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It’s St. Louis Blues Day at PHT

Aug 12, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT

Alexander Steen, David Backes, Steve Ott AP

Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The St. Louis Blues.

It’s been like a sad movie on repeat the past few seasons for the St. Louis Blues.

The Blues have had brilliant regular season performances sullied by crushing disappointment in the playoffs. Two years in a row it was the Los Angeles Kings ousting them from the postseason. Last season, it was their hated rivals, the Chicago Blackhawks, giving them the boot in the first round.

Before the playoffs began, it seemed like it was all set up for St. Louis to make a deep run. They acquired Ryan Miller and Steve Ott from the Buffalo Sabres to help give them the boost they felt they needed in goal and the agitating penalty killer you need in the postseason.

Adding those two to go along with captain David Backes, surprising goal-scoring maven Alex Steen, rising Russian star Vladimir Tarasenko, Team USA standout T.J. Oshie, and young stud Jaden Schwartz gave the Blues the depth up front they’d been lacking.

With the forwards seemingly set and a defensive corps led by Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Jay Bouwmeester the road to the Cup Final was there for the taking. Of course, things don’t always go how they’re drawn up.

Miller struggled in St. Louis. Whether that was due to the Blues tinkering with his positioning in net or not, the same bad goals Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott gave up in years past were also beating Miller. That combined with the Blues inability to keep up with the Blackhawks scorers netted Ken Hitchcock’s team yet another early start on the summer.

Suffice to say, if there are more playoff struggles next season there could be hell to pay.

Offseason Recap

The Blues were one of the most active teams of the summer.

They signed former Colorado Avalanche center Paul Stastny to a four-year, $28 million deal. He gives the Blues a true No. 1 center and a guy who is strong at both ends of the ice. While Backes was their top center last year, adding Stastny may help move him to the wing. That’s luxury.

St. Louis also re-signed Ott but lost Vladimir Sobotka to the KHL. That trade-off is one that made some scratch their heads as Sobotka is younger and seemed to be a perfect player with the Blues. Ott’s veteran abilities were valued by Hitchcock, however, and that always works out to have the coach on your side.

They also parted ways with Miller opting instead to keep Elliott and make him the starter and potentially give Jake Allen his chance to shine. Acquiring Miller brought on scrutiny for GM Doug Armstrong and the decision to let him walk to sign with the Vancouver Canucks will be put under the microscope.

The Blues also added forwards Jori Lehtera from the KHL and Peter Mueller from Switzerland. They also dealt Roman Polak to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Carl Gunnarsson. Blues fans may need a scorecard or a really sweet phone app to know who they’re rooting for next season.

  1. govtminion - Aug 12, 2014 at 8:41 AM

    I didn’t expect they’d go the direction they did in net. Letting Miller walk was 50/50- he has a long history of excellent play in Buffalo, but temper that with his pretty awful playoffs with the Blues. What I didn’t expect was that they’d then go back to Elliott for this season- as many times as they’ve made him starter, bumped him aside for someone else, brought him back up, etc., I’d think by now they’d have decided that he’s not the answer. Or anyway, if he is, why go after Miller in the first place? Obviously there’s not confidence in him enough to carry them to a Cup if they made a move like that. I really expected they’d make a push for picking up Hiller when he was available.

    Outside of net, it’s all sunshine- Stastny is a huge help- but it will be very interesting to see what they do (if anything) at the deadline about replacing Elliott… again.

    • lightning79 - Aug 12, 2014 at 9:09 AM

      Jake Allen will more than likely become at some point this season.

      • lightning79 - Aug 12, 2014 at 9:11 AM

        Become starter**

    • rmccleary97 - Aug 12, 2014 at 10:51 AM

      On Elliott and whether he can carry the load in the postseason: if the Blues can bury even a quarter of the nearly empty net chances they had vs. the Kings in 2013 then no one is talking about the “bad goals” Elliott allowed in games 5 and 6. (He had the inner-ear infection in the 2nd round in ’12, when Pietrangelo went out late in the 2nd period of Game 1 – and the Blues generally played like crap and the Kings were on a roll; I can’t fault him for that, and neither should anyone else.) When Halak went down vs. San Jose it was Elliott who came in and posted 3-0, 1.37, .949 to win the series.

