The St. Louis Blues are 8 days away from beginning their journey in hopes of returning to the Western Conference Final. Preseason play starts on September 25, and there are still questions surrounding the Blues as they enter their 50th season in the NHL.
1. Will Vladimir Tarasenko continue his dominance?
Tarasenko led the Blues in goals (40) and points (74) last season, and was obviously disappointed in their six-game loss to the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Final. As St. Louis’ primary offensive weapon, he could be primed to be the NHL’s next 50-goal scorer.
2. Has David Perron matured as a player?
Perron spent the first six seasons of his NHL career with the Blues, averaging 14 goals and 19 assists.
He has played for three teams (Edmonton Oilers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Anaheim Ducks) the past two seasons, having his best offensive production with the Ducks (20 points in 28 games). It’s no secret that the Blues are counting on Perron, 28, to make up for some of the veteran losses.
3. Sophomore slump for Robby Fabbri?
Fabbri had 18 goals and 19 assists in 72 regular-season games and is one of the reasons the Blues remained consistent throughout the 2015-2016 season. He tied for the Blues lead in points (15) and led them in assists (11) during the Stanley Cup Playoffs by showing that he can produce in crucial moments.
4. Is Jake Allen ready to be a true starting goalie?
The Blues believe he is, by signing Allen to a four-year, $17.4 million contract extension on July 1. He is 57-26-7 with a 2.34 goals-against average and .915 save percentage in 99 regular-season games. Allen won a career-best 26 games last season, while constantly competing with Brian Elliott (who was traded to Calgary during the off-season).
5. How do the Blues replace the veterans they lost?
St. Louis now needs to rely on veterans Alexander Steen, Kevin Shattenkirk, Paul Stastny and Alex Pietrangelo. The team has built a strong young core that will be the next wave of players who lead by example.
6. Will the Blues finally see Vladimir Sobotka?
Sobotka has spent the past two seasons in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League and planned on returning to the NHL. With one year left on his KHL contract, there is an out-clause which he has been attempting to exercise for several months and return to the Blues.
7. Can a coach-in-waiting system work?
Coach Ken Hitchcock announced this season, his sixth in St. Louis and 20th in the NHL, would be his last. After a two-hour, face-to-face meeting this summer, he felt that Mike Yeo is the best option to replace him. Yeo will be an associate coach this season before taking over in the 2017-2018 season.
8. How will Alex Pietrangelo handle his Captaincy role?
After watching his good friend David Backes closely in recent years as the captain, Pietrangelo was confident about his ability to handle the important responsibility. After being drafted 4th overall in 2008, Pietrangelo has seen the Blues in good times and bad, with the biggest challenge being if he has the presence, patience and even temper to speak for the team when they need him the most.