numbers, five of last playoff’s shot-takers are not returning, as Vladimir Sobotka (13), Derek Roy (nine), Adam Cracknell (six), Roman Polak (five), & Brenden Morrow (one) are not returning. These shooters accounted for almost 16% of the shots taken in the postseason.
Over 5% of last season’s goals will not show up to training camp this season as Brenden Morrow (13) is with the Bolts. The Blues have added Paul Stastny (25, signed from Colorado) & Joakim Lindstrom (23, signed from Skellefteå) to almost quadruple his goal production.
Two of the leading 11 assisters will not be with the Blues this season as Derek Roy (28), & Vladimir Sobotka (24) are not returning. The Blues have profited by signing Joakim Lindstrom (40), Paul Stastny (35), & Jori Lehtera (32, signed from Sibir Novosibirsk). These new additions double the totals of Roy & Sobotka, hopefully providing even more opportunities for Alexander Steen (33 goals), David Backes (27 goals), Paul Stastny (25 goals), & Jaden Schwartz (25 goals).
Vladimir Sobotka (14), one of the top nine +/- guys in the 2013-’14 regular season, will not return for this one. Included in that, the Blues also lost three of the top seven +/- players during the playoffs. Without Vladimir Sobotka (two), Brenden Morrow (zero), & Adam Cracknell (zero), the Blues would have scored a lowly -27. To try to improve upon these numbers, St. Louis has signed Carl Gunnarsson (12), & Paul Stastny (nine). The two additions provide decent improvements that will hopefully continue their success in St. Louis.
The Blues lost one of the top six penalty minute earners in Brenden Morrow (76). Sadly, the Blues picked up Joakim Lindstrom, who had minutes (72) almost equal to Morrow’s, so no major improvements have been made in that regard. New hires Paul Stastny & Jori Lehtera only served 22 minutes in the sin bin last season each, which averaged out to a little less than 19 seconds per game for Stastny & 27.5 seconds per game for Lehtera.
Present roster consists of 32 forwards, 16 defensemen, & four goalies (52 men).