Tuesday, 4 September 2007

An Off-Season Look at ... The St. Louis Blues

by Jes

Given how well the St. Louis Blues did after hiring Andy Murray last season, and the splash the club made in free agency this summer, there is reason for Blues fans to be optimistic about the upcoming season.

After two very craptacular seasons, with craptacular attendance, the club needed an injection of exciting offence (Paul Kariya), a top-notch prospect to show that future is bright (Erik Johnson) and, of course, free food!

Here is how the Blues roster looks like as of right now ...


I like the offensive depth up front, as the Blues have two legitimate scoring lines in play, along with some relentless checkers (Mayers, McClement, etc).

The problems?

1. No offence from the defence. Brewer led the Blues D in points last year with a putrid 29 points. Yipee!

Doug Weight will probably have to keep playing on the point, as none of Brewer/Backman/Woywitka have proven they can do well on the Power Play. I'm hoping Erik Johnson can improve this aspect of the blues defense, or maybe Backman can bust through with 35 points.

2. Few bargains. Look at the Blues roster, and ask yourself if the team is really worth $45mil? A $45mil team should be a top contender, not a team fighting just to make the playoffs. Guys like Brewer, Hinote, Rucinsky, McKee, and Mayers are all overpaid for what they produce, and Weight/Tkachuk are still an expensive, and aging, duo. Erik Johnson is pretty much the only bargain, depending on how he performs.

3. Lee Stempniak is one of the better hockey players you've never heard of. After scoring 52 points in 82 games last season, Stempniak has proven that he's a legitimate NHL producer, and he's only 24 years of age. He plays a straight-forward game, works hard, and has more potential to untap.

4. Manny Legace - He has had spurts where he's been an all-world goaltender, but then he's run into mental and physical problems that have prevented him from being a true dependable #1 goaltender. Who can forget his playoff mental meltdowns?

Legace had a league-average 90.7SV% last season, but played only 45 games. I like him in the nets for the Blues, but he's very risky.

Even with Murray's coaching, and the signing of Kariya, this club is going to need everything to go right to just squeak into the playoffs. The defence lacks an offensive edge, Cajanek/Boyes/Rucinsky are complete wild-cards, and there is very little offence after the Top 6.

I predict an improvement in the standings, but the Blues will still miss the playoffs.

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