Last Season: 45-28-9 99 pts (2nd (tie) in Central Division; WON STANLEY CUP)
Key Additions: D Justin Faulk
Key Departures: F Pat Maroon, D Joel Edmundson
Top Questions Facing the Blues:
- Can Jordan Binnington keep up his unbelievable performance?
Last season, the Blues called up Binnington midway through the season to replace a struggling Jake Allen, and his performance was nothing short of historic. He posted a record of 24-5-1, which for whatever is said about goaltending wins, that’s still a rather impressive team stat that Binnington played a significant role in. He had a goals against average (GAA) of 1.89, which lead the league, and, astoundingly, finished in the top 10 for the MVP award. His performance continued into the playoffs, where he was the first rookie goaltender to win 16 games. He was not all out dominant (by any means) in the playoffs, but he performed well in big games (like Game 7 of the SCF). What does this mean for the regular season? We’ll see. If he performs like he did in the regular season last year, the Blues will probably win the President’s Trophy. If he performs like he did in the playoffs, the Blues probably are not going to win the division, but they will make the playoffs, and it’s important to have a goalie that is very even-keeled in performance than spectacular for 5 games and terrible for the next 5 (which the Blues have had far too often in their history).
2. Can the Blues improve their Power Play
No. Oh, what? This is an open question? Sorry – then I guess we will have to see. Ok, the Blues power play might not be THAT bad – they had a 16.4% conversion rate in the playoffs, and were 9th overall in the regular season. The problem is that it went through extreme hot and cold stretches, which, like goaltending, is not ideal. The Blues need to figure out a way to have a more consistent power play, and my hope is that the addition of Marc Savard as an assistant coach will help.
3. How will the young players do?
Just like last season, a hinges on the productivity of new and relatively new, young players. Fortunately, last season, guys like Robert Thomas, Sammy Blais, Ivan Barbashev, and Vince Dunn all played very well. With another season under their belts, as well as the grueling (both mentally and physically) march to the Cup, there is no reason to suspect they will not continue to get better (especially now that Robert Thomas’s wrist is healed). I also look for contributions from Klim Kostin later in thee season.
4. Can Craig Berube’s fiery leadership continue to inspire?
I was very critical of Craig Berube last season – he seemed to make a lot of tactical mistakes, and the players seemed to repeat the same mistakes if there was even one game between the last time they made said mistakes. That said, winning takes not only intellect and correct X’s and O’s, but also inspiration. It’s clear that Berube offered the latter in spades. What’s also clear – and across all sports – is that the effectiveness of these words dissipates over time. There will come a time when the Blues need more than nebulous ‘leadership’ from their coach, and it’ll be interesting to see if he can provide it.
5. How often should Blues fans be thanking Ryan O’Reilly?
Ultimately, I believe the Blues can repeat as Stanley Cup champions. There is no other team that is decidedly better, though there are a handful of teams that the Blues are not decidedly better than. It will take focus, and probably a willingness to back of a little during the regular season to not become mentally and physically fatigued, but if they can maintain their focus and discipline, the Blues have a real shot at defending their title.
Thanks for reading.