Preparing for the season this year in St. Louis is going to be a lot different for most of the Blues. This time around, they’re not going to have the veteran presence of Keith “Big Walt” Tkachuk around. Tkachuk announced his retirement at the end of last season and some members of the Blues have already made it clear that not having “Big Walt” around is going to make a big difference as Jeremy Rutherford tells us.
“It’s different,” Blues defenseman Jackman said.
Jackman, the Blues assistant captain, said several players will have to step up to compensate for Tkachuk’s absence.
“Walt, he’s a character guy,” Jackman said. “He’s always talking, he’s always making everybody feel welcome. That’s a big voice that missing. But definitely over the next few weeks and throughout the season, you’ll see a lot of guys step up and fill a role. But maybe two or three guys will fill that one role that Walt had.
“I think a lot of guys will grow and, maybe with another year under their belt, will come out of their shell. Or you’ll see the true character of a lot of people.”
The Blues are a young-ish sort of team. The two oldest players on the roster are backup goalie Ty Conklin and center Dave Scatchard, both 34 years-old. After that, shockingly, center Andy McDonald is 32 and defenseman Eric Brewer is 31. Everyone else is under 30 and after the last two seasons saw the Blues make a late push for the post-season, getting a veteran presence might not be necessary. After all, a young team that grows up together going through the successes (making the playoffs in 2009) and the failures (missing the playoffs in 2010) finds a way to get mature together the same way.
Whether or not that learning pans out into taking another step forward remains to be seen, but with the rise of players like T.J. Oshie and Patrik Berglund and seeing a return to goal-scoring from Brad Boyes, the Blues could be in the mix in the Western Conference. While the Central Division will be tough with Detroit, Nashville, and Chicago right there as well as a game Columbus squad it won’t be easy, but if the Blues can keep it together with Jaroslav Halak in goal, they could be a very difficult team to deal with.