The 2020-21 NHL season is almost here so it’s time to preview all 31 teams. Over the next few weeks we’ll be looking at how the offseason affected each team, the most interesting people in the organization, and the best- and worst-case scenarios. Today, we look at the St. Louis Blues.
St. Louis Blues 2019-20 Rewind
Record: 42-19-10 (94 points); First place in Central Division; First Place in Western Conference
Leading Scorers: Ryan O'Reilly (61 points); David Perron and Brayden Schenn (25 goals)
The St. Louis Blues followed up their 2019 Stanley Cup championship by finishing the 2019-20 regular season with the best record in the Western Conference. They did that despite getting just 10 games from Vladimir Tarasenko who missed almost all of the season due to injury. That success did not carry over to the playoff bubble.
After losing all three Round-Robin games, the Blues were eliminated in the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in six games to the Vancouver Canucks, finishing the return to play with a 2-6-1 mark in the seven games they played. Then in the offseason they said goodbye to long-time captain Alex Pietrangelo, welcomed Torey Krug, and named Ryan O’Reilly their next captain.
Torey Krug (free agency), Mike Hoffman (tryout contract)
Alex Pietrangelo (free agency), Jake Allen (trade), Alex Steen (retirement)
3 Most Interesting St. Louis Blues
• Torey Krug. Krug is interesting for the simple fact he was the Blues’ big-money offseason addition (seven years, $45.5 million) and is stepping into the lineup to basically replace Alex Pietrangelo, the Blues’ long-time captain. Those are some big shoes to fill on the blue line. Will Krug be capable of doing it? Given his track record in Boston, he should be able to step into that spot and replace a lot of what Pietrangelo provided.
Is Krug the complete two-way defender that Pietrangelo is? Maybe not quite to the same level, especially defensively, but every single metric regarding Krug’s game points to a top-pairing defender with the way he drives possession and can spark the offense. There is always risk with a seven-year contract in free agency just because of a player’s age, but the Blues should get a few great years out of Krug before they have to worry about that.
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• Jordan Binnington. After coming out of nowhere in 2019 to fix the Blues’ goaltending issues and backstop them to their first Stanley Cup, Binnington entered the 2019-20 season as their top goalie. For the most part, he was very good. His numbers did regress, but he still finished with league average (all situations save percentage) to slightly above average (even-strength save percentage) numbers. Not a game-changer, but good enough to help an otherwise great team win a lot of games.
That all changed in the playoffs with what was almost certainly the absolute worst stretch of his brief NHL career.
The question for the Blues this season is what they actually have in goal with Binnington, and what his next contract is going to look like. He is entering the final year of a two-year contract that pays him $4 million, and he will be eligible for unrestricted free agency at the end of the season. Even though he is a Stanley Cup champion he still only has a 131-game resume in the NHL with some mixed results. This season could go a long way toward determining what his next contract looks like.
• Vladimir Tarasenko. He is expected to start the season on LTIR, so we are not entirely sure when we will see him. But outside of four games in the bubble we have not really seen him play a game in more than a calendar year. When healthy, he is the Blues’ most dynamic offensive player. But what sort of impact can the Blues expect when he returns? This is a team that finished with the best regular season record in the Western Conference despite getting just 10 games from him. When he does return that will be like adding another All-Star to the lineup.
The Blues are definitely on the short list of preseason Stanley Cup contenders. The best case scenario here is that Binnington bounces back from his postseason performance, Tarasenko returns as an impact player, and Mike Hoffman adds even more offensive punch to the roster and the Blues make a serious run at their second championship in three years.
It is hard to envision a scenario where this Blues team misses the playoffs. Anything is possible, sure, but there is a huge gap between the top-three teams in the West Division and the five teams below them. It is hard to imagine them finishing lower than fourth. So with that in mind, there are some variables that could lessen the Blues’ chances. Binnington regressing, Tarasenko never being fully healthy or impactful, and Torey Krug not being as good of a fit as they hoped and they are unable to get through Colorado and/or Vegas in the division round of the playoffs.
Pointsbet – St. Louis Blues Stanley Cup odds
Pointsbet Stanley Cup odds: Blues +2000. (PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links.)
Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.