      For years, the knock on the Blues was “if they just had a premier goalie, …” Last year, they “answered” that criticism … and it blew up in their face, demonstrating that maybe it wasn’t just the goaltending. As the Chicago series showed (again), it was about a lack of killer instinct, a lack of desperation – the embracement of the “well, we’re probably not supposed to win” mentality that seems to seep into the mindset of this franchise every postseason. Upgrades across the roster are nice, but the biggest problem the Blues have is between the ears.

      • govtminion - Aug 12, 2014 at 11:36 AM

        That IS a fair point actually- the Blues didn’t play well against L.A. in general that series (which surprised me, because I honestly thought they’d win that series- I thought the same against the Hawks this past spring, too). That said, if Elliott isn’t the problem- and he has had good stretches, no doubt- why do the Blues themselves keep trying to replace him so often? Why didn’t they ditch Halak sooner? Why bring in Miller to begin with?

        (Also, whatever happened to Roman Turek? I know that’s a long time ago, but he was an all-star one moment and then just… gone. Blues fans, anyone know what happened?)

  2. jpat2424 - Aug 12, 2014 at 8:47 AM

    Boooooooo!!!!!

  3. ctcork - Aug 12, 2014 at 9:02 AM

    Is there a schedule anywhere that says what day in August will focus on each team? Is it somehow standings related (doesn’t look like it)?

    • patthehockeyfan - Aug 12, 2014 at 9:12 AM

      Here you go:

      http://prohockeytalk.nbcsports.com/2014/07/31/its-back-phts-team-of-the-day-summer-series-starts-tomorrow/

      • ctcork - Aug 12, 2014 at 9:15 AM

        Thank you. Missed that while I was away from the internet for a couple weeks

  4. stlbluesfan - Aug 12, 2014 at 10:26 AM

    Assuming that you put Schwartz and Tarasenko with Lehtera, keep a fourth line of ott, reaves, and lapierre, do you put stastny in the middle of backes and oshie? Put steen and berglund with lindstrom or mueller??? Seems like a good problem to have.

    • 19to77 - Aug 12, 2014 at 11:27 AM

      If I’m Hitch I try to keep the Steen-Backes-Oshie line from last year together and put Schwartz and Tarasenko on the wings of my shiny new playmaking centre. The Backes line was a possession beast all last season and I’d be loath to mess with a good thing. Still, the Blues have nothing if not options with all these new additions. I’m sure whoever looks the best together in the preseason will end up forming the lines in the first few games at least.

      • stlbluesfan - Aug 12, 2014 at 11:53 AM

        I think that if you have a top line of backes, stastny and oshie, you will have better possesion than last year. By doing that you can put steen and berglund together. That will also allow for a pretty dynamic line with schwartz tarasenko and lehtera. In that scenario, where does the opponent put there checkers??? All three of those lines could kill you on any given shift. Add the fourth of ott, lapierre and reaves and you can knock them around a lot too. NOt too mention that the top four defencemen with bouw, shatty, pietro, and gunnar are going to get the puck up to those guys quicker than last year. Just my humble opinion.

      • 19to77 - Aug 12, 2014 at 12:19 PM

        Backes and Oshie both play centre and right wing effectively. Statsny’s been a centre his whole career. Who’s the left wing on that line? Fair point regarding Steen and Berglund, though – could be just the thing to spark Berglund’s offensive game again. I agree with the depth argument too. This is going to be a hard team to play the line-matching game with.

    • bluesdroogie - Aug 12, 2014 at 12:34 PM

      Hitch had a talk that was transcribed on the blues website. He said watch for pairings

      Backes – Osh
      Tarasenko – Schwartz
      Steen – Lindstrom

      He said Tarasenko will get a look at playing with Lehtera but he also wants to see Stastny there also. its early and nothing will be concrete until after a few regular season games and even then it will change as the individual games progress.

      I think however it is safe to say a 4th line of Ott, Lapierre, and Reaves is going to make the other team kinda of mad.

