Sunday, September 17, 2017

NHL Preview 2017-18: St. Louis Blues

GM: Doug Armstrong (since 2010). 7/10
Coach: Mike Yeo (since 2017). 6.5/10

2016-17 record: 46-29-7, 99 points, 10th overall.

Departures: David Perron (RW), Jori Lehtera (C), Scottie Upshall (RW), Ryan Reaves (RW), Nail Yakupov (RW).

Arrivals: Brayden Schenn (C), Beau Bennett (RW), Chris Thorburn (RW), Oskar Sundqvist (C).

Top forwards: Vladimir Tarasenko (75-80 points), Jaden Schwartz (55-65 points), Schenn (55-60 points), Alex Steen (40-50 points), Paul Stastny (45-60 points, depending how many games he suits up for), Vladimir Sobotka (40-50 points), Patrik Berglund (30 points), Ivan Barbashev (25-30 points).

Must-improve forward: Berglund's 50-point seasons are way behind him, but on such a stacked team, even while centering the third line, he should have been able to reach 40 at least once these past six years.

Top defensemen: Alex Pietrangelo (45-50 points), Colton Parayko (35-40 points), Joel Edmundson (15-25 points), Jay Bouwmeester (20 points).

Goalies: Jake Allen (89/100), Carter Hutton (80/100).

Top rookies: Jodan Schmaltz (24 years old, D, 2012 first-round draft pick), Jake Walman (21, D), Vince Dunn (21, D), Tage Thompson (20, C, 2016 first-round draft pick), Ville Husso (22, G).

I'll be honest, I needed a team to take the fall. It was a toss-up between the St. Louis Blues and Minnesota Wild to see which team would get hit by the injury bug and a string of bad luck, then would surprisingly fall out of the playoff picture, and I chose the Blues.

Part of it is because Mike Yeo was pretty awful with the Wild a couple of years back, part of it is because GM Armstrong is overrated and surrounded by the likes of Martin Brodeur and Bob Gainey (also Al MacInnis and Larry Robinson, whom I like).

But in this day age, one in which no one managed to score 50 goals last year, Tarasenko is among a handful of players who can realistically aim for that level of greatness. And Allen showed last year to be ready for the #1 spot between the pipes.

Or maybe I'm wrong.

Prediction: 6th in the Central Division.

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