I will be previewing all 30 NHL clubs. I will be looking at their available salary cap room, the additions and deletions from the 2008-09 rosters, and where I think they will stack up in their division and conference for the 2009-10 campaign.
Let's get a move on with the St. Louis Blues, which play in the Central Division of the Western Conference.
Not again. I am sure those thoughts ran through the minds of President John Davidson, G.M. Larry Pleau and Head Coach Andy Murray, when they found out about Erik Johnson. The Blues first overall pick in 2006, was injured during a team golf tournament as training camp was about to be begin last season.
He blew out his knee while riding in his golf cart, many have speculated how you blow out your knee while riding around in a golf cart but the result of the accident was that Johnson was gone for the season.
Eric Brewer then went down with a back injury, for the rest of the season after only playing 28 games and Paul Kariya went down after having surgery on both hips after playing only 11 games. The team was going into Christmas without their top two defensemen and maybe their most talented forward. The Blues were sitting well out of a playoff spot and it appeared that the Blues were heading for another early summer.
During the final 41 games of last season, the Blues had the best record in the NHL, 25-9-7. The climbed from 15th in the Western Conference all the way up to finish sixth and a first round battle against the Vancouver Canucks. They were swept out of the playoffs in four games but considering all the injuries and the general inexperience of their most talented forwards. The Blues management were extremely happy with the progress that their organization has been making.
Let’s take a look at what moves G.M. Larry Pleau was able to make and see which players will be a part of the St. Louis Blues in 2009-10.
Some of the significant additions that the Blues have made during the off-season are as follows: Ty Conklin (Detroit), Brendan Bell (Ottawa), Barry Tallackson (New Jersey), Adam Cracknell (Calgary) and Bryce Lampman (NY Rangers).
There are seven former Blue Players that have yet to sign deals with another franchise. They are: Dan Hinote, Chris Holt, Manny Legace, Steve Regier, Marek Schwartz, Charles Linglet and Matt Foy.
The Projected 2009–10 St. Louis Blues roster
The Blues currently have 18 players under one-way contracts; 11 forwards, five defensemen, and two goaltenders. The five players that are most likely to fill out the roster, that are on two-way contracts are as follows. It would most likely be three forwards and two defensemen. These players are;
- T.J. Oshie—The 22 year-old native of Mount Vernon, Washington was the Blues` first round pick (24th Overall) in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. After spending three seasons at the University of North Dakota, Oshie joined the Blues last season and appeared in 57 games. He scored 14 goals and tallied 25 assists for 39 points.
- Patrik Berglund—The 21 year-old native of Vesteras, Sweden was the Blues` first round pick (25th Overall) in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. Last season was Berglund`s first season playing hockey in North America, with the Blues he appeared in 76 games, scoring 21 goals and adding 26 assists for 47 points.
- David Perron—The 21 year-old native of Sherbrooke, Quebec was the Blues` first round pick (26th Overall) in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. Last season was Perron`s second with the Blues and thus far, he has appeared in 143 games, scoring 28 goals and adding 49 assists for 77 points.
- Erik Johnson—The 21 year-old native of Bloomington, Minnesota was the first overall pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. Last season would have been Johnson`s second but a training camp knee injury, sideline the defenseman for the entire season. During his first season, Johnson appeared in 69 games, scoring five goals and adding 28 assists for 33 points.
- Alex Pietrangelo—The 19 year-old native of King City, Ontario was the Blues` first round pick (Fourth overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Last season, Pietrangelo appeared in eight games before being sent back to the OHL`s Niagara Ice Dogs. He tallied his first assist of his NHL career against the San Jose Sharks on November 6th.
With these 23 players, the Blues’ Salary Cap would sit at $52.6 million. If you take the bonuses off of the calculation, it would only give the Blues approximately $8.4 million in cap space.
Now let’s take a look at the top prospects that will be looking to make an impression on G.M. Larry Pleau and head coach Andy Murray.
