“Buy or sell” is back for a third season. In case you’re new, I’ll choose trendy topics around the Blues organization and break them down and give my final word wether I’ll “buy or sell” that specific topic. Anything from prospect scoring streaks, trade rumors, penalty kill success, hot and cold steaks, etc will all be disscussed in this series throughout the season. Followers and readers can feel free to tweet me specific topics you’d like to see me breakdown and “buy or sell”, and discuss their thoughts on any of the articles in this series, @Palazzola_RTN.
Is Klim Kostin is primed for a breakout year?
Former 2017 1st round draft pick, Klim Kostin turned many heads this summer with his play in training camp. Kostin produced a team leading 6 points in 4 games during the preseason. Making it down to the final cut, the Blues ultimately sent the 20 year old back to the AHL to begin his third season. Kostin’s AHL career has been anything but normal. In his first season, the Blues were sharing their AHL team with the Vegas Golden Knights in Chicago. In his second season, Kostin only produced 24 points in 66 games played. Not only has Kostin finally transitioned to the North American game, he’s finally had some normality around him in San Antonio. Kostin is a big forward (6’3 215) with pure scoring ability. Along with his scoring ways, Kostin also brings an edge to his game. I’m expecting top line minutes for him in San Antonio to start the season and in my opinion, he’ll likely be the first forward called up to the NHL. As for a breakout season, I think he’s more than ready to double his point total from a season ago.
Will Robby Fabbri return to form?
Well over a year following major knee surgery, Robby Fabbri will start the season in the top 9 alongside Tyler Bozak and Robert Thomas. Reports out of training camp speculated that Fabbri has his speed and strength back. We’ve seen flashes of this in the stretch run of last season, but the question remains, will we see consistent speed out of number 15? Before his injury, Fabbri gave the Blues a ton of hope after a promising 18 goal rookie campaign. Since then, Fabbri has only scored 13 times in his last 83 regular season games. I personally think this will depend on how quick he can create chemistry with his line mates. We saw last year how productive Bozak and Thomas became while cycling the puck in the offensive zone. Now without Maroon on their left side, plugging in Fabbri will add speed and arguably more skill on their wing. I’m very interested to see how this line looks on the ice, especially in transition. I think this line will create a lot of turnovers that should result in some odd man rushes. Looking ahead, I also wouldn’t be shocked if we see Fabbri playing center at some points this season. This is a tricky question, but I think Robert Thomas is so good that he will create a spark for the rejuvenated Robby Fabbri, at least to start the season.
Will their be another “annual” goalie controversy?
It seems year after year the Blues seem to run into a lengthy stretch where they don’t seem to have a true number one goaltender. Entering this season, Jordan Binnington is the clear cut number one goalie of the St. Louis Blues. Jake Allen is well aware of this and knows his role, which is already a step in the right direction. Despite many trade rumors over the summer, Doug Armstrong ultimately decided to hang onto Allen and his $4+ million dollar cap hit. Will this stir the pot if Binnington goes through a rough stretch? I’m sure it won’t be out of the question, if it happens. Although we know how Binnington performed in the stretch run, this will be his first season with a full 50+ game workload. In 32 games last season, Binnington put the hockey world on notice with his 1.89 goals against average, 0.927 save percentage, and 5 shutouts. He showed that he doesn’t fold, especially under the brightest lights and for that reason, I’m expecting a solid year out of him.
Will the Blues figure it out on the power play?
The Blues finished the regular season at 9th in the NHL with a man advantage. While that doesn’t seem very bad, the power play was blatantly brutal during the playoffs. Let’s say it how it is – Justin Faulk was brought here to quarterback the power play. The Blues have lacked a true quarterback since the departure of Kevin Shattenkirk a few seasons ago. I’m not saying Faulk is the answer, but I am saying it’s a step in the right direction. What mostly bothered me while watching the Blues run a power play last year was their setup. They were formed as if they were running an umbrella, but playing as if they were running an overload. In result, we saw just how discombobulated those 2 minutes turned out. In my opinion, the Blues need to setup their goal scorers with some one timers, something you hardly see from the boys in blue. Two players that I’m expecting to ignite the team from a PPG perspective are Vladimir Tarasenko and Brayden Schenn. I’ll make a bold prediction here and say one of these two will have 15 power play goals this season. As of today, I think the Blues will greatly improve on the man advantage.