A season of early success followed by a long and dreary road of declining performance has left Blues fans wanting vast improvements. Consistency, a trait that the Blues had trouble with all season (besides the PP, of course), is something that the Blues will need to find while infusing a myriad of new faces (and old, looking at you ‘Perry’). The Blues had players that didn’t exactly play at a peak, consistent level last season. It happens. Guys fall off, get older, or get hurt. The team dealt with these situations throughout the season, which had a large effect on determining which beach they ended up taking their families to once May rolled around. We will start out with the easy and obvious..
Jake ‘The Snake’ Allen
Third time’s a charm, right?! The previous two seasons have seen Allen start out great, falter mid-season around January and February, and finish strong. Seriously, if that’s not consistency then I don’t know what is. However, the Blues need consistency on a different level. Consistency on an elite level, to be exact. If we’re being honest, Allen is a great value in today’s game with his $4.35M cap hit, which is good for the 20th highest paid goaltender in the league. Unfortunately, last season he did not produce top-20 numbers throughout the season. Allen’s save percentage of .906 was good (very bad) for 43rd in the NHL of goaltenders with at least 20 games started. Some (not so) notable names ahead of him? Antti Niemi (played for 3 teams last season), Jaroslav Halak (yeah, same guy), and Darcy Kuemper (played for 2 teams last season) all posted better save percentages on lesser quality teams. Jacob Markstrom, whose team is literally trying to tank every season, had a higher save percentage at .912.
The Blues and fans know that he’s capable of being that elite goaltender. He’s done it before. The playoff run he put together a couple seasons ago? That, was elite goaltending. He posted a .934 save percentage and a 1.96 GAA, in 11 games played. Unfortunately, with the terrible playoff format (IMO), the Blues ran into the hottest team and goaler of the playoffs in the Predators’ Pekka Rinne. Obviously, those numbers are hard to replicate over the course of the regular season, but you know the talent and ability is there.
So here we are, back to a fresh start. Everyone starting anew. Allen has reportedly tried out a new off-season routine, believed to be a sports psychologist, but never confirmed. Will that be exactly what he needs to get his mental state right? The Blues will have to wait until the season starts to tell. What we do know is that he’s at least trying something different. The usual routine clearly hasn’t worked in keeping him going throughout the season. The mid-season drop off has been dramatic and if the Blues are planning on taking the next step then Allen will need to take that next step as well.
Games started: 60
Wins: 36 (career-high)
Robby ‘The Hair’ Fabbri
Robby Fabbri is coming off his second knee surgery for a torn ACL. His left knee might as well be Jell-o at this point. Fabbri had an 18-goal rookie season in 2015-16 and was on pace for a similar output the following season with 11 goals, before suffering his intital ACL injury. Fabbri signed a 1-year, $925,000 extension with the Blues this off-season as what appears to be a bridge-contract if he can prove his game still holds value. Fabbri returning to his 0.53 PPG pace in the coming year would be viewed as a big success. Returning from two ACL surgeries is no small task.
Fabbri has been doing off-season workouts in Toronto after receiving medical clearance. The Blues will, most likely, be looking to gradually ease Fabbri into the lineup. I mentioned in Lineup Dreams that Fabbri would be absolutely beautiful on the Schwartz/Schenn line. As elite as that combo was last year, adding a prime Fabbri would make it all the more entertaining. That’s a big if on Fabbri returning to that elite level, but it’s one that he’s more than capable of achieving. If he has a good camp and is keeping pace with the pack, there’s no reason not to place him in a top-6 role. That pushes someone like Steen or Perron down the lineup and make your top-9 look even more lethal.
What can reasonably be expected from Fabbri coming off two knee surgeries? The talent is there. It’s doubtful that he lost the touch in his slick play-making or his vision of the ice to anticipate the play. The only thing in question is his squeaky wheel. Does it roll smoothly in line with the rest of traffic? How well will he absorb contact? Will he shy away from mucking it up in the corners to win puck battles? These are questions that can only be answered when he returns to live game action in the preseason (The preseason starts September 18th at Dallas).
It won’t happen immediately. The guy wants to play and he may take some precautions in the first few preseason games he actually does get into. Once he gets his sea legs under him, he should be able to fly around the rink with the best of them. Also, let’s not forget ‘Fabbs’ is still only 22 years-old. If he doesn’t bust out and turn in a 60-point season (don’t let your mind wander down this road), it shouldn’t be cause for the Blues, and the fans, to write him off for good. Let’s just hope Dr. Bernard Bach’s second wheel repair works out better than the first..
You had to know this was coming, right? Don’t get me wrong, I think Steen is a solid player in his own right. His two-way game is considered one of the best in the league. However, more of that credit goes to the defensive side of his game rather than the offensive.
Steen has been on a steady decline ever since he had back-to-back seasons of posting career-highs in offensive categories. The 2013-14 season saw him net a high of 33 goals. The following season, he posted career-bests in assists (40) and points (64). The following three seasons have seen him fall to 52, 51, and 46 points, respectively. Those are still respectable point totals, but put those numbers on the third line and they look even better. If you like prop-bets, you can bet on Steen having exactly 14 goals next season. Some bizarre twist of fate has seen his goal totals drop from 17 to 16 and then 15 last year (Steen loves a little consistency with his decline).
Steen will be entering his age-34 season this year and he’s not getting any faster. The grind of the hard(big)-nosed defensive hockey that Steen plays has taken its toll. However, with the new look Blues, the lessened burden of focusing primarily on the wing, and a possible infusion of youth into the team, Steen could feel some revitalization in those old wheels of his.
Referring back to my recent piece on the possible lineup, Steen on the third line with Bozak and Perron would look great in my book. Perron is coming off a career-high season with the Vegas Golden Knights where he posted 50 assists and 66 points (call me pessimistic, but don’t hold your breath on expecting the same, or better, production). Bozak has consistently been between 40-50 points with a faceoff winning percentage of just over 53%. Fresh new line mates (with an old friend) could lead Steen to have a slightly more productive year this upcoming season.
Goals: 14 (I wasn’t joking, I’m all in on this trend)
Did You Miss It?
Joey Vitale will be taking over the Blues radio airwaves for Kelly Chase starting next season on KMOX. It was announced on Tuesday afternoon that the St. Louis native would takeover for the departing Chaser. The St. Louisan played 5 years in the NHL posting 11 goals and 44 points in 234 games played. He attended CBC high school in St. Louis, because he’s not actually from St. Louis if we don’t know where he went to high school.
Brady Tkachuk will be the 3rd member of the family to sign an NHL contract as he will reportedly sign his ELC with the Ottawa Senators. As Tkachuk signs his deal, there’s speculation that he will instead go straight to the OHL and play for the London Knights.
A couple of Swiss teams played an exhibition game with an interesting obstacle.. (if you find game footage, @ me immediately)
Thanks for reading and let me hear your thoughts on who you see as a rebound candidate!!