St. Louis Blues 2020-21 Season Preview

 

       The Blues entered the offseason in a position where they needed to do something big. Captain Alex Pietrangelo was due to be a free agent, and thanks to their salary cap situation, they likely didn\’t have the money to sign him. They pivoted, and instead went after the next best defenseman on the market. A recent signing made the Blues an even more intriguing team entering this season. 

Additions: D Torey Krug, F Mike Hoffman, F Kyle Clifford.

Subtractions: D Alex Pietrangelo, G Jake Allen, D Jay Bouwmeester, F Alex Steen.

Best Move: Signing Mike Hoffman to a PTO, and reportedly a one year deal between $3-4 million.

Worst Move: Trading away Jake Allen and not bringing in a backup goalie.

One Move I\’d Make: Sign Jimmy Howard to a PTO.

Best Contract: Colton Parayko, two years remaining with a $5.5 million cap hit. 

Worst Contract: Justin Faulk, seven years remaining with a $6.5 million cap hit.

New Division Rivals: Anaheim, Arizona, Colorado, Los Angeles, Minnesota, San Jose, Vegas.

Pending UFAs: Jaden Schwartz, Tyler Bozak, Jordan Binnington, Carl Gunnarsson.

Pending RFAs: Vince Dunn, Zach Sanford, Robert Thomas, Ivan Barbashev, Jacob De La Rose, Jordan Kyrou.

Forwards

The two most recognizable Blues over the past eight years will not be in the team\’s starting lineup on Opening Night. While Pietrangelo will be playing for the division rival Golden Knights, Vladimir Tarasenko will miss at least a month of the season after having offseason surgery. Tarasenko had 10 points in 10 regular season games, but went scoreless in four postseason appearances. Ryan O\’Reilly was recently named captain of the Blues. While he only scored 12 goals last year, O\’Reilly\’s 49 assists carried him to the team lead of 61 points. He won 56.6% of his face-offs, and finished third in both Byng and Selke voting. In year two of his third stint with the Blues, David Perron scored 25 goals, his most since 2013-14, with 60 points, the second highest total in his career. It was the fifth time in his 13 year career that he hit the 20 goal mark. Brayden Schenn also scored 25 goals, but had two less assists than Perron. Over three seasons in St. Louis, Schenn is averaging 66 points per 82 games. Jaden Schwartz scored 22 goals, hitting that mark for the fourth time. His 57 points were fourth on the Blues. Schwartz has had injury problems in the past, so entering free agency, it would be nice for him to play in two season in a row without missing time. Mike Hoffman is a pretty one dimensional player, but that one dimension is the best kind. He scored 29 goals in 69 games last year, and in his six full NHL seasons, Hoffman\’s lowest goal total is 22, and he has scored at least 26 goals in the other five seasons. Veteran center Tyler Bozak scored 13 goals, but his 29 points in 67 games made up the worst point per game ratio of his career since 2010-11. Robert Thomas had a nice second season, with 10 goals and 32 assists for 42 points in 66 games. Those numbers will give him the edge over Bozak for the second line center spot, but Bozak could end up passing Thomas. Zach Sanford scored 16 goals in 58 games, doubling his career high goal total. Sanford had 109 hits, which was fourth on the team. Former second rounder Jordan Kyrou spent the majority of his time in the NHL last year, with nine points in 28 games. In 16 AHL games, the 22 year old scored nine goals with six assists. He seems like the best breakout candidate on the roster. Fourth liners Ivan Barbashev and Oskar Sundqvist have their similarities. They are only a year a part in age, and both kill penalties. Barbashev is more physical, but their production was similar, with Sundqvist playing in 12 less games, but scoring one more goal with three less points than his counterpart. The Blues brought in physical forward Kyle Clifford on a two-year deal. Clifford had 17 points in 69 games for the Maple Leafs and Kings, with 68 penalty minutes and 133 hits. In his 10 year career, Clifford has had at least 100 hits in every season. Although he only played in 40 games, Sammy Blais led the team with 155 hits. Blais also scored six goals with seven assists. In 80 career NHL games, Mackenzie MacEachern has 10 career goals. Seven of them game in 51 games last year. Jacob De La Rose was acquired midseason in a trade for Robby Fabbri that hasn\’t worked out. De La Rose had five points in 34 games. He can kill penalties, but doesn\’t do anything else well.

