We're heading down the stretch as it's time for another Preseason Preview. This is where we check out the teams going into the season.
Now, the St. Louis Blues.
Team M.O.: This is a team where a few guys are expected to contribute more than the rest, but everyone by and large scores by committee. Coach Andy Murray leaned into a few players, maybe a bit harder than he should have, but he did it because he saw overwhelming potential in them and found a way to get them to extract it. They're a smaller fish in the pond that is the Central Division, but they showed they have just as much fight as anyone else.
Last Season: The Blues were the Cinderella team of the season, going from supposed basement dwellers to grabbing the sixth seed in the playoffs. Murray applied the pressure and guys who responded (like David Perron) made the team better while guys who moped (like Manny Legace) were banished to the minors and never seen again. They're looking to keep the positive vibes up so that a healthy Paul Kariya and Erik Johnson can step in and make this team even more dominant.
Offense: Paul Kariya and Andy McDonald, who were teammates for the then Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, are providing the Blues with the kind of offense they had in Anaheim and would be absurd if they could stay healthy. Brad Boyes had a career season in point production last year and would be an elite winger if he could tighten up his defensive play. Young guys like Perron, David Backes, Patrik Berglund, and T.J. Oshie were leaned into in order to provide scoring and they were definitely up to the challenge. Keith Tkachuk is 37 yet provides another scoring score, not to mention serious leadership and toughness. The rest of their depth is very respectable. Alexander Steen, B.J. Crombeen, and Jay McClement should provide strong third-line or checking presence and should be fortified with either agitator Cam Janssen, checker Brad Winchester, or enforcer D.J. King. Put it all together and the Blues' offense is as competitive as any other team in the league.
Defense: The defense on this team looks legitimate, but needs to clear the injury issues that have affected it and subsequently their performance. Eric Brewer appeared in 28 games before missing the rest of the season and playoffs due to back surgery. Erik Johnson, who had a promising rookie campaign, missed the entire season, including the playoffs, due to an accident involving a golf cart and may need some time getting his game back when the season begins. Barret Jackman provides the team with a top-four defensive presence, but he doesn't seem as aggressive as he used to. Roman Polak, however took some serious steps forward last year and has earned a right to play with the big club while Carlo Colaiacovo seemed to avoid the injury bug for the first time, coincidentally enough playing with an entirely different team after being traded away by the Toronto Maple Leafs. The team seems set to have Brendan Bell, Steven Wagner, and Mike Weaver battle it out for the final two spots, though it's not unheard of to think that Alex Pietrangelo could steal a spot from that trio if he himself has an excellent camp.
Goaltending: The goaltending on this team isn't so much as spectacular as it is just deep overall. Chris Mason took over the starting role from Manny Legace and has demonstrated the maturity to act effectively in a goaltending tandem. He's going to get a partner of similar talent and mindset in the newly-signed Ty Conklin, who left the Detroit Red Wings after putting up some excellent numbers in the regular season. However, Hannu Toivonen decided to come back to the system and Ben Bishop's been making noise himself. So if if the elder goaltenders should falter, expect these guys to do everything possible to kick the door down and be impossible to send down.
Expectations: I like the offense and goaltending alot, but I'm not entirely sold on the defense. These guys could do it again, but they're going to have to battle at maximum capacity to make that possible. Can they do it again?