The St. Louis Blues are practically an invisible franchise.
They aren’t bad enough to pity, but they aren’t good enough to take notice of, either. They have made the playoffs just once in the last six years, and although they have looked at times like they may have turned a corner, they consistently return to mediocrity and, essentially, irrelevance.
That might sound harsh, but honestly, when was the last time you spent any significant time thinking about this team?
How many players can you name on this squad? Can you think of a single Blues fan? They are the Golden State Warriors of the NHL.
St. Louis Blue Offseason Moves
The magic number this offseason, it seems, was 36 for the Blues.
They added several players to try and mix up the chemistry, and three of them were 36 years old. Jason Arnott, Jamie Langenbrunner and Scott Nichol were all useful players, but they are all past their prime.
It remains to be seen how much they have left in their tanks.
The team also decided to be the latest team to take a gamble on Jonathan Cheechoo, hoping he will rediscover his lost form. He had 93 goals in two seasons between 2005 and 2007.
He has just 40 goals in four seasons since, and he spent all of last year in the minors. He lost his confidence like few before him, and many people don’t think he can find it again and perform like he once did.
The 31-year-old will start the season in the minors, but could be an intriguing call up for the team. At the very least he is one to watch.
2011-12 St. Louis Blues NHL Outlook
The goaltender position is one to watch with this team.
The Blues made what seemed to be a major gamble when they acquired Jaroslav Halak from the Canadiens last year, signing him to a new four-year deal.
The distinguishing element of Halak’s career up to that point was a strong playoff run right before he was traded. While he wasn’t bad last year, he also didn’t establish himself as a strong No. 1 in his new surroundings.
He has the potential to be a top goalie, but he has yet to realize that potential. If this team wants to be relevant then they will need more from Halak.
What the team does have is a nice core of young talent.
David Backes had 31 goals and 31 assists last year, and was the best player on the team. He should be able to provide a similar year, and he’ll have more young talent around them if they can stay healthier this year than they did last year.
David Perron, Andy McDonald and T.J. Oshie all missed big chunks of time last year. If they can stay healthy then there is at least a decent chance that the team will be better than they were last year when they fell 10 points short of a playoff spot.
The addition of all the veteran talent should be a positive influence on the youngsters.
Center Patrick Berglund is a player to watch closely because he could be poised for a nice breakthrough.
The 23-year-old Swede was a pleasant surprise last year with 22 goals and 52 points. He showed considerably more promise than his total suggested, and if he can find some chemistry he has a chance to be a big piece of the offensive picture this year.
The Blues were top 10 in the league last year in goals scored per game, so increased performance from Berglund, the returning youngsters, and the new veterans has the potential to provide a nice boost.
2011-12 St. Louis Blues Schedule
One of the biggest factors working against this team is their division.
They play in the hardest grouping there is.
The Red Wings and Blackhawks are both recent Cup winners who will again be strong. Nashville is a strong team, and no team was more aggressive in the offseason than Columbus. There will be no such thing as an easy divisional game.
St. Louis Blues NHL Futures Odds (from Bodog)
The Blues are fittingly placed in the futures odds—at 35/1 they are the 17th most likely Cup winner according to oddsmakers. Since only 16 teams make the playoffs, this team is viewed—accurately—as not much more than a fringe playoff contender.
Similarly, they are tied for eighth in the race to win the Western Conference at 18/1, according to NHL odds.
2011-12 St. Louis Blues Predictions
If everything worked out for this squad there is no reason that they couldn’t finish in a playoff spot—perhaps sixth to eighth. After the last couple of years, though, it is hard to have faith that everything will work.
Though I like this team more than some of the other contenders for those playoff spots—like Calgary, for example—I would not confidently predict that they will make the playoffs, and even if they do I would expect little from them in the playoffs.
This team will not remove their cloak of invisibility this year.
Doc’s Sports is very excited for this upcoming NHL season. Visit our home page to access all team previews, as well as more sports articles, betting odds and full coverage on the 2011-12 NHL season.