Defensemen

The Blues countered with Pietrangelo leaving by bringing in Torey Krug, who isn\’t special defensively, but he\’s a great offensive defenseman who will be on the first power play unit. Krug scored nine goals with 49 points in 61 games for the Bruins last year, and received Norris votes. Krug has averaged 61.6 points per 82 games over the past four years. Colton Parayko scored exactly 10 goals with 18 assists for the second consecutive season, but in 2019-20 he did it in 16 less games than in 2018-19. In his five NHL seasons, Parayko has an average GAR of 13.5, although his 6.7 number in 2019-20 was a career low. The Blues traded for Justin Faulk right before the season then extended him for a questionable seven years, when the money should have gone to Pietrangelo instead. Faulk proceeded to have a career worst season in his age 27 year. Faulk had 16 points in 69 games, for .23 points per game, his lowest ever by .10. He wasn\’t better analytically, with a career low GAR of -3.7. The Blues signed Vince Dunn to a cheap bridge deal, but he\’ll be an RFA again next year. Dunn had 23 points, which was the lowest of his three NHL seasons. But, he had his greatest analytical season, with a GAR of 12.1. Marco Scandella was traded twice last year, and the Blues liked him enough in his 11 regular season games and nine playoff games to give him a four year extension. Scandella averaged over 20 minutes a night with St. Louis. Robert Bortuzzo is back for his seventh season with the Blues. He had six points with a +12 rating in 42 games last year, with 66 hits and 43 blocked shots. Carl Gunnarsson is also entering season number seven in St. Louis. He had seven points in 36 games last year, but he had a low 47 CF%. 

Goalies

Goaltending is a big question for the Blues entering 2020-21 after Jake Allen was traded and wasn\’t replaced. Jordan Binnington will always have his legendary 2018-19 to remember, but he regressed last year. Binnington had a .912 SV% with a 2.56 GAA and a 3.30 GSAA. He finished 7th in Vezina voting, but wasn\’t the seventh best goalie in the league. He was terrible in the playoffs, with a 4.72 GAA in five games. His backup will be Ville Husso, a 25 year old who was a 4th rounder in 2014. Husso has no NHL experience, and wasn\’t great in the AHL last year, with a 2.56 GAA and a .909 SV% in 42 games. The Blues should be impatient with Husso. If he struggles, one possible acquisition is either Aaron Dell or Michael Hutchinson on Toronto, who are both experienced and are 3rd and 4th goalies with the Maple Leafs.

Projected Lines

Brayden Schenn – Ryan O\’Reilly – David Perron

Jaden Schwartz – Robert Thomas – Mike Hoffman

Zach Sanford – Tyler Bozak – Jordan Kyrou

Kyle Clifford – Ivan Barbashev – Oskar Sundqvist

Extras: Sammy Blais, Mackenzie MacEachern, Jacob De La Rose

Torey Krug – Colton Parayko

Vince Dunn – Justin Faulk

Marco Scandella – Robert Bortuzzo

Extras: Carl Gunnarsson

Jordan Binnington

Ville Husso

Projection

The Blues do have their issues. Goaltending and the back half of their defense isn\’t great. But, the West Division is really weak. The Blues will have fun rivaling the Avalanche and Golden Knights, but the rest of their matchups will be too easy for them. They\’ll coast to a third place finish, and a playoff spot. 

Published by carterhud

Carterhud.com. SI Kids Kid Reporter, Prime Time Sports Talk writer

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