The summer heat is nearing an unbearable level in St. Louis and as a result, hockey could not feel any further away. With the 2017-18 season slowly inching closer, the Blues don’t have too much left to do on their summer checklist. Colton Parayko still needs a new contract, but that’s expected to be wrapped up soon. Beyond that, the Blues appear to have their roster set and that means the speculation can begin about what this team is capable of in the new year.
I’ll be honest: I once again have no idea what to expect from the Blues.
Last year, I felt that the Blues would take a fairly significant step back after losing some key faces. That mostly proved to be the case until Mike Yeo was promoted and the team turned it on down the stretch. That hot run fizzled out against the Nashville Predators, but the fact the Blues managed to skip past the Minnesota Wild – a team who was the clear favorite – was practically shocking.
Now, though the Blues will return lots of familiar faces with a few exciting additions, I have no idea what that might mean for their chances for success.
Jori Lehtera has moved on and that’s obviously a positive change. Brayden Schenn should be a great replacement, though it may not be fair considering the bar set by Lehtera is so slow. Perhaps the most exciting new name, Klim Kostin, may not even make the roster out of camp and could be a highly-anticipated call-up later in the year.
The roster – if healthy – looks to be improved on paper. There are questions which will need to be answered (Just how good is the defense? Is there an internal option to help at center? Can Jake Allen maintain his playoff form across a longer period?), but that’s the case every season. There are never any certainties in hockey and that’s part of what makes watching so entertaining.
My two big concerns are in goal and on defense. Surprisingly, I’m pretty happy with where the Blues are at on offense (if everyone is healthy) which is something I’ll probably live to regret saying in a few months. In goal, I’ve already mentioned Allen and how I worry that his awesome effort in the playoffs may not be repeatable in the regular season, especially not across 50-60 games. On defense, I wonder how much Jay Bouwmeester has left in the tank and whether or not Carl Gunnarsson has what it takes to keep a permanent roster spot. Those may not be the biggest of concerns compared to other teams around the league, but they are concerns which may hold the Blues back.
The Blues ended on such an unexpected high note last year that it’s hard not to be at least a bit excited heading into 2017-18. But, in usual Blues fashion, the team tends to completely change its identity just as soon as you think you’ve figured them out.
Maybe that’s what makes them so addicting?