Monday, September 16, 2019

St. Louis Blues 2019-20 season preview



          It is almost a tradition at this point for the defending Stanley Cup champions to have a quiet offseason, which makes sense. This applies to the St. Louis Blues, who won the Cup for the first time in their 52 year history in a wild seven game series. They signed their RFAs and some depth defensemen, using all but about $500k in cap space. But the main problem is next offseason, with Alex Pietrangelo, Brayden Schenn, Joel Edmundson and Jay Bouwmeester a year away from free agency, and both goalies two years away. The window for a second championship could already be closing.

          Additions: Derrick Pouliot, Jake Dotchin, Andreas Borgman, Nathan Walker, Nick Lappin

          Subtractions: Patrick Maroon, Michael Del Zotto, Jakub Jerabek, Nikita Soshnikov, Chris Thorburn, Jordan Schmaltz, Chris Butler

          Forwards
For the fifth consecutive season, Vladimir Tarasenko scored at least 33 goals, and scored exactly that for the second straight year. Tarasenko finished with 68 points in 76 games. Over the past four years, Tarasenko received Hart, Lady Byng and Selke votes, but for the first time since 2013-14, he didn't get any award votes at all. Speaking of the Selke Trophy, Ryan O'Reilly had a career season, and won that award. He also finished second in Lady Byng voting. His 28 goals were a career high, and his 77 points were a career high. His 23 points in 26 playoff games earned him the Conn Smythe Trophy. After a career season in 2017-18, Brayden Schenn regressed. His 54 points were his lowest since 2014-15, and his 17 goals were his lowest since the shortened 2012-13 season. In his first year in his third stint with the Blues, David Perron scored 23 goals, the second most in his career. He had 46 points in just 57 games. He was on pace for a career high 33 goals. Jaden Schwartz had a rough season, but he had a strong postseason. He had more playoff goals (12) in 26 games than in the regular season (11 goals in 69 games). Tyler Bozak had a decent debut season in St. Louis. He scored 13 goals with 38 points, but both were below his career average. He's still a good third line center. Oskar Sundqvist was impressive in his first full season, scoring 14 goals with 31 points. Robert Thomas had a great age 19 season, with 33 points. Alex Steen hasn't aged well, and because of his $5.75 million cap hit, he is a trade candidate. His 10 goals were his lowest full season goal total since 2008-09. Ivan Barbashev scored a career high 14 goals, playing on the fourth line. Zach Sanford had 20 points in 60 games, and could see second line time due to the Blues' weak left wing depth. Sammy Blais and Robby Fabbri battle for the final left wing spot. Both of them under performed in 32 games each in the regular season, with a combined 10 points. Blais played in five more playoff games than Fabbri, giving him the leverage.

            Defensemen
It will be interesting to see what Alex Pietrangelo's next contract is. The Stanley Cup winning captain received Norris votes in six out of the seven seasons leading up to 2018-19, and Lady Byng votes in six of the previous eight seasons, but didn't receive votes for either in 2018-19. He scored 13 goals with 41 points. Vince Dunn had a breakout 2018-19 season, with 12 goals and 35 points, both second among defensemen on the team. He was also a +14. Colton Parakyo had a career low 28 points, but he scored a career high 10 goals, finishing 20th in Lady Byng voting. Jay Bouwmeester, a 16 year veteran, has been with the Blues since the middle of 2012-13, but he could be entering his last year with the team. The soon to be 36 year old had 17 points in 78 games this past season. Joel Edmundson had 11 points and a +8 rating in 64 games, and had seven points in 22 playoff games. Carl Gunnarsson played in just 25 games but his seven points put him on pace for a career high 23 points. Robert Bortuzzo scored two goals in 17 playoff games, the same amount of goals he scored in 59 regular season games.

              Goalies
Jordan Binnington busted onto the scene in 2018-19 as a nothing prospect and won St. Louis a Stanley Cup. In 32 games, almost all of them down the stretch, Binnington had a .927 SV% and a league leading 1.89 GAA. He finished 2nd in Calder voting and 5th in Vezina voting. He passed Jake Allen on the depth chart. Allen had another mediocre season, with a .905 SV% and a 2.83 GAA.

              Deep Depths
In his rookie season, forward Mackenzie MacEachern played in 29 games, with five points. The Blues signed the 8th overall pick in 2012, Derrick Pouliot. The defenseman had 12 points in 62 games for Vancouver last year. The club also signed big defenseman Jake Dotchin, who played in 20 games for the Ducks last year. The Blues traded for defenseman Andreas Borgman, who played in 48 games with the Leafs in 2017-18. He spent last year exclusively in the AHL, with 17 points in 45 games.

               Up and Coming
Jordan Kyrou will push for an NHL spot after debuting in 2018-19, with three points in 16 games. In his first AHL season, he had 43 points in 47 games. Mitch Reinke played in one NHL game, and had 45 points in 76 games in the AHL. He was one of the two defensemen named to the AHL all rookie team. 2017 first rounder Klim Kostin captained Russia in the World Juniors. In the AHL, He had 24 points in 66 games, with 102 penalty minutes.

               2019 draft class
Round 2, 62nd overall: Nikita Alexandrov
Round 3, 93rd overall: Colten Ellis
Round 5, 155th overall: Keean Washkurak
Round 7, 208th overall: Vadim Zherenko
Round 7, 217th overall: Jeremy Michel

               Management
You probably know by now that the Blues were dead last in the NHL on January 2nd, then won the Stanley Cup. You also probably know that it was interim Head Coach Craig Berube that lead them there. After Berube was hired, the Blues went 38-19-6, for a .651 winning percentage. Doug Armstrong was a great GM of the Year candidate. He now has a lot of work in front of him.

               Projected Lineup
Jaden Schwartz - Brayden Schenn - Vladimir Tarasenko
Zach Sanford - Ryan O'Reilly - David Perron
Sammy Blais - Tyler Bozak - Robert Thomas
Alex Steen - Ivan Barbashev - Oskar Sundqvist
Extras: Robby Fabbri, Jordan Kyrou

               Vince Dunn - Alex Pietrangelo
                Jay Bouwmeester - Colton Parakyo
                Joel Edmunson - Robert Bortuzzo
Extras: Carl Gunnarsson, Derrick Pouliot, Jake Dotchin

                           Jordan Binnington
                           Jake Allen

                 Prediction
The Blues are obviously a good team, and besides losing Patrick Maroon, they are virtually the same team that just won the Stanley Cup. I think the Blues will make the playoffs again, finishing 2nd in the Central Division.

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