Hitch and his assistant coach are seen here rallying their team. Photoshop by Joe Kremel of BlackhawkUp.com
The St. Louis Blues’ post season went a lot like their regular season with high expectations that fell short. Coming into the 2013 season, most had their money on the Blues to win the Central Division as well as the Western Conference. It’s easy to see where that idea came from. The Blues found their groove with Hitchcock’s system the previous season, but they lacked playoff experience. With some post season hockey under their belts, it was logical that they would come out strong. While they looked solid in January, only losing to the far superior Chicago Blackhawks, their February was disappointing. They won only 4 out of 12 games that month, which led to captain David Backes to call out a few players on their focus. This season they look to bounce back, and they are looking decent during this cap crunch. They have just under 9 million to spend and only four players to decide upon. Their main concern is Alex Pitrangelo, who will most likely be eating up a chunk of that remaining money. The core is set, the system is working, and now they just have to execute.
The Captain – David Backes (4.5 mill): As the man that so many Blues fans claim to be better than Toews (he’s not), he brings a lot to the Blues team despite not being the most talented player in the league. He is pretty much going to deliver at least one bone crunching hit per night while still retrieving and dishing the puck out to pick up an assist. The man is hated by opponents and opposing fans alike. However, I will be the first to admit that he is a pretty cool guy off the ice. He has been known to kiss puppies and seems to be a standup guy, and I guess that’s why he’s the captain. He has a lot of heart. This next season he will need to score a few extra goals to make up for the untimely loss of Andy McDonald. The team relies on the consistency of Backes. This will be even truer next season even with the emergence of…
The Sophmore – Vladimir Tarasenko (1.75 mill): Tarasenko looked phenomenal in his rookie campaign and would have done more if it wasn’t for his run in with Mark Olver. His 19 points in 38 games was impressive, and you could see the raw talent that is waiting to be molded. His hands and skating ability are top notch and almost seemed misplaced on a team as defense heavy as the Blues. Don’t get me wrong, he has already proven that he plays well in Hitch’s system by ending the season as a plus. Like Backes and Oshie, Tarasenko will need to step it up this season to make up for the loss of McDonald. This season is the perfect opportunity for him to make his presence known in the league.
The Spark – Derek Roy (4 mill): I find the addition of Derek Roy to be one of the most surprising moves of the off season. He is not a player that I would ever drop into the Blue roster, but I don’t think it’s a bad decision. Much like Ribeiro in Phoenix, I think that a pure goal scorer might be a better fit but it never hurts to have a natural offensive talent. Roy underperformed last season, and I’m sure that playing on a struggling team didn’t help his case much. If you look at the past work of Roy, you can’t miss that he is a very consistent player. If the Blues can get him on a decent possession line, then they will be seeing a lot more pucks in the back of the opposing team’s net. His small size will not be a hindrance on a team with Backes on it. I’m glad to see Roy get a chance to shine.
Prognosis: Going to be a really tough team to beat. With a healthy Oshie and Tarasenko, combined with the adition of Derek Roy, we might see a nice spark from the Blues offense. The Blues will continue to be a solid defensive team, and hopefully their goaltending will stay healthy. Backes will continue to be the player he has always been which is always be a good thing for the team he’s on. I don’t see how they could miss the playoffs, and they will be going to at least the 2nd round.