Through the summer, we are going to take a more in-depth look at the roster moves made by the Colorado Avalanche and what to expect going into the new season. At the same time, we’ve decided to do the same for each of the teams that the Avalanche will be competing with in the Central Division - starting with the St. Louis Blues.
After missing out on the playoffs thanks to a loss in that final game against the Avs last April, the Blues have been among the most active teams this summer. The team re-made their depth down the middle by bringing in two players that fans in Colorado will be very familiar with. First the Blues went out and signed former University of Denver Pioneer Tyler Bozak. Then they traded for one-time Avalanche Ryan O’Reilly. Nothing can ever go wrong with a Ryan O’Reilly trade right?
O’Reilly and Bozak are not the only additions the Blues have made this summer - though they’ll be the most significant. Here is a list of the team’s transactions since the new NHL year began on July 1st:
Along with the significant improvement down the middle, the Blues also addressed their need for a more threatening middle-6, as they added scoring wingers David Perron and Patrick Maroon. They’re not stars, but the addition of two offensively minded wingers is significant for a Blues team that was dead last in the Central Division in goals scored last season.
Those are four big additions up front that should make the Blues a lot more dangerous this year.
Then there’s Robby Fabbri. The 22-year old missed all of last season after undergoing a second ACL surgery on his left knee. In 2015-16, Fabbri was having a very strong rookie season when he first went down with the injury. After recovering from his first surgery, he suffered a setback during last pre-season and was immediately ruled out for all of 2017-18.
Now, seemingly (hopefully) healthy, Fabbri is ready to return to help the Blues next season. He’ll likely be integrated into the lineup slowly, but thanks to the veteran additions, that’s something the Blue can afford to do.
That’s a lot of new faces that should address the team’s biggest weakness from a year ago.
Here is a very interesting lineup projection from Sean Tierney of The Athletic (if you don’t follow Sean on Twitter, do it. He’s one of the good one.)
That is a very strong lineup, and it makes a lot of sense. The one issue I see is that fourth line. Watching Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou in the OHL all season, I feel comfortable saying Thomas is absolutely ready for the NHL. While at the same time, Kyrou is not. Put Jordan Nolan in there for Kyrou, and this is very likely a lineup we will see for the Blues on opening night.
While they made some significant additions up front, the Blues had one big loss this summer - Carter Hutton. Though he is really only a 32-year old backup, Hutton had a career year last season and was a big reason why the Blues were anywhere near the playoffs. When Jake Allan was suffering through a tough spell, Hutton stepped in and carried the load in a big way. He ended up playing 32 games for the Blues while contributing the best save percentage (.931) of any goalie with more then 20 starts.
Jake Allen is the more talented goaltender, but his struggles with consistency can be a major issue. If he isn’t able to be the starter the team needs, no additions up front are going to be enough to overcome bad goaltending. With Alex Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko anchoring the blueline, and the emergence of Vince Dunn as one of the most underrated young defenders in the NHL, the Blues still have a strong defensive core, but even that won’t help to hide a starter’s save% below .910.
There is no debating that the St. Louis Blues have a more impressive lineup right now than they did at the end of last season. Whatever you think of Ryan O’Reilly’s contract, he is one of the best two-way centers in all of hockey and is going to provide a really tough matchup for Nathan MacKinnon every time these two teams play.
For some, the Blue have won the offseason, but we know that doesn’t mean a whole lot come October. Even if they score more goals this season, they're still going to have to rely on a goalie who has been inconsistent - at best - over his NHL career.
The Avalanche growth will come internally, while any season-to-season growth for St. Louis is going to come from the new additions. I would suspect these two teams will be battling for 3rd/4th in the Central all season long.
How do you feel about the new-look St. Louis Blues going into next season?