The 20 year-old native of Rodovre, Denmark was a Blues` first round pick (13th Overall) in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. The centerman will be making his North American debut this season after signing his first entry level contract. He will likely start the season in Peoria of the AHL but may be an injury call-up at some point during the season.
According to Eliteprospects.com
Eller is a very well-rounded and skilled forward. He has quick feet, soft hands and a good work ethic. He is a skilled playmaker, but also a decent scorer. Works hard and is valuable in shorthanded situations. He is quite a spectacular player with few weaknesses.
The 20 year-old native of Ann Arbor, Michigan was a Blues` first round pick (18th Overall) in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. The defenseman is entering his third season at the University Of Notre Dame.
According to Hockeysfuture.com
He’s strong in the corners and in front of his net. Tough to knock off his feet and moves the puck well in transition. Has a strong, accurate shot from the point.
The 20 year-old native of Livonia, Michigan was a Blues` second round pick (44th Overall) in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. The right winger is entering his first professional season after leaving the University of Michigan and signing his first entry level contract.
(According to Hockeysfuture.com)
Palushaj boasts a good all-around game. He can snipe goals with his quick shooting, and his stickhandling and playmaking abilities are also strong. He doesn't mind physical play, willing to dig in the corners to win the puck.
The 19 year-old native of Lycksele, Sweden was a Blues` first round pick (17th Overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. The defenseman is going to be playing over in Sweden, where he is under contract until the end of the 2010-11 season.
(According to Eliteprospects.com)
Rundblad is an offensive minded defenseman with very good size and puck skills. He has impressive vision and likes to move the puck into the offensive zone with slick stickhandling and good speed. Handles the puck with confidence and has very good poise. He is a great option from the blueline, where he releases a fairly accurate shot. He can also find his teammates with tape-to-tape passes. Size and strength is good.
In his own end, Rundblad tends to not play it simple enough at times. He is a tad too creative and could also be more aggressive and determined in his play. If he develops his defensive game, he will be a high-scoring two-way defenseman. If not, he will still be a capable power play quarterback, but a potential liability in his own end.
The 19 year-old native of Fredericton, New Brunswick was the Blues` second round pick (34th Overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. The goaltender is going to be returning to the QMJHL`s Montreal Rockets for the 2009-10 season.
(According to hockeysfuture.com)
He displays excellent lateral movement and strong positional play, and has proven that he can play well when the focus is on him. Allen is always on his toes and moves quickly between the pipes. He’s great at moving the puck, feeding the puck to open defenders to quickly spur on the attack. He’s also strong at controlling the puck when he makes a save, limiting rebounds and keeping square to the shooter.
Recap of 2008-09
Blues finished the season in third place in the Central Division and finished sixth in the Western Conference with a record of 41-31-10, good for 92 points.
The Blues had four players that broke the 20-goal plateau and they had 10 players in total that finished with double digit goals. Last season, the Blues were lead by Brad Boyes (35 goals. 39 assists and 74 points) and David Backes (31 goals).
The Blues` offense was 19th in the NHL with 227 goals for and defensively, the Blues were 12th in the NHL giving up 227 goals.
The Blues` powerplay was eighth in the NHL last season, clicking at 20.5 percent and they were third in killing penalties (83.8 percent).
Outlook for 2009-10
The sky may the limit for the young St. Louis Blues. After having the best record in the NHL during the final 41 games, expectations are high in Missouri. There is a definite youth movement afoot with the Blues and they were able to do it without Johnson, Kariya and Brewer.
The average age of the 30 players in camp is 26.94 years. They average a little over six feet tall and 204 pounds.
If the young players that showed their talents last year can learn from their experiences and players like Oshie and Berglund can avoid the sophomore jinx, the St. Louis Blues should be in for an excellent season once again.
I foresee a third place finish in the highly competitive Central Division and I think they will finish fifth in the Western Conference.
On Sept 15th, I will be reviewing Tampa Bay Lightning as I continue to preview each of the 30 NHL clubs. Look for my four-part article on how I would improve the NHL and my other previously published articles on bleacherreport.com.