Good morning and Happy Monday, Stars fans!
I thought it would be helpful if I were to do a brief overview of every Central Division team’s moves as a quick refresher and to expand on whether the team will be better or worse in regards to their moves. I will also stack them up against the Stars and show you how the Stars series against each team may end up panning out. Due to the success of the first two, this series will see it’s way to the end!
This next edition covers the St. Louis Blues:
The St. Louis Blues’ 2014 Offseason Moves:
The Blues made some major strides throughout their season, highlighted by the acquirement of all-star goaltender Ryan Miller, but ultimately fell before many thought they would in the first round to the Chicago Blackhawks, their second first-round postseason exit in a row. When the offseason unexpectedly came early for St. Louis, people weren’t sure what to expect.
The Blues re-signed minor-league prospect forwards Jori Lehtera, Patrick Cannone and Sebastian Wannstrom, and minor-league prospect defenseman David Shields. All of these names are young and will look to improve in the Blues’ farm system in the seasons to come.
They also re-signed center Steve Ott. Ott has been around a few teams over the last few seasons and is now classified as a “4th line checker”. Ott has a physical edge, even with his small frame, and a temper that’s difficult to match – unless of course you’re Antoine Roussel. Ott played minimal time this past year with the Blues and ended up with just three points on the year.
The free agent signings were a big factor for St. Louis. The Blues were able to haul in on-and-off left wing prospect John McCarthy from San Jose and long-time center prospect Benn Ferriero from Vancouver. These two will also expect to be threaded through the farm system and shaped into NHL contenders.
The Blues also reeled in defenseman Chris Butler from Calgary. Butler completed his first 82-game season with the Flames last year and ended up with 16 points. He may not see a full-time roster spot next year in St. Louis, but he has the potential to become a great two-way style defenseman.
The biggest catch by the Blues was their obtainment of skilled and highly envied center Paul Stastny from Colorado. Stastny became the Blues’ main target for their void in the dot after Jason Spezza decided to pack his bags and move to Dallas, permanently putting St. Louis to the side. Stastny put up 60 points in 71 games last season with the Avs and is a big pick-up overall. His presence in the dot was what made him one of the top free agent centers teams were begging for.
They also traded away defenseman Roman Polak and a fourth-round pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft for defenseman Carl Gunnarsson of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Gunnarsson had an average year for a defenseman and will look to add onto the prior-established blue-line powerhouse.
Aging center Brenden Morrow left his fourth line duties in St. Louis for a one-year deal with Tampa Bay, Derek Roy, a center searching for a fresh start, shipped himself to Nashville for a new chance to make something out of his dwindling career, and star goaltender Ryan Miller, who didn’t turn out to be what the Blues wanted with his 10-8-1 record between the pipes, left his short-lived journey in St. Louis for a starting gig with the Vancouver Canucks.
Better or worse?:
The St. Louis Blues might be feeling a bit of pressure, but it’s not likely.
The team finished last year with outstanding numbers, including 7th in the league in the goals for category, and 3rd in the league for goals against. After letting go of mainly prospects and aging players on a course set for disappointment, the Blues set up a new squad and built their pickups around new face Paul Stastny. The Blues will once again look to thrive next season with the key new additions in the offensive arsenal as well as the slightly improved blue line and go for another 110+ point season.
The only question would be the netminding. With Ryan Miller being declined a new contract and sent off into free agency and long time goaltender Jaroslav Halak being part of a trade for Miller at the deadline, the Blues now have one goalie. Brian Elliot will look to take the reins of the starting job come next season, and he is perfectly capable. Elliot is young at the age of 29 and posted an 18-6-2 record along with a .922 SV% and a 1.96 GAA in his third season with the Blues. These are some astounding numbers for a goaltender, but the question is if he will be able to handle the fatigue of a 60+ game season next year for the first time in his career.
The backup goalie is set to be Jake Allen, the talented 23 year old prospect that is looking for his chance at a big break.
How will the Stars fare?:
The Stars caught on quick to the Blues’ strategy last year and ended the season with a 3-1-1 series advantage, with St. Louis retaining the home-ice advantage. The Stars will gain the home-ice handicap this year and will kick off play with the Blues on October 28th at home, and won’t meet back up until December 27th in St. Louis, which leads to a February 17th meeting also on the road, to a March 15th bout in Dallas, and ending with an April 3rd duel also at the AAC.
The Blues had the Stars number early last season and dominated them, especially with their offensive attack and play between the pipes. But the Stars rallied back at the end of the year and won three straight contests against St. Louis. The Blues offense has only gotten better and their goaltending is still the firm rock it has been, but the Stars have found a way to mimic the Blues strategy. These two teams are very similar in regards to overall talent and this season it is going to be fun to watch the two teams go at it.
Overall, I think the Stars will take a 3-1-1 record, the same as last year, but Stastny could end up proving me wrong and being a much bigger addition than people are giving him credit for.
Comment below on how you feel the Blues did this offseason and if you think the Stars will be able to fend them off next year. As always, Go Stars.