First thing I want to talk about, before getting into the St. Louis Blues stuff, is not surprisingly the lockout that just ended. Now I like to think that I know a little bit about hockey. I watch highlights and read multiple box scores of different leagues on a daily basis. That being said, I have no idea what happened the last 113 days. Like the average hockey fan, I watched for updates, supported the players because it seemed like the “hockey fan” thing to do, and had to put up with multiple press conferences using a lot of big words.
The only thing I took from it is that their was no hockey.
The fans seemed to be all secondary to this whole thing, and I understand it’s a business and they have to make money, but at times it seemed that they forgot where that money was coming from. The fans that buy tickets, merchandise, NHL centre ice packages, and so forth. From what I hear, a lot of fans are not interested in the NHL after all this, to which I can respect. I hold a grudge better than anyone, but hopefully they come around soon enough, however if they don’t I can understand them sticking to their guns and not giving in to everyone else around them. But let’s get to the main thing here. The NHL is back.
A year ago today, the St. Louis Blues were very quietly becoming one of the league’s top teams. They weren’t flashy, didn’t have a marquee player, or didn’t put up 5 or 6 goals a game. What they did have was a system that worked, the right coach in place, and a group of players that were fine with not being in the spotlight or a top of the league leaders in goals or points. One year later and not much has changed. The top 9 from last year, has a new addition. The defence is still in tact, minus a guy that got hurt almost every shift. And the goaltenders that set NHL records as a duo last year, are ready to push each other to make sure they remain at the top of their games.
On June 25th 2010, within a span of 10 minutes the Blues drafted Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko. Two offensive players that instantly created buzz and expectations from the Blues faithful. Schwartz, a small play making forward, with potential to be a leader for years to come. Than there was Tarasenko, or to use his full name that has been going on around on twitter, Vladimir “The Russian Tank” Tarasenko. An aggressive, fast, pure goal scorer that the Blues have not had in a very long time. Both of these players will
push for a roster spot in the next week at training camp. Schwartz in his first full season of pro hockey, has put up 9 goals and 10 assists through 33 games with Peoria in the AHL. He was considered by many to start the year in the minors and see a handful of games throughout the year anyway, and eventually push for a roster spot come playoff time. The Tank, in his 5th season in the KHL, has put up 14 goals and 17 assists in 31 games, while playing on a line with Ilya Kovalchuk. A lot of speculation has gone around about some Russian players staying over seas to finish out this season. I have no doubt that come opening day, number 91 will be on the ice at Scottrade (providing our first game is at home of course).
My opening day line-up has not changed at all. I still see lines of Oshie, Backes and D’agostini. Perron, Berglund and Stewart. Tarasenko, Steen and McDonald. Langenbrunner, Sobotka, and a Reaves/Nichol mix. The defense is a lot more set, with Alex Pietrangelo and Barret Jackman being the top unit. Kevin Shattenkirk and Ian Cole would be a nice complement on the 2nd pairing. Than you have Roman Polak and Kris Russell rounding off the top 6.
With a 48 game season ahead, it is hard to make a guess on point totals or final standings. People have told me to look at the standings from the last shortened season to give an example. The last shortened season in 1994-1995, I just turned 4, so I had a lot on my plate as it were already. That being said, I do have some predictions on the upcoming Blues season.
First goal: Chris “GD” Stewart
First Fight: Barret Jackman
Leading Scorer: David Perron
Rookie Scoring leader: Vladimir Tarasenko
Breakout season: Patrick Berglund
Disappointing Season: Matt D’agostini
Season Starter: Jaroslav Halak
Playoff Starter: Brian Elliott
Tarasenko will win the Calder trophy as the NHL’s top rookie. Alex Pietrangelo will finish third in Norris voting, and David Backes will win the Mark Messier award for Leadership.
It feels really good to be talking about hockey again. Shortened season or not, I can’t wait for opening day. Follow me on twitter @kfox9611 and I’ll do my best to entertain you during the games. I can save you time if you don’t have twitter by the way, every Blues win was a team win, most of the losses we got screwed by officiating (yeah I’m that fan that always complains), and the Red Wings get away with more than any other team in the history of officiated sports.
Thanks for reading, Let’s go Blues!