      • stlbluesfan - Aug 12, 2014 at 2:03 PM

        I think that mueller will challenge lindstrom for ice time, but both have a lot to prove! I agree that things will be pretty fluid for awhile, you still have to factor in players like rattie, jaskin, paajarvi, . I am curious to see who is going to end up next to Jackman on D, Leopold doesnt seem to be living up to expectations.

      • bluesdroogie - Aug 12, 2014 at 4:50 PM

        the way it looks, we will lose someone to waivers this season. Jaskin is exempt so he will be in the minors to start along with Rattie. Paajarvi, Mueller, Cole, and Butler will be fighting for the 3 healthy scratches we can have per game.

        For defense I am almost thinking that Cole and Butler will be 2 of the healthy scratches per night. you don’t want to risk losing any defensemen. Not that you want to lose offense but we have more offense than defense in Chicago. That way you can consistently substitute either for Leopold or Jackman. The 3rd pairing defense scares me at this point. Not liking any of the options at this time. Would almost rather have Cole and Butler be in there everyday. Maybe Armstrong is trying to find a trading partner for someone. We do have some trading chip possibilities. Maybe someone values Berglund more than us and is willing to trade for a big body center?

        As for Lindstrom and Mueller, I know nothing about either player that I can remember. So I was just going off what I had read that Hitch said. It should make for good competition and that should only make every player that much better.

        it is October already???!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • stlbluesfan - Aug 12, 2014 at 8:08 PM

        Lindstrom has a history of blowing things up until he gets to the nhl level, then he falls apart, Mueller is younger, has more to prove, and has a bigger upside to his skill. I would love to see rattie make some noise on this roster, he is due for a breakout season. My biggest question on this team is the defense after the top four. Elliott and Allen will be fine holding down the fort, it helps that the blues are going to be one of the best puck possession teams in the league. Our top four defensemen have the ability to make deadly outlet passes.

  5. ronniethec - Aug 12, 2014 at 11:16 AM

    Which is the complete opposite for the Kings. No matter what the situation, they know they can win. Even down 3-0 to the Snarks, they KNEW they could win the series.

    • patthehockeyfan - Aug 12, 2014 at 11:31 AM

      Hey, Ronnie –

      With your constant Kings’ remarks, you’re beginning to sound like someone we don’t talk about around PHT. I haven’t seen this particular person’s posts in more than week, and I think we’re all the happier for it.

      Don’t become another pita with your Kings’ comments. There’s a time and a place for them – and it isn’t on every single PHT article.

      Just a word to the wise.

      P.S. I’m a Kings’ fan, too.

      • wutangwild - Aug 12, 2014 at 5:32 PM

        Haha, Pat you’re quickly becoming one of my favorite posters on here. Regarding the person we don’t talk about, I propose we henceforth refer to him as Voldemort.

      • patthehockeyfan - Aug 12, 2014 at 5:38 PM

        :) He Who Must Not Be Named

    • 19to77 - Aug 12, 2014 at 11:41 AM

      Yeah, yeah, the Kings are great. We know. Can the echo chamber crap and let the board pay attention to another team for a few minutes. You want to fellate the Kings nonstop? Try http://theroyalhalf.com/

  6. ironmd778 - Aug 12, 2014 at 12:39 PM

    I’ll give it to you cheap – Blues ousted in first round. Safest bet in sports.

  7. savior72 - Aug 12, 2014 at 4:24 PM

    I’m beginning to worry that I’ll be dead before I see Lord Stanley’s Cup paraded down Market street. So this is what it feels like to be a Cubs fan. Sad.

  8. ronniethec - Aug 12, 2014 at 10:01 PM

    Hey Pat. As a Kings fan, I happen to like the Blues since I grew up in St Louis and had season seats for their first 4 years before I moves to LA. I think Hitch is a great coach and the Blues have a really good team. They just have to get a different mindset come playoff time. (Unless they face the Kings). So much of sports is mental.

  9. endusersolutions2013 - Aug 12, 2014 at 11:15 PM

    Lots of conjecture on the lines. I’m going to make BOLD call – central will be the premier division in the NHL again;))

    Seriously, I think once again they may send 5 teams to the playoffs. Blues, Hawks and Kings are essentially “co favorites” to take the WC, and thus in all liklihood the SC,

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