St. Louis Blues 2021-22 Season Preview

All offseason, the Blues decided to stock up on wingers as they expected a trade of Vladimir Tarasenko. But, they didn’t move the face-of-the-franchise. So now, there is an incredible amount of depth for St. Louis up front. The team was very disappointing last year. Can they bounce back?

Offseason additions: F Pavel Buchnevich, F Brandon Saad, F James Neal (PTO), F Michael Frolik (PTO).

Offseason subtractions: F Mike Hoffman, D Vince Dunn, F Jaden Schwartz, F Zach Sanford, F Sammy Blais, D Carl Gunnarsson.

Forwards

In the third year of his third stint with the Blues, David Perron was the team’s best offensive player. He scored 19 goals with 39 assists, to lead the team with 58 points in 56 games. It was his first time averaging over a point-per-game, and the 33-year-old’s second-highest point total with St. Louis. Ryan O’Reilly put together another great season, finishing fifth in Selke voting and 18th in Hart for his efforts. O’Reilly scored 24 goals with 30 assists. Over his three seasons as a Blue, O’Reilly is yet to miss a game. The elite defender averaged over twenty minutes a game for the sixth consecutive season, while winning 58.8 percent of draws. The Rangers’ efforts to increase in grit ended up with the Blues getting Pavel Buchnevich. The 26-year-old Russian had a career year in 2020-21, scoring 20 goals with 48 points in 54 games. He has the flexibility to play anywhere in the top-nine for St. Louis. With Tarasenko still with the team, the question is, for how much longer? Will the Blues look to move him midseason? Tarasenko has missed nearly all of the games since winning the Stanley Cup in 2019. In 34 games combined in the two years since, he has scored just seven goals. Four of those goals with ten assists came in 24 games in 2020-21. How will the elite sniper be after another shoulder surgery? Brayden Schenn scored 16 goals last year, which was actually his lowest since 2012-13. He was on pace to beat his 2018-19 mark, but the shortened season intervened. Schenn had 20 assists, while reaching triple-digit hits for the tenth consecutive season. Brandon Saad has played against the Blues a lot as a rival with the Blackhawks and Avalanche, and he now joins the team he just beat in round one last year. He scored 15 goals in 44 games for Colorado last season. Where Saad really turned it on was the postseason, scoring seven times in ten games. He had a league-leading shooting percentage of 22.1 percent last season. Take away with that as you will. A second-rounder in 2016, Jordan Kyrou was productive in his first-full NHL season. Playing in all but one game, he scored 14 goals with 35 points. That was good enough for fifth on the team. Robert Thomas had a rough and rocky junior season, playing in just 33 games. Thomas scored three times with nine assists for what was easily his worst of his three seasons. Entering his fourth NHL season, Thomas just turned 22 in July. After going to the open market, Tyler Bozak came back to the Blues. The veteran had 17 points in 31 games last year, for a very good 44-point pace. Of course, you cannot expect that from Bozak as a fourth line center. Bozak’s offensive upside is worth it with his good defense. Ivan Barbashev scored 25 goals over the two seasons prior to last year. He scored just five last season, along with seven assists in 38 games. The checking forward had 49 hits as well. Former first-round pick Klim Kostin can make the team out of camp. Kostin has six NHL games under his belt, but struggled in the KHL last year. Kostin had just 18 points in 43 games for Omsk Avangard last year. Logan Brown, who grew up in the area, joins the Blues after a training camp trade with Ottawa. Brown played in just one NHL game last year, and had nine points in 13 AHL games. The season before, he had eight points in 23 NHL games with 28 in 25 AHL contests. For the first time in his 11 year career, Kyle Clifford did not record over 100 hits. He had to settle at 69 in 50 games, along with seven points. He had 30 penalty minutes, fourth on the team. With Oskar Sundqvist still recovering from a torn ACL, MacKenzie MacEachern has an opportunity. The former third round pick has averaged less than nine minutes a game in his career, but still has 166 hits in 101 games.

Defensemen

After losing Vince Dunn to Seattle, the Blues did not bother to get a replacement. So, they enter the season with a thinner defense than they have had in years past. Torey Krug brought his power play expertise in his first year with the team, with 12 assists on the man advantage. Overall, Krug had 32 points in 51 games. Krug finally was a true number one defenseman for the first time in his career. Justin Faulk looked like an awful addition to the team in 2019-20, but he had a nice redemption year, averaging over 24 minutes on ice a night. Faulk scored seven goals with 25 points, along with 87 blocks and 127 hits. As he entered what would be a contract season, the Blues decided to extend Colton Parakyo until the end of the decade. In the beginning of his career, Parakyo was a great two-way defender, but now he is more on the defensive side. He had 12 points in 32 games, with 64 blocks. He is a good player, although the long-term contract is a dicey move. Despite just a 43.56 xGF%, Marco Scandella was able to reach an actual GF% of 54.84. In the first campaign of his four-year extension, Scandella averaged over a hit and a block a game. Oddly enough, Robert Bortuzzo led the Blues in xGF%, at 51.27. The hard-nosed right-handed shot also had the best xGA/60 among regular Blues. That provides a major contrast to his potential partner, Niko Mikkola. Mikkola was not an angel defensively, but his 3.24 GA/60 was brutally unlucky. Mikkola’s 33.3 GF% was tied with Jamie Drysdale for third-worst in the league among defenders with as much ice time as Mikkola. Only David Savard and Ben Hutton were worse. Jake Walman played in 24 games, with an ugly 2.55 xGA/60. The former Providence defender blocked 20 shots with 26 hits.

Goalies

It is tough to say that Jordan Binnington definitely peaked in 2019, but there was never going to be a situation where he topped his 1.89 GAA from that season. Binnington has settled into a decent starting goaltender, with a positive-but-not-crazy GSAA over the last two seasons. In 42 games last year, Binnington had a .910 save percentage with a 2.65 GAA and a 2.6 GSAA. The Blues once again did not get him a veteran backup, so Ville Husso is the other option again. Giving a 25-year-old with bad AHL numbers the backup job went as poorly as you thought it would. Husso had a save percentage of .893 with a 3.20 GAA.

Projected Lines

Pavel Buchnevich – Ryan O’Reilly – David Perron

Brandon Saad – Brayden Schenn – Vladimir Tarasenko

Logan Brown – Robert Thomas – Jordan Kyrou

Kyle Clifford – Tyler Bozak – Ivan Barbashev

Extras: Klim Kostin, MacKenzie MacEachern

Torey Krug – Justin Faulk

Marco Scandella – Colton Parakyo

Niko Mikkola – Robert Bortuzzo

Extras: Jake Walman

Jordan Binnington

Ville Husso

Prediction

The Blues struggled to stay afloat in the awful West Division last year, which is a big concerning piece of information as they re-enter the Central Division. They still have a good team, with the ability to do some damage. Are they legitimate Cup contenders? Maybe not. But the Blues are definitely in line for fourth place in the Central.

Published by carterhud

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

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