The Blues are back.
With the new CBA, hockey fans everywhere are rejoicing, and teams are scrambling to get their players to town for what looks to be a very short training camp before the season starts. Every team is gearing up for what could be one of the most exciting seasons in recent history.
The Blues seem like they are ready to go whenever the CBA is officially signed, but there are still things that need to be worked out for the team to be completely ready to go. Some of them are just minor details, but others could affect the franchise for a number of years.
These are the five most important items that need to be addressed for the Blues to be successful not only in this season, but for seasons to come.
The Blues and Blues fans alike are extremely excited about Vladimir Tarasenko. The 21-year-old was playing in the KHL, scoring 31 points in 31 games. With the season starting, Tarasenko will be taking his talents to St. Louis.
The major question is, where will Tarasenko fit into the Blues lineup?
The Blues right now have T.J. Oshie, Chris Stewart, Jamie Langenbrunner and Jaden Schwartz on the right side. Tarasenko would easily fit into the second line with Patrik Berglund and Andy McDonald, but that would push Chris Stewart to the third line and Jaden Schwartz out of the lineup altogether.
What may work is moving Schwartz to the left side in order to free up a little more space. The Blues still get his production and get to see him grow, while maintaining the goal-scoring abilities of Tarasenko on a high scoring line.
Tarasenko is the missing piece for the Blues, but they will have to find an effective way to get him into the lineup for them to truly be dominant.
Last season, the Blues rode the success of Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott to the top spot in the Central and their first playoff win since 2002.
But now the Blues have to figure out who will be the starting goaltender.
With the shortened season, giving each goaltender an equal amount of starts will not allow either goaltender to get into a rhythm allowing them to win. The Blues will have to establish a go-to goaltender and let him get a majority of the starts. That goaltender should be Jaroslav Halak.
The good news is that with the amount of star power the Blues have in net, if either goaltender has a cold streak, the other can easily step up and establish himself as the better goaltender. The same can be said for the goalie that has the hot streak.
The Blues have two starting goalies, which will prove to be invaluable in a season where one injury could derail the entire season.
The Blues have a unique situation in having two starting goaltenders. Last year, the team could afford to let both have the same amount of playing time. This season, there needs to be an established starting goaltender.
This past offseason, the Blues re-signed David Perron, Chris Stewart and T.J. Oshie to retain the young core of players. These were moves the team had to make.
However, they let Carlo Colaiacovo walk, and the defenseman signed with the Detroit Red Wings. Ian Cole will move up from Peoria to replace Colaiacovo, but will he be good enough to man the blue line?
Colaiacovo was normally paired up with either Kevin Shattenkirk or Alex Pietrangelo, but Cole should be paired up with Barrett Jackman on the second line. Move Shattenkirk and Pietrangelo on the first, and then have Kris Russell and Roman Polak on the third line.
By pairing Cole with Jackman, the youngest player gets to learn from the veteran.
Polak and Russell will be great for defense, while Pietrangelo and Shatenkirk will be the offensive pair. Cole will undoubtedly make some rookie mistakes in games, but Colaiacovo had a terrible knack for making bad passes and taking stupid penalties in important situations late in the game.
Cole has learned and commanded the blue line for the Rivermen in Peoria, and shouldn't have too much trouble adapting to the NHL game. The Blues will realize letting Colaiacovo walk in favor of Ian Cole was the right move.
The Blues made sure that the young core would be together as long as possible. David Perron, David Backes, T.J. Oshie, Patrik Berglund, Alex Pietrangelo and Chris Stewart are all a part of this core, and are the integral part of the Blues offense.
The major question is if they can handle the pressure that comes with being one of the best teams in the conference.
Besides Backes, the only playoff experience this core has was the two playoff series in the 2012 playoffs. Do they have enough leadership and playmaking ability to make a deep playoff run?
Blues fans would say yes. David Backes is one of the most underrated captains in the NHL, and has the leadership to make a difference when the pressure is on. David Perron has known to come up big when he needs to. Pietrangelo is one of the best defensemen in he league, and can handle the pressure easily.
The Blues will have to test the waters during the first part of the season to see if they need to acquire a veteran at the deadline to help lead the team into the playoffs.
But chances are, this core is ready to make a deep run on their own.
The item that the Blues need to pay the most attention to this season is Alex Pietrangelo. The defenseman is in the last year of his contract, and teams will be doing everything in their power to try to sign the future Norris-winning player.
With the cap lowering to $64.3 million next season, teams will not have the amount of money they did last free agency, and will need to spend it more wisely.
Meanwhile, the Blues have about $10 million in cap space to make a move if they need to. The Blues need to spend their money to retain Pietrangelo and cement him as a Blue. Pietrangelo will prove to be worth every penny the Blues spend.
Also up for contract is Kevin Shattenkirk. Shattenkirk is another player that a lot of teams will show interest in.
If the Blues get Pietrangelo locked up early, they could make a run to keep them both. If they do, the Blues will have one of the best defenses in the entire league. If not, they will still have one of the best single defenseman, and can add more pieces to make the defense just as good.
The Blues want to continue to retain their young core, and there may not be a more important piece than Alex Pietrangelo. The Blues need to take care of his contract before the season is over, and then try to sign Shattenkirk as well.