ST. LOUIS (AP) The St. Louis Blues have won at least 49 games in each of the past three seasons and advanced to the Western Conference finals last spring.
Doing it again this season will require effort from a bunch of new players.
David Backes, who spent 10 years in St. Louis, is now in Boston. Goalie Brian Elliott was traded to Calgary. Troy Brouwer, the Blues’ second-leading goal scorer in the playoffs last spring, signed with Calgary. Steve Ott, after two-plus seasons with the Blues, is now in Detroit.
“There’s no time to be sad about somebody,” Blues right winger Vladimir Tarasenko said. “They were great players and they’re still good players, but they play for other teams, so we’re going to play against them now. It seems like we have a really good team right now and I’m just looking forward for our season to start.”
Before the 2015-16 season, the Blues traded T.J. Oshie to Washington for Brouwer and opted not to re-sign defenseman Barrett Jackman. St. Louis went 49-24-9 with 107 points, just two points less than in 2014-15.
The Blues’ core group has changed slightly over the years but Ken Hitchcock’s squad remains one of the most talented groups in the NHL.
Tarasenko set career highs in goals (40) and points (74) last season, ranking fourth in the league in goals and 12th in points, after signing an eight-year contract extension. Alexander Steen (52 points), Paul Stastny (49) and Kevin Shattenkirk (44) ranked second, third and fifth among the Blues in scoring and are all back. Robby Fabbri accounted for 18 goals and 37 points as a rookie last season.
The biggest change for the Blues is in net, where St. Louis broke up its successful tandem of Elliott and Jake Allen, who went 26-15-3 with a 2.35 goals-against average and .920 save percentage last season. After sending Elliott to Calgary for a second-round draft pick, St. Louis signed Allen to a four-year contract extension that kicks in for the 2017-18 season.
“I think I have a great opportunity in front of me, I’m very fortunate for that, and it’s been a long road,” Allen said. “It’s been four years in the minors, some stints up and down here, a couple seasons here. It’s been quite the grind to get to this point but I feel like the process is finally paying off.”