St. Louis Blues
Tom Gannam/Associated Press

The St. Louis Blues Are In A Weird Spot At The Moment

The St. Louis Blues head into the 2021-2022 season in a rather awkward position. With a bulk of the Stanley Cup-winning core in 2019 still around, they should be able to contend for a playoff spot. However, key departures in recent years like Jaden Schwartz, Alex Pietrangelo, and Carl Gunnarsson have created some holes. The Blues had a busy offseason but were their holes filled? Even more pressing, is this team still good enough to make the playoffs and sustain a deep run? Let’s take a look.

Offense

One truth about this team is that there is still talent to behold. While they were a well-oiled machine throughout the 2019 playoffs, a return to form would bode quite well in the returning Central Division. Replacing the departed Jaden Schwartz and Mike Hoffman with Brandon Saad and Pavel Buchnevich appear to be good pickups. However, everyone’s fingers will point to Vladimir Tarasenko. He has been available for much of the offseason but GM Doug Armstrong has been unable to find a trade partner for the Russian sniper. There is a good chance that the disgruntled Tarasenko could find his way down the lineup due to his attitude. With that being said, the forward lines may end up as the following:

Saad – O’Reilly – Perron

Kyrou – Schenn – Buchnevich

Kostin – Thomas – Tarasenko

Barbashev – Bozak – Neighbours

While there are new additions, there are also some young players looking to make an impact. Jordan Jyrou, Klim Kostin, and Jake Neighbours are all staring at pretty good opportunities in this lineup. While a healthy and firing Tarasenko still has an argument to be the best winger on the team, we have not seen that version of Vlad in quite some time. There is, however, a lot to like down the middle. Ryan O’Reilly and Brayden Schenn are still a very solid 1-2 punch. There is scoring ability, two-way prowess, and responsibility at both ends of the ice.

Defense

The defense is still largely the same. Replacing Pietrangelo with Torey Krug and Justin Faulk is quite good, as both can contribute as powerplay quarterbacks. They also locked up a key piece on a blue line by handing Colton Parayko a handsome 8-year extension. Longtime prospect Jake Walman should also get a look at regular minutes on the third pair. Simply put, there is both offensive and defensive ability on this defense. The pairings should resemble the following:

Scandella – Parayko

Krug – Faulk

Walman – Bortuzzo

Having two offensive-minded Dmen like Faulk and Krug on the same pair could cause some issues on the defensive end. It would not be a surprise to see Scandella and Krug switch spots from time to time in order to provide more balance. This group should complement the forwards well in terms of talent and chemistry.

Goaltending

There is little doubt that Jake Binnington is still the starter in St. Louis. The hero in the crease in 2019 is still productive and a fan favorite despite having a down year. Ville Husso is a bit of a question mark as the backup but should be fine when called upon. If JB can bring back his form from a few years back, then the Blues should be in a pretty solid spot.

Season Prediction

The St. Louis Blues are still a playoff team in my humble opinion. Adding an established forward like Saad and a talented winger like Buchnevich will more than likely give this offense a shot in the arm. The defense still has playmakers and importantly, more continuity. While their arch-rivals in Chicago made some big additions, playoff spots in the Central Division are there to be had. Craig Berube endeared himself quite well to the Blues faithful when he took over in 2019. If he manages this roster correctly, then we could be hearing plenty of “Gloria” being played in the 2021-2022 season.

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