Some thought the Blues were going to take a step up to being a Stanley Cup contender last season. However, things sort of went awry, thanks in part to goaltending issues that led to Jake Allen being relied on to save the day until Brian Elliott regained some of his form. However, the ship did get righted, and late trades boosted their defense group, including Jay Bouwmeester, who finally got to go to the playoffs thanks to Ken Hitchcock and company. They were the four seed, but that meant a matchup with the Kings as the five seed. It was a really intense, tough series, but Los Angeles won it, and the Blues' Cup dreams died, as they have every season since their genesis.
As the team is still led by Hitchcock, goal prevention will likely remain the name of the game. There should be improvement in net. Elliott's numbers may be roughly the same, but Jaroslav Halak should play better, and if this is the case Jake Allen could be trade fodder. Or maybe Elliott. Or maybe Halak. Somebody will get traded. Speaking of which, David Perron was sent to Edmonton, in part for Magnus Paajarvi, hoping a change of scenery will help him.
This team does have offensive talent, especially if T.J. Oshie stays healthy. Andy MacDonald is gone, but Derek Roy has joined the team, and guys like Chris Stewart and Patrik Berglund remain. The Blues also have young forwards like Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz who are expected to contribute at some point. Maybe now is the time.
The defense looks really stout. Alex Pietrangelo just got a big new deal, and he deserves it. He is great. Kevin Shattenkirk is really good. Bouwmeester and Jordan Leopold are trade deadline pickups that stuck around. Ryan Whitney is also there.
I like this team on paper. I think the goaltending only ends up being decent, but the defense and the forwards are very good. Plus, the new look Central doesn't seem that tough this year. After Chicago, I would probably slot in St. Louis as the second best team. This year, Bouwmeester won't just see the playoffs. He may see the second round. More than that, with good goaltending, maybe the Blues are an outside Cup contender this year.