Right now is the dry part of the offseason. All of free agency is pretty much wrapped up, and any sort of player movements are few and far between. As we look forward towards the upcoming season, I have a few “hot takes” shall we say of what I expect for the Blues. Reminder, these are bold predictions, so don’t yell at me on Twitter too much.
Prediction #1: Vladimir Tarasenko finishes top 3 in goal scoring
Vladimir Tarasenko is a tremendous goal scorer. Not a single player in the entire NHL has more 5v5 goals than him in the past 3 season. That being said, he’s still yet to take that next step, whether that be pushing 50 goals, contending for the Richard, or both. There’s a good chance that this is his season to finally do one, if not both. He’s coming off of a disappointing, but possibly injury plagued season, and he’s definitely coming in to the new season with a chip on his shoulder as a result. With additions like Ryan O’Reilly and Patrick Maroon, as well as a few others that can create space and opportunities for Tarasenko, he’s sure to thrive and hopefully have his best scoring season yet.
Prediction #2: Alex Pietrangelo finishes top 3 in Norris voting
Alex Pietrangelo is a truly elite defenseman. However, he is often underrated when it comes to national and league wide coverage. He was positioned to be a Norris candidate earlier this past season, but that fell apart once the wheels starting falling off for the Blues around January. He’s one of the best defenseman in the league, and assuming he continues to produce offensively, the improved offense and improved team overall should boost him into Norris contention.
Prediction #3: The Blues win the Central division
The Central division is an absolute nightmare. Every single year it’s a complete toss up as far as who comes out on top. However this is probably the best team the Blues have had since their conference final run a few years ago, and this team is probably even better, at least on paper. Joel Edmundson believes that the Blues have made themselves a top 5 team in the NHL, and with all the moves they’ve made this offseason, a Central division victory is not very far fetched.
Prediction #4: The Blues reach the Western Conference Final (at least)
Last time the Blues reached the Conference Final was three seasons ago, where they were eliminated in 6 games by the San Jose Sharks. As I said earlier, this team is just as good, if not better, than that team. Admittedly, reaching the Conference Final a year after missing the playoffs may be a bit of a reach, but the Blues just barely missed the playoffs, and the Tampa Bay Lightning did the exact same thing last season after missing the playoffs the year before.
Prediction #5: At least 2 of the Blues’ new additions set career highs in either goals or points
This offseason, the Blues added Ryan O’Reilly, David Perron, Tyler Bozak, Pat Maroon, and Jordan Nolan. Ryan O’Reilly (Career high: 28G 64P) spent the last few seasons on a very poor Buffalo team, and the years before was only on a mediocre Colorado team. This is far and away the best talent Ryan O’Reilly has ever played with, and he has the ability and desire to bring his point totals up near point per game. I expect a boost in performance similar to that of Brayden Schenn when he came over from Philadelphia.
Tyler Bozak (Career high: 18G 55P) is one of the best third line centers in the NHL, who spent a lot of his time in Toronto playing above his level on the second, or even sometimes the first line. Assuming he’s utilized better here in St. Louis, and given decent power play time, he has the ability to put up career numbers in St. Louis.
The last player I think has a strong chance of putting up career numbers is Pat Maroon. (Career high: 27G 42P) Pat Maroon is a perfect player for the Blues, and exactly the type of player they needed. He’s a big body that can bang down low, and create space for other forwards with his size. There’s a good chance he winds up either on the powerplay, playing with someone like Tarasenko, or even both. He was very consistent with the Devils at the end of last season, (13P in 17gms) and if he’s able to continue that consistency in St. Louis, he can certainly put up career numbers. Guys like David Perron and Jordan Nolan could also easily put up career highs as well, but probably have a less likely chance than the other three mentioned.
There are some high expectations for the Blues, and there are a lot of reasons for fans to be optimistic about the team this year. Even if none of these predictions come true, this is still the most exciting Blues team in a long time. Let’s go Blues!