The St. Louis Blues have constantly been mentioned with the elite teams across the league in the past couple of seasons. We saw that they were capable of outstanding success in the regular season, taking home a Central Division title in 2011-12. They looked like a force heading into the shortened 2013 season, before taking a step back.
As we approach the beginning of the 2013-14 season, with training camps underway, the Blues are once again a favorite to capture a Stanley Cup title. Those predictions come despite playing in a tough Western Conference, in addition to questions throughout their entire roster.
The Blues as they are, with the personnel and the system, aren’t exactly an offensive force. Despite the presence of some big names, including David Backes and T.J. Oshie, in addition to younger players with high end offensive skill, such as Vladimir Tarasenko, this is a club that has a tough time putting the puck in the net.
The defensive side of things is the strength of this team. They have a tough group of defensive forwards and a deep blue line that puts them in with the league’s best, in terms of keeping the puck out of their own net, even if they have the occasional trouble finding the back of the opposing team’s.
In goal is where the true questions lie for this team. Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliot were the strength of this team in ’11-’12, but each of them took gigantic steps backward in 2013. Halak has some serious issues staying healthy and Brian Elliot is, well, Brian Elliot. It remains to be seen if either can be a championship caliber goaltender, though the answer likely leans more on the ‘no’ side.
The Blues are a gritty team, with a defensive system that makes them as tough as anyone to play against. But that doesn’t make them a Stanley Cup contender. They lack the impact on the offensive side, and are too inconsistent between the pipes. Until they can patch up those issues, they won’t be in the mix for a Cup this year.